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India, world’s second largest wheat producer, bans all wheat exports after record heat wave

India has banned all wheat exports following a widespread heat wave that affected the country’s grain supply.

A notice published in the Official Gazette by the Foreign Trade Directorate on Friday said the food security of India, its neighbors and vulnerable countries was threatened by rising global wheat prices. World wheat prices have increased by more than 40% since the start of the year.

The Guardian reported that one of the main objectives of the Indian government is to control rising food prices in the domestic market.

Prior to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the two countries accounted for a third of the world’s wheat and barely exported. Since the Russian invasion in February, Ukrainian ports have been blocked and civilian infrastructure and many grain silos have been destroyed.

Western nations have also imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia, which makes trading with the country incredibly difficult.

While Russian and Ukrainian wheat exports were blocked due to the war, India’s wheat crop saw stunted production rates due to a record heat wave.

Even though India is the world’s second largest producer of wheat, its population consumes the lion’s share of the crop it produces. Hoping to take advantage of the global disruption of supply chains and reduced access to wheat due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Indian government had set a target of exporting 10 million tonnes cereals produced in the country in 2022-23.

Indian wheat farmers were preparing to find new markets for their product in Europe, Africa and Asia. However, this plan has been discontinued for the foreseeable future. Much of the wheat and barley that was to be exported in this batch would have been shipped to developing countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

The recent heat wave, however, was not the only issue facing India’s wheat supply. The country’s historically large stocks of wheat and barley – which in years past have served the country well as a reliable buffer against famine – have come under severe strain during the COVID-19 pandemic as the Indian government was beginning to distribute grain to about 800 million people.

The Indian government requires about 25 million tons of wheat and barley every year for its vast food welfare program which typically feeds over 80 million people a year.

Statistical reported that in 2018/2019, the United States had the fifth largest wheat production volume in the world at 51.29 metric tons.