New Delhi, Feb 21 (PTI) The government may consider imposing import duty on wheat to protect farmers amid projections of a record output this year, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said today.

On December 8, it had reduced the customs duty on wheat to zero from 10 per cent to boost domestic availability and check retail prices.

Paswan said there would be a bumper wheat production this year and the government has set a procurement target at 33 million tonnes for the 2017-18 marketing year, starting April.

New wheat crop will start arriving in the market from next month, Paswan said, adding that the government is making adequate preparation to purchase the grain and will take all steps to ensure the minimum support price (MSP) to farmers.

“The way this government has taken measures in the case of pulses and farmers are getting the MSP, all possible steps will be taken for wheat-growing farmers. If needed, raising import duty will be considered,” Paswan said in a statement.

He said the central government had reduced the import duty on wheat in December to protect consumers interest.

“Within two months of reduction in customs duty, 30-40 lakh tonnes of wheat has been imported. More than 55 lakh tonnes of wheat has been imported during this (financial) year,” he said.

Paswan said that the government’s experience has been that traders take advantage of the high rates while farmers are forced to sell their produce at throw-away price.

The production of wheat is estimated at record 96.64 million tonnes in 2016-17 crop year (July-June) as against 92.29 million tonnes in 2015-16 on the back of good monsoon.

The previous record was 95.85 million tonnes in the 2013-14 crop year.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.