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India’s wheat exports pick up amid Russia-Ukraine war, says Food Secy

New Delhi. Wheat exports from India, the world’s second-biggest producer of the grain, have picked up after global prices surged due to Russia’s war against Ukraine, and total shipments from the country have already touched a record of 6.6 million tonne this fiscal so far, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said on Saturday.

It is an ”opportunity” for Indian exporters as the new wheat crop will be available early from March 15 onwards when compared to other global wheat producers, he said.

Russia and Ukraine together account for almost a quarter of the global wheat supply. Their wheat crop will mature in August and September this year. As a result, global wheat prices have already gone up and are ruling in the range of Rs 24,000-25,000 per tonne, he added.

”Indian wheat exports, as a result, have picked up. By the end of February, we have already exported 6.6 million tonnes of wheat,” Pandey told reporters in a virtual press conference.

So far, wheat exports have crossed the historical high of 6.5 million tonnes achieved earlier in 2012-13 fiscal, he said.

”Still one month is left, you can expect roughly about 7 million tonne plus exports this year,” he said, adding that this is good news for Indian farmers and exports.

India’s wheat production is estimated to touch a new record of 111.32 million tonnes in the 2021-22 crop year (July-June) as against 109.59 million tonnes in the previous year, as per the Agriculture Ministry’s second advance estimate.

Wheat, the main rabi (winter) crop, will start hitting the market from March 15 onwards. The country also has a surplus stock of wheat in the government godowns.

Other global players will enter the market later after the end of their summer season.

”We will have adequate stock of wheat and the new crop will also be available to private players for normal export,” he added.

Asked about the export of other commodities, the Secretary said sugar exports are also expected to touch 7.5 million tonnes in the 2021-22 marketing year (October-September), much higher than 2 million tonnes in the last year buoyed by strong global prices.

The demand for Indian sugar is rising not because of the Russia-Ukraine crisis but due to the tight supply of sweetener for export purposes in the global market that has pushed up the international rates, he added.

In the case of edible oils for which India is heavily dependent on imports and for sunflower oil amid the Ukraine crisis, Pandey said, ”Our position is quite comfortable.” He said India has established sources for edible oils. ”Even during the month of March, we got the supplies (of sunflower oil) for February as scheduled as contracted. Subsequently, other edible oil supplies like soyabean oil will also be increased.”