May 19 • 20M

Making Sense of India’s Wheat Export Ban

India banned the export of wheat last week, citing domestic food security concerns attracting severe criticism. We speak to the former secretary of India’s agriculture ministry Siraj Hussain about it.

 
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Making sense of India’s wheat export ban

Late on Friday, the Indian government announced that it is banning the export of wheat citing food security risks within the country due to soaring prices of wheat. Just a day prior, India had said that it will be sending trade delegations to nine countries with the idea of attempting to boost wheat exports. 

The dramatic u-turn after about a month of “we will feed the world” rhetoric has attracted some severe global criticism, particularly from the west. “If everyone starts to impose export restrictions or to close markets, that would worsen the crisis,” said the German agriculture minister Cem Ozdemir. 

We speak to Siraj Hussain, former secretary of India’s agriculture ministry, to make sense of the situation. Hussain had been advising since last month that India should not get carried away and ensure domestic supplies first.  

In this interview, Hussain argues that the export miscalculation has already meant that India cannot extend the provision of free grains to its population– a scheme in operation since the beginning of the pandemic and that had provided some relief – beyond September this year. 

He also contends that the criticism that India has attracted because of the ban is primarily due to the rhetoric employed by ministers that “India will feed the world.”

We also speak about the damage to the wheat crop in India this year because of the severe early summer heatwave and the dangers that climate change poses to global food security.