India Halts Wheat Exports Due to Threatened Food Security, Heatwave

India, the world’s second largest producer of wheat, is banning exports of the critical grain due to supply constraints sparked by the war in Ukraine, as well as a massive heatwave.

India’s Director General of Foreign Trade announced on May 13, 2022 that the country will halt export of wheat due to “a sudden spike in the global prices” of the staple, as well as, according to other sources, a massive heatwave. The move is expected to drive global prices to new peaks given already tight supply, and hit poor people in Asia and Africa the hardest.

Link to amended wheat policy

“We do not want wheat to go in an unregulated manner to places where it might either just get hoarded or where it may not be used to the purpose, which we are hoping it would be used for, which is serving the food requirements of vulnerable nations and vulnerable people,” Commerce Secretary of India B.V.R. Subrahmanyam told the press in a recent conference in New Delhi (via the South China Morning Post, below). Subrahmanyam added the international spike in the cost of wheat now threatens India’s food security.

According to Al Jazeera the Indian government says there wasn’t a dramatic decline in the country’s wheat output this year, but “unregulated exports had led to a rise in local prices for the grain.” The news outlet adds that “Wheat prices in India have risen to record highs,” in some markets hitting $320 per metric ton; a price well above the government’s minimum support price of $260.

“If everyone starts to impose export restrictions or to close markets, that would worsen the crisis,” German agriculture minister Cem Ozdemir said at a news conference in Stuttgart. “We call on India to assume its responsibility as a G20 member,” the agricultural minister added.

Government officials in New Delhi say India will still allow exports backed by already issued letters of credit, as well as exports to countries that would otherwise not be able “to meet their food security needs.”

India’s wheat harvest has also been degraded by a “record-shattering” heatwave in the country. Al Jazeera reported in April of this year (in the video below) that “the nation saw its hottest March since records began 122 years ago.” The high temperatures, in turn, have led to a strain on the country’s electrical grid; a problem worsened by a shortage of coal.

Al Jazeera also reports India’s “vast stocks of wheat,” usually a buffer against famine, have been drained thanks to distribution of free wheat to approximately 800 million people; a move that was necessary due to the worldwide COVID-19 lockdowns.

In February of 2022 the World Economic Forum (WEF) said that “Food systems account for up to one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions and are failing 768 million people living in hunger.” The supranational organization added that “In the face of volatile global shocks from conflicts such as the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, and extreme weather events, it has become more urgent than ever to transition food systems to a net-zero, nature-positive infrastructure that nourishes and feeds everyone.” The WEF added that these “global shocks are deepening chronic complex challenges,” including nutrition and hunger.

Writing for the WEF in March of 2020, Samantha Sault said that “extreme social distancing is pretty much the only intervention available to help individuals stay healthy, and to break the chain of transmission.” The title of Sault’s article was “Why lockdowns can halt the spread of COVID-19.”

Here is a running list of studies—most from peer-reviewed journals—showing that lockdowns had no effect on COVID-19 mortality or hospitalization rates.

Feature image: Alliance of Biodiversity International and CIAT

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