India Seeking to Expand Wheat Exports to Fill Void Left by Ukraine War

Indian daily-wage labourers take a rest from loading 50 kilo sacks of wheat onto a truck a

New Delhi consulted with Cairo on Tuesday to discuss ways India may increase its export of wheat to Egypt, which has traditionally relied heavily upon wheat imports from the warring nations of Russia and Ukraine, the Times of India reported.

“While demand for Indian wheat has increased in the last few weeks, [Indian] commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal has also begun a dialogue with some prospective importers. On Tuesday [March 29], he took the issue with Egypt’s planning and economic development minister Hala El-Said in Dubai,” the newspaper revealed on March 30.

India hopes to export 2 million metric tons of wheat to Egypt as part of an initial shipment to the country, should they finalize their tentative trade deal.

In addition to Egypt, India’s government has allegedly identified “at least nine new markets for Indian produce,” the Times of India reported on Wednesday.

“Nigeria, Thailand, Vietnam and Turkey are among the other nine new markets that the Centre [New Delhi] is seeking to tap,” according to the publication.

The latest war between neighboring Russia and Ukraine has threatened to disrupt both production of wheat in those countries and their export of the cereal to foreign nations since the conflict sparked on February 24.

New Delhi has indicated an interest in stepping up to fill the gap left by Russia and Ukraine in the global wheat market since at least mid-March, according to an exclusive report published by Reuters on March 15.

The news agency spoke to two anonymous sources within India’s federal government who said the administration of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently been “pursuing deals to export wheat and take advantage of surplus stocks at home and a sharp rise in global prices.”

File/Indian labourers shift a 50-kilo sack of wheat into a truck at a local grain distribution point in the outskirts of Amritsar. (NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)

“It sees the disruption caused by the conflict involving Russia, the world’s largest wheat exporter and Ukraine, another leading supplier, as an opportunity to sell its wheat on the world market,” Reuters relayed.

India is the globe’s largest producer of wheat after China. Despite the nation’s surplus wheat stocks, certain factors such as “logistical bottlenecks and quality concerns” have prevented India from its longtime goal of selling large volumes of wheat on the world market, according to Reuters.

India’s government began implementing a series of measures in early to mid-March to help it prepare to export greater amounts of wheat in the coming months.

“Steps to be implemented over about two weeks include ensuring government-approved laboratories test the quality of wheat for export, making extra rail wagons available for transport and working with port authorities to give priority to wheat exports,” Reuters reported on March 15 citing its unnamed sources in New Delhi.

Should the Indian government prove successful in raising its wheat exports in the coming months, New Delhi believes the increased trade “could result in the export of 10 million tonnes of wheat after the new season harvest begins this month [March].”

For comparison, India exported 6.12 million tonnes (metric tons) of wheat in 2021, a significant increase from 1.12 million tonnes in 2020.

China’s government on March 25 announced plans to boost its domestic wheat production in an effort to buoy global wheat supplies in the coming months. Beijing, like New Delhi, anticipates a global wheat shortage in the near future should Russia and Ukraine remain at war.

The wheat industries of Russia and Ukraine combined account for more than 30 percent of the globe’s wheat trade. Russia is the number one exporter of wheat globally and the third-largest producer of wheat worldwide, after India and China. Ukraine is among the top five exporters of wheat globally.


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