India bans exports of wheat, citing threat to food security

NEW DELHI –

India has banned the export of wheat with immediate effect, citing a risk to its food supply, partly due to the war in Ukraine.

A statement in the State Gazette of the Directorate of Foreign Trade, dated Friday, said that a peak in global wheat prices threatened food security in India and neighboring and vulnerable countries.

A key goal is to control rising domestic prices. Global wheat prices have risen by more than 40% since the beginning of the year.

Before the war, Ukraine and Russia accounted for a third of global wheat and barley exports. Since Russia’s invasion on February 24, Ukraine’s ports have been blocked and civilian infrastructure and grain silos have been destroyed.

At the same time, India’s own wheat harvest has been hit by a record-breaking heat wave that is hampering production.

Although India is the world’s second largest producer of wheat, India consumes most of the wheat it produces. The goal had been to export 10 million tonnes of grain by 2022-2023, in order to take advantage of the global disturbances in the wheat supply from the war and find new markets for its wheat in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Much of it would have gone to other developing countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Aside from problems with the weather damaging the harvests, India’s own huge stockpile of wheat – a buffer against starvation – has been strained through the distribution of free grain during the pandemic to some 800 million people.

To balance supply and demand, the government needs about 25 million tons (27.5 million US tons) of wheat each year for a comprehensive food welfare program that typically feeds more than 80 million people.

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