India halts wheat exports; could disrupt UN plans to source wheat from India for vulnerable countries

Last month, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said India hopes to become a permanent exporter of wheat, shipping as much as 15 million tons this year, compared with about 7.2 million in 2021-22. Officials are pushing the World Trade Organization to relax rules so that India can export from state reserves, Goyal said

May 14, 2022
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Even as the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said it is in talks with India to procure its surplus wheat stock for countries facing a food crisis because of the disruption of supplies due to the Ukraine war, India put an embargo on wheat exports after a sudden spike in the price of the commodity.

In a notification on Saturday, the Indian government said it was being done to manage the overall food security of the country "and support neighbouring and vulnerable countries".

Exports, however, will be allowed on basis of permission granted to other countries to meet their food security needs and based on the request of their government, the government added without elaboration. 

Local prices of wheat and wheat flour have risen sharply as India has stepped up exports of the cereal following a nearly 40 per cent rally in global rates in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, The Economic Times said. The WFP was in talks with India to fill the vacuum after the Ukraine war hampered global wheat supplies from Russia and Ukraine, which accounted for a third of the global wheat trade. 

Last month, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said India hopes to become a permanent exporter of wheat, shipping as much as 15 million tons this year, compared with about 7.2 million in 2021-22. Officials are pushing the World Trade Organization to relax rules so that India can export from state reserves, Goyal said.

According to Indian media reports, hundreds of acres of wheat crops were damaged during India’s hottest March on record, causing yields to potentially slump by as much as 50 per cent in some wheat growing areas of the country.

India, which was earlier said to have a wheat stockpile estimated at about 100 million tonnes, began sending wheat to Afghanistan through the WFP via Pakistan, after initial opposition from Islamabad. India has pledged 10 million tonnes of wheat donations to Afghanistan.

WFP's Chief Economist Arif Husain said the world needs to diversify the sources of food and agricultural inputs to avoid crises caused by overdependence on a few sources. Russia and Ukraine together account for about 30 per cent of the total global exports of wheat.

The countries on the WFP food crises list include Pakistan and Afghanistan in South Asia, besides the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Yemen, Nigeria, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan and Haiti. 

(SAM)

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