The government appears likely to offer 3 million tons of wheat to commercial biscuit makers and flour mills and another 10 million tons at cheap prices to the poor before its huge stockpiles start to rot.
A ministers' meeting to decide on offering wheat to businesses, including biscuit maker Britannia Industries, and to state governments for distribution was scheduled for late Thursday but then called off for procedural reasons.
Ministers will soon meet again, government sources said.
India, the world's second-biggest rice and wheat producer, is grappling with storage problems due to bumper harvests in recent years.
Grain stocks at government warehouses were at a record 82.4 million tons on June 1 against 63.0 million tons of storage space, forcing authorities to store grains in the open.
Officials concede that 6 million tons of grains could rot due to lack of storage space, but analysts say the losses could be higher as more than 19 million tons lie in the open.
But the response by local buyers to any offer is likely to be tepid because of pricing.
"There is no reason to be enthusiastic. The reaction of both - bulk buyers and state governments - will be pretty lukewarm again," said Veena Sharma, secretary of the Roller Flour Millers Federation of India.
"The cost at which the government tries to offload stocks deters buyers. Flour millers or food companies find it easier and economical to buy from the open market, while state governments do not lift as it will strain their resources," she said.
The government will not sell below the price it paid for the wheat, which was 12,850 rupees per ton in 2012. That equates to about $230 per ton, not including freight and storage costs. Wheat can currently be bought on the global market for about $250 per ton.
Sharma said procedural delays also encourage bulk consumers to buy from the market instead of from government stocks.
In 2011/12, the government managed to sell only about 1 million tons of wheat to bulk buyers after offering more.
Any extra allocation to states for subsidised sale to the poor will be in addition to 55 million tons of grain already earmarked under the food welfare programme for the fiscal year from April 1, 2012.
The government is also likely to allow exports from government warehouses and decide on incentives for overseas sales to try to bring down the stockpiles.
© Thomson Reuters 2012