India open to exporting wheat to needy nations despite ban
India on Sunday said it would keep a window open to export wheat to food-deficit countries at the government level despite restrictions announced two days earlier.
India’s Commerce Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam told reporters the government will also allow private companies to meet previous commitments to export nearly 4.3 million tons of wheat until July. India exported 1 million tons of wheat in April.
India mainly exports wheat to neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
A notice in the government gazette by the Directorate of Foreign Trade on Friday said a spike in global prices for wheat was threatening the food security of India and neighboring and vulnerable countries.
A key aim of restrictions on exports 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 Feb. 24 invasion, 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 suffered from a record-shattering heat wave that is stunting production.
He said India’s wheat production this year has come down by three million tons from 106 million tons last year. Wheat prices have shot up by 20-40% in India.
"The current rise in prices seems to be a panic reaction rather than a reaction based on a genuine collapse in supply or a sudden shooting of demand," Subrahmanyam said.
Even though it is the world’s second-largest producer of wheat, India consumes most of the wheat it produces. It had set a goal of exporting 10 million tons of the grain in 2022-23, looking to capitalize on the global disruptions to wheat supplies from the war and find new markets for its wheat in Europe, Africa and Asia.
Up to 90 million tons of wheat were consumed in India last year out of a total production of 109 million tons, Subrahmanyam said, adding that India exported 7 million tons of wheat last year.