But agricultural experts said that an ongoing heat wave and rising temperatures could affect the harvest this year, which could be a factor in why the government changed course and imposed a ban on the exports.
The Commerce Ministry notice on Friday said that wheat exports were immediately banned, with some exceptions, because a sudden spike in the crop’s price had threatened India’s food security. Limited exports will be allowed at the request of individual governments whose own food supply is vulnerable, the notice said.
The export ban could be a further blow to international organizations working to counter the increasing threat of widespread hunger. The World Food Program, a United Nations agency, has warned that an additional 47 million people could go hungry as the war’s ripple effects add to an existing crisis of steep increases in food prices and a fertilizer shortage.
In early May, the agency’s chief economist, Arif Husain, said that it was in discussions with India to tap into its stockpile to alleviate the shortage. He also said that the World Food Program had urged nations not to enact export bans because they could raise prices and reduce availability. “Hopefully, countries are listening,” he said.
Ashok Gulati, a prominent agricultural economist in India, said the ministry’s announcement reflected poorly on India, given that it contradicted the government’s previous comments about wanting to supply wheat to countries in need.