US hopes India will reconsider wheat export ban


India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, has banned wheat exports to check high domestic prices amid fears wheat production will be hit by searing heatwaves

India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, has banned wheat exports to check high domestic prices amid fears wheat production will be hit by searing heatwaves

The US hopes India will “reconsider” its decision to ban wheat exports, with Washington “encouraging” countries not to limit exports as it will exacerbate food shortages amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, has banned wheat exports to check high domestic prices amid fears wheat production will be hit by searing heatwaves.

The decision would help control retail prices for wheat and wheat flour, which have risen by an average of 14-20% over the past year, and also meet the grain needs of neighboring and vulnerable countries.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said during a virtual briefing at the New York Foreign Press Center on May 16: “We saw the report on India’s decision. We encourage countries not to restrict exports because we believe any export restrictions will exacerbate food shortages.”

“But you have — again, India will be one of the countries attending our Security Council meeting and we hope that they will reconsider that position when they hear the concerns expressed by other countries,” she said.

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield answered a question on India’s decision to limit wheat exports.

The US envoy said Ukraine used to be a grain bin for developing countries, but “since Russia started blockading key ports and destroying civilian infrastructure and grain elevators, the hunger situation in Africa and the Middle East is getting worse.

“This is a crisis for the whole world and that is why it belongs to the UN. We have a responsibility to the millions who worry about where they will find their next meal or how they will support their families. This week is about taking that responsibility and taking action to alleviate food insecurity around the world,” she said.

The US is President of the UN Security Council for the month of May and will host a food security signature event this week amid international conflicts such as the Russia-Ukraine war that have brought food insecurity to the fore.

On May 19, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken will chair an open debate on “Maintaining International Peace and Security: Conflict and Food Security”. On the eve of the Security Council meeting, Blinken will chair a ministerial meeting on global food security on Wednesday that will bring together officials from dozens of countries to review their urgent humanitarian and development needs to address global food security, nutrition and resilience, Ms Thomas-Greenfield said .

“This will include countries with diverse perspectives ranging from large food suppliers to those facing significant food crises,” she said.

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs V. Muraleedharan, who will be in New York May 17-20, will attend the High-Level Ministerial Meeting on Global Food Security – Call for Action and make a statement on the UNSC Open Debate.

The Directorate-General for Foreign Trade (DGFT) had said in a statement last week that wheat exports will be allowed to other countries based on the approval granted by the Indian government to meet their food security needs and based on the request of their governments.

India’s wheat exports hit an all-time high of 7 million tonnes valued at US$2.05 billion in FY2021/22 on better overseas demand for Indian wheat. Of the total wheat exports, around 50% of shipments were exported to Bangladesh in the last fiscal year.

Global Food Crisis

Ms Thomas-Greenfield had said the open debate would examine the link between conflict and food security and the Council would consider steps needed to ensure increasing food security did not lead to new conflicts and instability, particularly in fragile states .

The US launched several days of action on global food security on May 16, an issue that Ms Thomas-Greenfield said has been a priority for the Biden administration from day one.

“The harsh truth we must reckon with is that people around the world go hungry every day even though we have more than enough to eat. Worse still, many are starving and don’t know where their next meal will come from because warmongers are deliberately using hunger as a weapon of war.

“Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, Somalia and Yemen are just a few examples of places where conflict is driving people into desperate hunger. These days of action are all about putting this crisis at the center of the world’s attention, and it all takes on heightened importance in light of Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine,” said Ms. Thomas-Greenfield.

India has noted with concern that the Ukraine conflict is having a destabilizing effect with broader regional and global repercussions.

“Oil prices are skyrocketing and there is a shortage of grain and fertilizer. This has a disproportionate impact on the Global South and developing countries,” said India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador TS Tirumurti.

Last week in Vienna, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” by the hunger spreading in different parts of the world due to the “dramatic food security situation we are facing due to the war in Ukraine.

“I believe, independently of many other solutions that deal with the need to keep markets open, avoid export bans, do everything possible to intervene in markets to keep prices as low as possible.

“I believe that there is no solution to the problem without bringing Ukraine’s food production and the Russian Federation and Belarus’ food and fertilizer production back onto the market,” Mr Guterres said.

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