As many as nine countries – including Ethiopia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Qatar, Oman, Yemen and Jordan – have requested India to supply about 1 million tonne (MT) of wheat in the wake of a ban on the grain’s exports from May 13 but the entire demand is unlikely to be fulfilled, official and trade sources told FE. The list of countries requesting wheat is set to grow.
Ethiopia alone wants about 0.2 MT of wheat. A panel comprising senior officials from the ministries of commerce, food, agriculture and external affairs is evaluating the requests. The number of wheat supplies to each of them will be determined based on several criteria, an official source said.
Among other things, the officials are expected to seek assurances the supplies that are going to be approved for food security in these countries won’t be diverted to third parties for profiteering.
Meanwhile, the directorate general of foreign trade (DGFT) is trying to expeditiously clear genuine wheat consignments stuck in the Kolkata ports, and elsewhere.
As FE has reported, India shipped out as much as 1.13 MT of wheat in May, of which 0.47 MT were dispatched after the ban was imposed. The total shipment of the grain in May was close to 3 times the level a year before.
Indonesia and Bangladesh have emerged as the biggest beneficiaries of the post-ban dispatches, with each importing at least 0.1 MT of Indian wheat. On top of these, the DGFT had earlier allowed exports of 61,500 tonne to Egypt. These supplies also include aid.
Importantly, 2.74 MT of wheat (worth $902 million) were exported until June 2 this fiscal, about four times from a year before. In FY22, the country had exported a record 7.2 MT of wheat worth $2.12 billion.
While prohibiting wheat exports last month to curb domestic price rise, the government made it amply clear that it would cater for the genuine need of neighbouring countries and food-deficit nations through government-to-government deals and honour supply commitments already made. Moreover, it stated the shipments that were already backed by letters of credit (LCs) issued before the ban would be allowed.
However, suspecting a flood of fake and illegal LCs, the DGFT last week warned wheat exporters that it would examine cases for referral to the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Economic Offence Wing if they were found to be using back-dated LCs to get permits for shipping out the grain.