After Russia invaded Ukraine in a conflict between the two countries that together accounted for nearly a third of world grain supplies and sent food prices to record levels, India had to intervene to fill the gap. Not any more.
In an order from the Ministry of Commerce, Indian officials said they made the decision after taking into account the needs of India itself and those of neighboring countries. India’s food security was at risk due to rising international prices, the ministry said.
The announcement came as a sudden change a few weeks after Indian officials and international analysts spoke of the possibility of India significantly increasing exports to fill the gap created in part by the war in Ukraine. International food prices have risen to record levels in recent months, putting pressure on billions of people, especially the world’s poorest, officials at the United Nations have warned.
India is trying to adapt to the extreme heat, but is paying a heavy price
But a record heat wave that breaks this spring March was the hottest month in history in India damaged crops in India and reduced wheat production by up to a quarter in some cases. As traders rushed to buy food to sell on the international market, the Indian government struggled to make purchases for its local food bank and ration program, according to Indian agricultural researchers and government statistics.
Like many countries, India has also been hit by rising inflation that is affecting household budgets and even diets. Food inflation rose 8.3 percent in April, the government said.
Egypt, the world’s largest importer of Russian and Ukrainian wheat, has negotiated with India to import 1 million tons. Turkey and several countries in Africa, which also depend on wheat imports from the Black Sea region, had lined up in recent weeks to buy from India. The government announced plans to send trade delegations to nine countries, including Tunisia, Morocco and Indonesia, to discuss boosting exports.
At a time when the world is facing a grain shortage, Indian farmers have moved forward to feed the world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this month during a visit to Germany. Whenever humanity faces a crisis, India comes up with a solution.
To help increase in wheat exportsthe Indian government rushed to set up 200 laboratories for export quality controls, added more rail transport vehicles and gave priority to exports from ports.
Egypt approved India as a supplier of grain In April, Trade Minister Piyush Goyal said in a Twitter post, adding that the country was ready to serve the world.
It is not immediately clear which agreements will be implemented. The Ministry of Commerce, which oversees trade, said in its order Friday that remittances will be allowed to continue if irrevocable letters of credit have already been issued. The Indian government can also grant special permits for exports to countries to meet their food security needs. Otherwise, all exports are frozen.
Tunisia among the countries that sees major economic consequences from the war in Ukraine
Analysts said the decision to halt exports was appropriate in a time of global uncertainty.
We need to maintain a surplus, given climate deviations and food security concerns, said Devinder Sharma, an agricultural policy expert. We have such a large population to care for. Who knows [whether] The pandemic can no longer come?
Through the pandemic, the federal government supplied five pounds (11 pounds) of wheat or rice and just over a pound (2.2 pounds) of legumes per person each month, in addition to existing food subsidies. Earlier this year, the program was extended until September.
But the stress on the system was clear when the government announced last week that it would give more rice instead of wheat within the program.
Government procurement of grain fell to a Low level of 15 years of this year to less than 20 million tonnes after a record level of 43 million tonnes in 2021. Exports were a key factor.
The skyrocketing global grain prices meant a fortune for traders. The World Bank predicted in April that wheat prices were expected to reach one highest of all time this year, growing by more than 40 percent. Wheat exports from India tripled.
Falling production, rising exports and high fuel prices have led to a sharp rise in domestic grain prices in recent weeks. Wheat is one of the most popular food products in the country and rising prices are misleading consumers across the board.
Experts said Indias wheat crisis in 2005 serves as a warning tale. India’s high exports depleted its reserves, forcing it to import wheat in the following years.
India should not make the same mistake, Sharma said. Next year, if the need arises, the stock may not be available and prices will be unaffordable.
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