New Delhi: India has banned wheat exports just a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the country was ready to supply food stocks to the world if the WTO (World Trade Organization) permits. Further, the government had on May 12 announced it would be sending a delegation to Morocco, Tunisia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey, Algeria and Lebanon for exploring possibilities of boosting wheat exports from India.
But the government’s aim to dig into the supply vacuum of wheat created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine seems to have fallen short. While PM Modi had wanted to supply to the world, India now has to stop export altogether, with the order dated May 13 citing the “sudden spike in global prices of wheat arising out of many factors, as a result of which the food security of India, neighbouring and other vulnerable countries is at risk”.
It went on to say that “in order to manage the overall food security of the country and to support the needs of the neighbouring and other vulnerable countries, the Central government, in exercise of powers” revises the export policy from “free” to “prohibited”.
Interestingly, when Prime Minister Modi had made his aim known, days later, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry had on April 15 said that a deal with Egypt to export wheat from India had been reached. M Angamuthu, Chairman of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Exports Development Authority (APEDA), had said they aimed to export 3 million tonnes of wheat to Egypt this year alone.
The Central government’s ambitions were high as Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal had claimed the country’s wheat exports were likely to cross 10 million tonnes during 2022-23 with the increasing demand for the commodity in the world market due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Piyush Goyal had mentioned this conflict as working to India’s benefit in terms of the potential it brought in increasing India’s exports. Both Ukraine and Russia, as Goyal pointed out “are major exporters of wheat with more than 25 per cent share in global wheat trade” and this disruption of exports “does provide India an opportunity to increase our export of wheat”.
Yet, things have gone way differently than what the government was claiming or aiming to achieve.
According to estimates by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade, India exported a record 7 million tonne (MT) of wheat in 2021-22 which is valued at $ 2.05 billion. Out of the total shipment around 50 percent of wheat was exported to Bangladesh in the last fiscal.
An earlier press release by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare shows that the ‘Second Advance Estimates of production of major crops’ for the year 2021-22’ the production of wheat was “estimated at record 111.32 million tonnes”. This, it said, was higher by 7.44 million tonnes than the average wheat production of 103.88 million tonnes.