The Centre on Tuesday ruled out lifting the ban on wheat exports but said the shipments of the foodgrain through diplomatic channels will be considered on a case-to-case basis. India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, banned wheat exports in May 2022 as part of measures to control rising domestic prices.
Asked if wheat exports will be allowed, Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said, “No chance at all.” The government is supplying some quantity of wheat to a few countries like Nepal and Bhutan via a government-to-government trade arrangement. “We will take a call if there is a request from the Ministry of External Affairs,” he added.Citing reasons for continuing the export ban, Additional Secretary of the Food Ministry Subodh Kumar said India is not a traditional wheat exporting nation. However, the country exported wheat in the last three years owing to surplus supplies.
The country exported wheat in the range of 2-7 million tonnes annually in the last three years. Last year, wheat exports were 5 million tonnes, he said. “The wheat production remained lower during last year because of climatic reasons. However, production this year is higher than last year and availability is expected to be 10 million tonnes more when compared to last year,” he said. This is required for local consumption and to make available wheat at reasonable prices in the domestic market, he added.
The Additional Secretary further said wheat procurement in the 2023-23 marketing year (April-March) has reached 26.2 million tonnes so far. The FCI will be having an extra 8.5-9 million tonnes of wheat after meeting the PDS requirement. On rising wheat prices despite higher production, the Additional Secretary said it is normal to see a slight increase in prices of commodities after harvesting/procurement season ends.”Prices have risen a bit. Prices remain lower during the harvesting time and thereafter there is some increase. This is because the supply from farmers gets over and it is coming from traders,” he added. The government has projected a record wheat production of 112.18 million tonnes in the 2023-24 crop year (July-June), as per the second estimate of the agriculture ministry.