Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday that India is ready to fill the food supply gap caused by Russia’s latest war with Ukraine and “feed the world” — but is waiting on approval for this effort from the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Times of India reported.
“The world is facing a new problem now; the food stock of the world is getting empty, I was talking to the US President [Joe Biden], and he also raised the issue of food grain shortages [sic]. I suggested that if WTO gives permission, India is ready to supply food stocks to the world from tomorrow,” Modi said during a speech to inaugurate an educational complex in India’s Gujarat state on April 12.
“He [Biden] offered to supply India’s food stock to the world if the WTO accords permission,” Modi revealed on Tuesday, as quoted by India’s Economic Times.
“We already have enough food for our people but our farmers seem to have made arrangements to feed the world. However, we have to work according to the laws, so I don’t know when WTO will give permission and we can supply food to the world,” the prime minister added.
Modi and U.S. President Biden participated in a video call on April 11 in which the two leaders discussed bilateral relations between New Delhi and Washington. Both men “committed to … advancing global food security” during their conversation, according to a White House readout of the call.
India’s government in March expressed interest in increasing its exports of wheat to other nations that have traditionally relied on imports of the grain from Russia and Ukraine, such as Egypt. Russia launched a military invasion of Ukraine on February 24, causing conflict that has either disrupted or halted the production and export of wheat from the two neighbors. In the absence of Russian and Ukrainian wheat supplies, New Delhi on March 29 consulted with Cairo to arrange a possible trade deal between the two countries that would see India export greater quantities of wheat to Egypt.
The Times of India reported on the development at the time, writing, “While demand for Indian wheat has increased in the last few weeks, [Indian] commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal has also begun a dialogue with some prospective importers. On Tuesday [March 29], he took the issue with Egypt’s planning and economic development minister Hala El-Said in Dubai.”
New Delhi would send Cairo an initial shipment of two million metric tons of wheat should they finalize their commerce deal.
Modi’s administration has allegedly been “pursuing deals to export wheat and take advantage of surplus stocks at home and a sharp rise in global prices” since at least mid-March, according to an exclusive Reuters report published on March 15.
“It [New Delhi] sees the disruption caused by the conflict involving Russia, the world’s largest wheat exporter and Ukraine, another leading supplier, as an opportunity to sell its wheat on the world market,” two anonymous sources in India’s federal government told Reuters at the time.
India is the world’s second-largest wheat producer after China. Despite its abundant wheat stocks, “logistical bottlenecks and quality concerns” have prevented India from reaching its full potential on the world wheat market, according to Reuters.
Modi’s administration set into motion a series of measures in early-to-mid March to help India prepare to export greater amounts of wheat in the near future.
“Steps to be implemented over about two weeks include ensuring government-approved laboratories test the quality of wheat for export, making extra rail wagons available for transport and working with port authorities to give priority to wheat exports,” Reuters revealed on March 15.
India hoped at the time the trade boost “could result in the export of 10 million tonnes of wheat after the new season harvest begins this month [March].”
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