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Heatwave-hit India: No plans to curb wheat exports

India has no plans to curb wheat exports — needed to help plug the gap left by the Ukraine war — despite the current heatwave hitting output, the government said.

The world’s number two wheat producer has major buffer stocks and has said it is ready to increase exports to countries hit by falling supplies from Ukraine and Russia.

But its hottest March on record and a heatwave in recent days have sparked speculation that India might instead prioritise domestic supplies in the country of 1.4 billion people.

Local media quoted Sudhanshu Pandey, India’s food secretary, as saying on Wednesday that wheat production was expected to fall at least five percent this year from 110 million tonnes in 2021.

But he added: “I don’t see any controls on exports.”

Last month, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said India would export 10 million tonnes of wheat, up from seven million, this financial year — beginning in April.

“Our farmers have ensured that not just India but the whole world is taken care of,” Goyal told reporters.

Russia and Ukraine together account for more than a quarter of international wheat supplies and global prices have soared to record highs in recent weeks.

Rising prices, caused also by fertiliser shortages and poor weather, have fuelled inflation globally and raised fears of famine and social unrest in poorer countries.

Indian traders have already contracted to export 4 million tonnes so far in 2022-23, Bloomberg News reported, citing the food ministry.

After Egypt, Turkey has also given approval to import wheat from India, it said.

Indian wheat exports in the past have been limited by concerns over quality and because the government buys large volumes at guaranteed minimum prices.

The sharp rise in global prices has prompted many Indian growers to agree on export deals because they can get higher prices than offered by the state.

Indian exports have also been held back by World Trade Organization rules that limit shipments from government stocks if the grain was bought from farmers at fixed prices.