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India faces flak for wheat export ban, experts fear move could trigger domino effect

India, the world’s second-largest producer of wheat, announced the export ban Saturday amid the impact of severe heat waves on wheat yields.

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New Delhi: The Government of India finds itself at the receiving end of a chorus of criticism over its decision to ban the export of wheat. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) notified the export ban Saturday, amid the impact of severe heat waves on wheat yields.

Apart from the opposition back home, the export ban has been criticised by the G7 grouping, the German foreign minister, several experts, and even a union of Russian grain exporters.

The export ban came days after Egypt approved India as a wheat supplier and New Delhi declared that it would send trade delegations to nine countries, including Tunisia, Morocco and Indonesia, to discuss ramping up wheat exports.

India is the world’s second-largest producer of wheat after China.

Sergi Lanau, Deputy Chief Economist at US-based global trade association Institute of International Finance (IIF), said the export ban could create issues for other South Asian nations like Bangladesh, which import a considerable amount of wheat from India.

Experts fear that the move could also trigger a domino effect, prompting other countries to follow suit and restrict the supply of other grains, like rice. “If rice exporters panic (and there’s not reason thanks to a record expected harvest) and follow suit, it’s game over for global food security,” Javier Blas, Energy and commodities columnist at Bloomberg, wrote on Twitter.

However, India is not the only country facing the charge of ‘food protectionism’ at a time when the world is reeling under the impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Just earlier this week, Indonesia, too, banned the export of palm oil.

Also Read: India’s sweet spot in hoarding wheat looks shaky. Ukraine war means new concerns for Modi govt

‘Call on India to assume its responsibility as G20 member’

Criticising the export ban after a meeting in Germany, agriculture ministers of the G7 grouping said Saturday that such measures “would worsen the crisis” of rising commodity prices.

At present, Germany is serving as the chair of the G7 grouping that comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US.

“If everyone starts to impose export restrictions or to close markets, that would worsen the crisis,” German Agriculture minister Cem Ozdemir was quoted as saying by news agency AFP.

“We call on India to assume its responsibility as a G20 member,” Ozdemir added.

India will be taking over the G20 presidency for the year 2023.

The export ban on wheat shows just “how serious this crisis is”, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters, referring to the ongoing global food crisis.

“We already said their statements about ambitious export targets do not reflect the real situation. The anomalous heat did not leave them a chance. Now this fact has become official,” read a statement by the Russian Union of Grain Exporters, a body consisting of both local and international companies that account for more than 70 per cent of Russian-origin grain exports.

Addressing a virtual event last month, PM Narendra Modi had said that he told US President Joe Biden that India was “ready to supply food stock to the world” if the World Trade Organisation (WTO) came on board. The Prime Minister was referring to the global food shortage triggered by the war in Ukraine.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, while speaking at the Raisina Dialogue last month, had said India is ready to take on the challenge to export food grains, especially wheat, to the world.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: India had dropped the ball & exported excess wheat in 2004-05. Modi govt shouldn’t repeat it

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