Despite the ban, India is open to exporting wheat to countries in need

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NEW DELHI (AP) – India on Sunday said it would keep a window open to export wheat to countries facing food shortages, despite government-level restrictions announced two days earlier.

India’s Trade Minister BVR Subrahmanyam told reporters the government will also allow private companies to honor earlier commitments to export nearly 4.3 million tons of wheat by July. India exported 1 million tons of wheat in April.

India mainly exports wheat to neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

A statement in the Government Gazette of the Directorate of Foreign Trade on Friday said a surge in global wheat prices is threatening the food security of India and neighboring and vulnerable countries.

A key goal of export restrictions is to curb rising domestic prices. Global wheat prices are up more than 40% year-to-date.

Before the war, Ukraine and Russia accounted for a third of world wheat and barley exports. Since the Russian invasion on February 24, Ukraine’s ports have been blocked and civilian infrastructure and grain elevators destroyed.

At the same time, India’s own wheat crop has suffered from a record-breaking heatwave that is hampering production.

He said India’s wheat production fell by three million tons this year from 106 million tons last year. Wheat prices have skyrocketed by 20-40% in India.

“The current price surge appears to be more of a panic reaction than a reaction based on a real collapse in supply or a sudden surge in demand,” Subrahmanyam said.

Despite being the second largest wheat producer in the world, India consumes most of the wheat produced. It had set itself the goal of exporting 10 million tons of grain in 2022-23 to capitalize on the war’s global disruptions to wheat supplies and to find new markets for its wheat in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Up to 90 million tons of wheat was 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.

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