Last Saturday, India banned wheat exports with immediate effect in a move that could drive global prices to record peaks and threaten widespread hunger across Asia and Africa. The ban comes as rising food and energy prices pushed India’s annual retail inflation to an eight-year high last month, and a scorching heatwave crippled crop output. India’s wheat stocks have also been strained by the distribution of free grain to some 800 million people during the pandemic. Global buyers were banking on India, as the war has triggered a huge spike in wheat prices, with Russia and Ukraine among the biggest exporters of the commodity. Both countries account for 29% of global wheat exports.
The ban will be felt disproportionately by consumers in low-income developing countries in Asia, as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are the top two destinations for Indian wheat exports. In addition to Russia and Ukraine, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kosovo and Serbia have also banned wheat exports.