Chaos at Kandla port begins to ebb, after Centre modifies hard wheat ban stance
Despite the modification, it is likely that trucks that have arrived post-May 13, will have to leave with the foodgrains
Major Indian port Kandla on Tuesday witnessed at least 4000 trucks stranded after the Centre in a sudden move banned exports of the foodgrain owing to inflation, the Russia-Ukraine war, to de-escalate the rising prices of wheat domestically and owing to concern regarding food security for the country. The Centre had taken the view that the move would also help control the retail prices of wheat which had surged by 14 to 20 per cent in the last year. In a snap decision, the Indian government had also decreed that Indian traders and exporters do not get into export deals without government approval.
The trucks had ferried wheat from the foodgrain producing Indian states like Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra and had been stuck at the Kandla Port, run by the Deendayal Port Authority post the ban by the Indian government. Estimates put the volume of wheat stranded at the Kandla port at 400,000 tonnes.
Even as the Centre on late Tuesday evening seemed to allow some relaxation from the ban for trucks that arrived before May 13, it is likely that trucks that have arrived post-May 13, will have to leave with the foodgrain as per the new government rules, cite port authorities.
Four ships that port authorities claim arrived before May 13, were in a state of partial loading with 80,000 tonnes of wheat and these were also docked at the port facility and were headed to African nations, Egypt, Yemen and South Korea. A three day extended holiday last weekend at the DGFT(Directorate General of Foreign Trade) also managed to add to the chaos, as the four vessels had to wait for their approval and clearances to load the foodgrains post the Centre's wheat export ban.
Close to 700 warehouses near the port are also reportedly full of wheat meant for export and are facing the heat because of the ban. Interestingly, this comes days after DPA Chairman SK Mehta and Nandeesh Shukla, Deputy Chairman of DPA welcomed the Egyptian delegation who visited the Deendayal Port in connection with the first shipment of wheat from India to Egypt that is under progress at Cargo Jetty-15A. As of Tuesday, port authorities cited that this shipment been reportedly been given permission to load wheat and had set sail to its destination in Egypt.
MAJOR REPRIEVE FROM THE BAN
However even as news about the stranded traders and wheat consignments spread, the Centre has eased the wheat export ban by allowing the wheat consignments that are already with the customs by or before May 13 to go through.
"It has been decided that wherever wheat consignments have been handed over to Customs for examination and have been registered into their systems on or prior to May 13, such consignments would be allowed to be exported," the commerce ministry said in a statement. India was reportedly looking at achieving close to 12 million tonnes of wheat exports which are higher than exports of 7.2 million tonnes last year.
FOOD FOR STRANDED TRUCK DRIVERS
In a goodwill gesture, local bodies and business associations like the DPA, Kandla Chamber of Commerce, and Gandhidham Chamber of Commerce administration with the help of the local police and fire department ran a campaign to feed thousands of stranded truckers and their helpers. Om Prakash Dadlani, Deendayal Port Trust spokesperson said, "With the DGFT issuing clearance, trucks have started moving to the port, and the situation has started easing. Preparation has been made for the distribution of 3000+ food kits and supply of water to the truckers."