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Wheat export ban to ensure adequate food availability & check price rise: Govt

Officials said that the wheat export window will remain open for neighbours and countries actually facing food security threats, adding that the export ban could be lifted if the wheat production estimates improvePremium
Officials said that the wheat export window will remain open for neighbours and countries actually facing food security threats, adding that the export ban could be lifted if the wheat production estimates improve

Officials said that the wheat export window will remain open for neighbours and countries actually facing food security threats, adding that the export ban could be lifted if the wheat production estimates improve

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The union government on Saturday said that wheat exports have been restricted in order to ensure adequate food availability in the country and to check the price rise of basic and essential food items such as ‘atta’. The export ban came after official figures showed that food inflation in April soared to a record 8.38% and that price rise in rural parts of the country was higher compared to urban pockets.

Officials said that the wheat export window will remain open for neighbours and countries actually facing food security threats, adding that the export ban could be lifted if the wheat production estimates improve. Global wheat production took a major hit after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began as both the countries together contributed to nearly a third of the global wheat exports.

The export ban came as a surprise as the government barely days ago announced plans to send delegations to boost wheat exports to as many as nine countries. It aimed to clock export of 10 million tonnes during the current financial year compared to 7 million tonnes achieved during 2021-22.

“We are quite safe in terms of availability of wheat in the country. Wheat production last year stood at 109 million tonnes and the advance estimates released in February came in at 111 million tonnes but due to heat waves during the later part of the March especially in north-west India, estimates have been revised to 105-106 million tonnes," Agriculture Secretary Manoj Ahuja said.

The Public Distribution System (PDS) system, the backbone of food security in the country, would be run smoothly, said Sudhanshu Pandey, Secretary Department of Food and Public Distribution, adding that the decision to control exports was taken essentially in view of the price rise as international prices are also going up.

Commerce Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam reiterated that the government is committed to ensuring the food security of neighbours and vulnerable countries and that the reason the government to government window for trade has been kept open.

“Through the control order, we are directing wheat in a specific direction. We don’t want the wheat to go in an unregulated manner to places where it might get hoarded or get used in the manner we want to. We want the wheat to go to places where it is actually needed," Subrahmanyam added.

According to a notification released late on Friday, the export of all varieties of wheat was moved to the “prohibited“ category. However, the notification said that exports will be allowed on the basis of permission granted by the government to other countries to meet their food security needs and “based on the request of their governments".

The government also said that exports will also be allowed under transitional arrangements, where irrevocable letters of credit (ILOC) have been issued “on or before the date of this notification, subject to submission of documentary evidence as prescribed“. ILOC is a guarantee for payment issued by a bank for purchases and cannot be cancelled during a specified time period.

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