An Indian Woman Harvesting Wheat. [Image: Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

India Announces Partial Wheat Export Ban

India Asia

In January 2022, Kansas legislators appealed to the Biden Administration to litigate India, the world’s second-largest wheat grower, for “violating World Trade Organization rules regarding wheat,” Kansas’s preeminent agricultural product. The letter presented to the Biden Administration on behalf of Kansas legislators outlined the ways Indian wheat exports disadvantaged the state’s own wheat producers. Although India is the second-largest wheat producer in the world, domestic food needs often outweigh the ability to export wheat abroad.

Wheat production has been further affected by a myriad of new issues. March presented record-breaking temperatures in India, severely damaging wheat crop yields and endangering domestic food security. Between March and May 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused wheat shortages and wheat prices to soar. As a result, India’s wheat prices have skyrocketed. As a response, the Government of India announced in May a partial wheat export ban would be put into place. Under the new policy, exports will still be permitted to countries with similar food security concerns to divert the increasingly scarce resource for those most in need.

This policy does not prioritize the United States as an export recipient, with the exception of honoring the prior commitments of private traders.

The general exclusion of the United States as an export recipient impacts not only wheat producers, but consumers of wheat by-products, as well. Retail prices of wheat and wheat flour have risen approximately 14-20% in the last year alone. One month after the policy’s implementation, new fear arose at the similar price increases now occurring in India’s rice exports. This concern comes from India’s additional decision to cap its sugar exports. India is the second-largest sugar exporter in the world, but rising domestic prices have prompted preemptive protectionism.

The United States has long since been involved in the Indian agricultural industry. India and Kansas share a significant economic relationship, with the former’s exports directly and indirectly accounting for over a hundred thousand jobs in Kansas. Additionally, both the United States and India undertake collaborative research efforts to identify and manage agricultural concerns in India, as well as plan future opportunities for technology transfer to aid in more sustainable farming practices. However, should India implement an export ban on rice as well, the consequences could be devastating for global populations.

Harini Narayan is a member of the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington, and a master's student at Columbia University studying South Asian Studies.