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Govt bans wheat exports with immediate effect to manage food supply

By Priyanka Verma 
Updated Date

New Delhi: The Central Government has put wheat export under the “prohibited” category in an effort to manage overall food security of the country and to need the support of the neighbouring and vulnerable countries. The country – the world’s second-biggest wheat producer – saw a decadal high in wheat prices in April in a worrying development.

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The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), in an official notification issued on Friday evening, stated that as a transitional arrangement wheat export will be allowed in case of shipments where the irrevocable letter of credit (ILOC) has been issued on or before May 13.

It added that export will also be permitted on the basis of permission granted by the Central Government to other countries to meet their food security needs and based on request of their governments.

“The Government of India is committed to providing for the food security requirements of India, neighbouring and other vulnerable developing countries which are adversely affected by the sudden changes in the global market for wheat and are unable to access adequate wheat supplies,” read the notification.

Just a week ago, food secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said the country had surplus stocks and he did not see any possibility of curbs on wheat exports.

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India’s estimated wheat output this year remains mired in confusion after a severe heatwave in mid-March cut yields of the main winter staple the country was hoping to export in large quantities to fill a global shortage due to the Ukraine war.

India’s consumer inflation surged to an eight-year high of 7.79% in April, 2022, breaching the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) so-called tolerable limit of 6% for the fourth straight month, official data Thursday showed. Food inflation, which is driving the rise in retail inflation, rose by 8.38%, the highest so far in this fiscal.

An emerging issue, according to analysts, is whether India can afford to export wheat without restrictions and if the country will witness a further spike in domestic food prices.

India exported a record 7.85 million tonnes in the fiscal year to March, up 275% from a year ago. A crimped output can now create a tight supply situation in the coming months, analysts said.

India was hoping to help other nations amid the Ukraine war. Last month, after a conversation with US president Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said: “Today the world is facing an uncertain situation as nobody is getting what they want. Petrol, oil and fertilizers are hard to procure as all the doors are getting closed. Everybody wants to secure their stocks after this (Russia-Ukraine) war began.”

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“The world is facing a new challenge now—the food stock of the world is diminishing. I was speaking to the US President, and he also raised this issue… If the WTO gives permission, India is ready to supply food stock to the world from tomorrow,” he had added.

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