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The government has received requests for wheat supplies from at least five countries including Indonesia, one of the world’s largest importers of the grain, and Bangladesh after India banned wheat exports last month, a government official said.

While banning wheat exports amid spiralling global prices on 13 May, India kept open the option of government-to-government (G2G) supplies for neighbouring countries and others who may be facing a food security threat.

“Following the ban India has received requests from Indonesia, Oman, UAE, Bangladesh and Yemen. The government is evaluating their wheat requirements and availability of wheat with us," the official said.

Trade experts said Bangladesh could be looking for more wheat imports from India as it not only imported nearly half the total wheat exported by India but also was a buyer of wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

Official numbers showed that Bangladesh imported wheat worth $1.8 billion from Russia and $610.80 million from Ukraine in 2020. As per the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS), India exported wheat worth around $1 billion to Bangladesh in 2021-22.

The requests are also driven by the considerably lower price of Indian wheat compared to the international market. The ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution has said that Indian wheat is selling nearly 40% lower compared with international prices.

Indonesia was one of the top importers of wheat from Ukraine with imports in 2020 crossing $543 million. India exported nearly $105 million worth of wheat to Southeast Asia in 2021-22.

In 2020, Yemen imported wheat worth $174.31 million from Russia and $144.40 million from Ukraine. The UAE imported $146 million worth of wheat from Russia.

“From a global context, India is not a very large player in the export market as far as wheat is concerned. So the wheat ban will have little impact. But we could be looking at more consistent policies from the government, especially related to agri exports in the future," Upasana Chachra, chief India economist, Morgan Stanley said.

World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Okonjo Iweala Ngozi on Sunday said countries should not underestimate the impact of export restrictions, adding that such steps can exacerbate the ongoing global food crisis.

“You saw that in the 2008-2009 food crisis, just those kinds of actions did lead to price spikes. In the food security declaration, our members are trying to speak about how they would try to restrain themselves from taking these kinds of actions," Ngozi said during a press conference in Geneva.

“WTO must respond to the looming food crisis. International wheat prices have increased 56% compared to May last year. Economies everywhere are facing inflationary pressure," she added.

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