India banned wheat and broken rice exports and imposed a 20% export duty on non-basmati rice varieties last year to keep prices down.
In what is likely to add heft to India’s role in providing food security on the global stage, the department of food and public distribution has allowed exports of 300,000 tonnes wheat to Nepal; 200,000 tonnes of broken rice to Indonesia; 500,000 tonnes broken rice to Senegal, and 50,000 tonnes of broken rice to Gambia on a request by external affairs ministry. This comes despite low domestic wheat stocks.
The Food Corp of India (FCI) so far has procured a little over 26 MT wheat in the 2023-24 (October-March) rabi marketing year against a target of 34.5 MT. A hot February and heavy rains in March and April lowered wheat production to below the agriculture ministry’s second estimate of 112.2 MT. As per government officials, the amount procured so far will be enough to meet wheat requirement for the public distribution system (PDS). After ensuring 18.5 MT for PDS, there will be 8.7 MT available in the central pool, which will be more than sufficient for the open market sale scheme if required. Hence, there is no cause for concern, the government claims.
In the case of rice, the government had 26.5 MT rice in its central pool as of 1 May. Up to 21 May, FCI had procured 77.2 MT paddy in the ongoing 2022-23 (April-September) kharif marketing season and 3.2 MT paddy in the current 2023-24 rabi marketing season against an estimated target of 15.7 MT.
In response to Mint’s query, the Department of Food and Public Distribution said it deals with the “import and export of only wheat and non-basmati rice from central pool stocks available with FCI. WTO norms inter-alia restrict the export of foodgrains from public stocks procured for domestic consumption through welfare schemes.
However, humanitarian assistance, fully in grant form under the reference of the Ministry of External Affairs, to the deserving countries, is only allowed. During the 2022-23 financial year, no quantity of wheat and rice was supplied or exported to any foreign countries from the department’s central pool stocks,” the official said. Queries sent to the external affairs ministry remained unanswered.
Wheat and non-basmati rice exported as humanitarian assistance from central pool stocks during FY15 to FY22 to countries like Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Bhutan, Myanmar, Mozambique among others was 256,427 tonnes, the official disclosed.
“In the past two years, foodgrains have been provided to some countries as humanitarian aid on the recommendation of Ministry of External Affairs by DGFT. The data will be available with MEA or DGFT,” the official notified.
Emails sent to MEA, Embassy of Nepal on Friday containing queries remain unanswered till press time.
Last year, until 22 June of FY23, India shipped 1.8 MT wheat, including 33,000 tonnes of 50,000 tonnes committed to Afghanistan as part of humanitarian assistance, said then Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey. Other than Afghanistan, India also exported food grains to Bangladesh, Bhutan, Israel, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Thailand, UAE, Vietnam and Yemen during last financial year.