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After Ukraine war, Egypt, world’s largest wheat importer wants to buy grain from India

Concerns over food security rising

After Egypt, many more countries are now looking to purchase wheat from India. Egypt, the world’s largest importer of wheat, is already looking to source the cereal from India after the Russia-Ukraine war dented supplies. Most of Egypt’s wheat until now came from Ukraine. Several other countries from Europe and West Asia are also expected to soon start purchasing Indian wheat. 

Besides Egypt, the other large wheat importing countries are China, Turkey, Nigeria and Indonesia. 

After exporting a record 7.85 million tonnes of wheat in 2021-22, India’s worldwide supply of the grain could touch 20 million tonnes this financial year amid rising concerns over food security as the Russia-Ukraine crisis deepens.

Russia and Ukraine accounted for about a third of the total global wheat exports estimated at around 180 million tonnes.

“For India, new markets for wheat exports are opening up. Egypt has already placed orders..we are expecting many new markets to start buying the grain from us. Many countries which have been already purchasing Indian wheat could now source a larger amount of the grain,” Anil Monga, managing director, Emmsons International that deals in trading of agro products, told India Narrative.  Monga added that the trend could continue in India’s favour as Ukraine will not be in any position to immediately resurrect its agricultural land after the war ends.

However, for the wheat growers the current heat wave that has gripped north India is posing serious challenges. Farmers fear that the sharp increase in temperature would dent agriculture productivity.

“Production may drop by 10-15 per cent due to this heat wave but despite that we have more that sufficient stocks to protect our own people and expand exports,” Anil Ghanwat, senior leader of Shetkari Sangathana, a Maharashtra based farmers union.

However, surplus stocks of the previous years are still lying with the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

“Though we don’t see any threat related to food security we hope this is not the case next year as well,” Ghanwat said.

Concerns over food security

The Russia-Ukraine war has choked vital supply chains globally.

Later this month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to hold a ministerial-level meeting in the United Nations on action for global food security.

According to Eurasian Research Institute, wheat provides more than 35 per cent of the cereal calorie intake in the developing world, 74 per cent in the developed world and 41 per cent globally from direct consumption.

Almost 70 per cent of wheat is used as food, while the rest is used as feed for livestock and industrial processing.

The World Economic Forum said that between 720 million and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020. The Covid 19 pandemic, climate change and conflict are among the main drivers of global food insecurity.

Almost 40 per cent of Ukraine’s wheat and corn exports go to the Middle East and Africa, which are already grappling with hunger issues. Increased food prices and shortage could even stoke social unrest, the WEF warned.

India’s rice production and exports

India’s rice exports have already surged in the last two years. Its markets include Bangladesh, China, Guinea, Vietnam and Malaysia among others. Rice exports in the current financial year is also set to be robust. “We have already got orders and we are hoping that this year will also be a good one,” Monga said.

“Indian farmers are feeding the world.. Our farmers have ensured our granaries overflow & we are ready to serve the world,” Union Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted a few days earlier.

Also read: Will the Russia-Ukraine war trigger mass hunger on a global scale?

China's zero Covid approach leads to concerns over food security