Wheat economy in snags
There might be some respite for those caught in the energy circular debt as there are plans to issue TFCs worth Rs100 billion sooner or later.
But for those trapped in the commodity circular debt will now have to wait for another month as the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) has decided to postpone the idea of wheat exports till April.
The ECCs decision strengthens the fears that wheat production will not meet its target of 25 million tons as water shortage is believed to have caused a considerable dent in hopes of surplus production.
On the flipside, the commodity financing woes have gone from bad to worse during FY09, as net amount of borrowing during 2009 stood at Rs209 billion - a whopping increase from Rs29 billion borrowed in 2008.
The issue exacerbated due to increasing fiscal constraints, adverse commodity price movements, higher storage cost and lower price of wheat in the domestic market.
Worrisomely, data released by the central bank show that outstanding amount in commodity financing soared to Rs274 billion by the week ending March 13, despite the retirement of Rs62 billion in the fiscal year to date.
Wheat being the major staple food is alone responsible for the majority of this outstanding credit - about Rs200 billion by the end of February 2010, according to central bank statistics.
Although, the government has retired an average Rs5.3 billion per week, since the start of this calendar year, it has been slow. Government officials attribute sluggish retirement of these loans to poor domestic demand for wheat.
The slower pace of loan offloading is likely to continue next month as the existing stock of 4.4 million tons is expected to deplete by only 0.9 million tons till April.
This will help pay off the loan by Rs22.5 billion since every single ton of wheat is worth Rs25,000, according to ministry officials. On top of that, they will require additional financing to procure 7.5 million tons of wheat in the coming season that will suck more liquidity from the already cash-starved money market.
PASSCO officials say that it is quite likely that the government will allow export only if production exceeds 23 million tons, to avoid the 2007-like wheat crisis when it had to import wheat at a price higher than it fetched from the exports.
If the conditions remain favourable and government allows export, nearly 3 million tons of surplus stock will be available for export.
However, at present, wheat export does not seem a very exciting opportunity as price of wheat in international market is hovering around $200 per ton down from the peak of $ 439 in March 2008.