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Will India be able to meet the food needs of the rest of the world?

Russia-Ukraine war is disrupting world food supplies. With that, the prices of food products are increasing. In this context, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week told US President Joe Biden that his country was ready to provide food to the rest of the world.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Narendra Modi says India has enough food for its 1.4 billion people. With the permission of the World Trade Organization (WTO), they are ready to start sending food products to the world from the next day.

Due to low crop production, the prices of daily commodities were rising in the world market before the start of the Ukraine war. The price was the highest in 10 years. After the war, food prices continued to rise. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), food prices are now the highest in the world since 1990.
Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s top wheat exporters. These two countries account for one-third of the world’s total wheat exports each year. Russia and Ukraine are also the top exporters of sunflower oil. The two countries contribute 55 percent to sunflower oil exports every year. On the other hand, these two European countries export 18 percent of the world’s corn and barley. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the two countries are expected to export 14 million tonnes of wheat and 16 million tonnes of maize this year.

Upali Galketi, a Rome-based economist at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said the expected exports should be kept out of the list due to supply disruptions caused by the Russia-Ukraine war and the threat of sanctions on Russia. If India has adequate wheat stocks, they can export more.

In this situation, it has become urgent to find alternative sources of food in the world market. In this case, India may be an alternative. India is currently the second largest producer of rice and wheat in the world. According to figures released earlier this month, India has a surplus of about 84 million tonnes of paddy and wheat. Of this, 21 million tonnes of food grains have been earmarked for strategic storage and distribution among the people. These food will be provided to more than 600 million poor people of India at affordable prices.

India tops the list of countries in the world that export rice and wheat at relatively low prices. The country is already exporting rice to about 150 countries and wheat to 6 countries. They have exported about 6 million tons of wheat in the fiscal year 2020-21. The demand for these products is increasing in the world market due to low supply. Under such circumstances, Indian traders have signed an agreement to export 3 million tonnes of wheat from April to July. Due to continued demand, India’s agricultural exports exceeded a record ৫০ 50 billion in FY 2021-22.

Ashok Gulati, a professor at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, said India has the capacity to export 22 million tonnes of paddy and 16 million tonnes of wheat in the current financial year. Exports could increase further if the WTO allows the Indian government to export these food products. And if it is possible, the price of food products in the world market will decrease. At the same time, the worries of the importing countries will decrease.

However, many are still cautious about exporting food products from India. Harish Damodaran, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research, a Delhi-based think tank, advised not to be too optimistic about Indian food grains to ease the global food crisis. “We have enough food at the moment,” he said. There is also some concern about the issue. We should not be too optimistic about feeding the whole world. ‘
Although I am a little disappointed with Damodaran’s words, there is a logical reason behind it.

There are fears that crop production may be lower than expected. Wheat harvesting season is going on in India. The country’s agriculture officials expect a record 111 million tonnes of wheat production this year. They have the idea that bumper wheat is being harvested for the sixth time in a row. However, experts like Damodaran are not satisfied with the government data. According to him, crop production may be disrupted due to drought and hostile weather (excess rainfall, unseasonably hot weather). Damodaran said, “We are very optimistic about the production of surplus crops. We will know the real situation in next 10 days. ‘

Experts say that there is another question about fertilizer. There is no substitute for fertilizer for high rate agricultural production. Fertilizer stocks in India have dwindled since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war. Due to this war, the supply of fertilizer in the world is also being disrupted. Which has affected the agricultural sector of India. India imports large quantities of diammonium phosphate and fertilizers rich in nitrogen, phosphate, sulfur and potash for agricultural use. Russia and Belarus account for 40 percent of the world’s potash exports. But sanctions on Russia have led to a shortage of fertilizer in the world. In addition, the price of fertilizer has already risen due to the gas crisis caused by Western sanctions on Russia.

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