G7 criticizes India’s decision to freeze wheat exports

India on Saturday banned wheat exports without prior government approval.

India on Saturday banned wheat exports without prior government approval.

Agriculture ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized nations on Saturday condemned India’s decision to ban unauthorized wheat exports after the country was hit by a devastating heatwave.

“If everyone starts to impose export restrictions or close markets, that would exacerbate the crisis,” said Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir at a press conference in Stuttgart.

India on Saturday banned wheat exports without prior government approval after recent scorching temperatures impacted production, in a blow to countries hit by supply shortages because of the war in Ukraine.

India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, said factors including lower wheat production and sharply higher global prices due to the war meant it was now concerned about its own “food security”.

All export deals completed before the directive issued on Friday could still be met, but all future shipments had to be approved by the government.

However, exports could also take place if New Delhi agrees to a request from other governments “to meet their food security needs”.

The decision came as global agricultural markets were under severe pressure from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Transport of the traditional bread basket has been halted as Ukraine’s Agriculture Minister traveled to Stuttgart to hold talks with G7 colleagues about delivering his produce.

About “20 million tons” of wheat was stored in Ukrainian silos and “urgently” needed to be exported, Mr Özdemir said.

Before the invasion, Ukraine exported 4.5 million tons of agricultural products monthly through its ports – 12% of the world’s wheat, 15% of corn and half of the sunflower oil.

But with the ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk and others cut off from the world by Russian warships, supplies can only come from congested land routes that are much less efficient.

At this juncture, G7 ministers urged countries around the world not to adopt restrictive measures that could further weigh on product markets.

They “spoke out against export bans and also called for markets to be kept open,” said Mr Ozdemir, whose country holds the group’s rotating chairmanship.

“We call on India to fulfill its responsibilities as a G20 member,” added Mr. Özdemir.

The agriculture ministers would also “recommend” the topic at the G7 summit in Germany in June, to which India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been invited.

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