International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Kristalina Georgieva on 24 May beseeched India to rethink its ban on wheat exports, saying the country could play a key role in international food security and global stability. “I do have an appreciation for the fact that India needs to feed nearly 1.35 billion people and I do have an appreciation for the heatwave that has reduced agricultural productivity, but I would beg India to reconsider as soon as possible because the more countries step into export restrictions, the more others would be tempted to do so and we would end up as a global community less equipped to deal with the crisis,” she told NDTV at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Asked how much it would help if India lifted its ban, Georgieva said, “Wheat is one of the areas where Ukraine and Russia have been dramatically impacted by the war. So, depending on how much India can export and where it directs its exports, it could have a significant impact, especially if exports go to the countries most severely impacted like Egypt or Lebanon where what we see is not only risk of hunger but the risk of social unrest and impact on global stability.”
India banned wheat exports earlier this month as an intense heatwave hit output and domestic prices hit a record high. The country, however, has said it will still allow exports to countries that request supplies “to meet their food security needs”.
The world’s second-biggest wheat producer is likely to harvest 106.41 million tonnes in 2022, nearly 4.4 per cent lower than the previous estimate, the agriculture ministry said on 19 May.
The export ban was a huge U-turn after the government announced it was targeting record shipments this year.
The international supply of wheat has also been affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as the two countries jointly account for about 30 per cent of global wheat exports.
Ukraine’s exports are severely hampered because the war has forced it to close its ports, while Russia’s exports have been hit by Western sanctions.
Other export powerhouses Canada and Australia have also reported output issues adding to a situation that could drive global prices to new record peaks, hitting poor consumers in Asia and Africa particularly hard.