The Narendra Modi administration has prohibited all wheat exports only a day after statistics revealed annual consumer price inflation touched a near eight-year high of 7.79 percent in April, with retail food inflation even higher at 8.38 percent.
With effect from May 13, all wheat exports, including high-protein durum and typical soft bread kinds, have been switched from “free” to “prohibited.”
There will be two types of shipping authorised from now on. The first is “on the basis of authorization provided by the Indian government to other nations to address their food security needs and on their governments’ request.” The second category is exports under transitional conditions, in which irrevocable letters of credit were provided “on or before the date of this announcement, subject to the submission of documented proof as stipulated,” according to a late Friday department of commerce notification.
The export embargo comes as government procurement of wheat has dropped to a 15-year low, with just 18 million tonnes (mt) purchased so far this marketing season, compared to a record 43.3 mt in 2021-22. While the wheat marketing season formally runs from April to March, the majority of government purchase at the MSP occurs from April to mid-May.
In the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022, India’s wheat exports reached an all-time high of 7 million tonnes valued at $2.05 billion. The Agriculture Ministry predicted the country’s wheat harvest for 2021-22 (marketed in 2022-23) at a record 111.3 mt in mid-February. According to this, India’s wheat shipments are projected to range between 10 and 15 million tonnes this fiscal. Indian farmers “have ensured our granaries overflow & we are ready to serve the globe,” Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted on April 15.
Surprisingly, the Department of Commerce only issued a press release on Thursday about the Center sending trade delegations to nine countries – Morocco, Tunisia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey, Algeria, and Lebanon – “to explore possibilities of increasing wheat exports from these countries.”
The government’s initial export predictions did not account for production losses caused by a rapid rise in temperatures beginning in mid-March, which damaged the standing wheat crop at the critical “dough” stage. The wheat kernels accumulate carbohydrates, protein, and other dry matter during this period, with maximum temperatures ideally in the early 30°C range to allow for good grain filling and weight increase. However, temperatures of 35 degrees in mid-March and 40 degrees at the end of the month caused the grains to ripen and shrivel prematurely.
Wheat farmers gathered 15-20% less grain than last year in most regions of the nation, with the exception of Madhya Pradesh, where the crop is ready for harvesting by mid-March.