Özdemir sharply criticizes India’s wheat export ban

AMinister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir (Greens) has sharply criticized the Indian ban on wheat exports. “We all have a responsibility for the rest of the world, especially the big export nations,” he said in Stuttgart after the end of the meeting with his counterparts from the G-7 group of industrialized countries. “I take a very critical view of that,” he said, referring to New Delhi’s decision.

According to the will of the department heads, the G-7 heads of state and government should now discuss the issue, as Özdemir reported. India will be a guest during the summit meeting at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria at the end of June. Germany currently leads the group of states.

According to host Özdemir, the G7 are generally opposed to export bans. “We are calling for the markets to be kept open.” According to Özdemir, the G7 want to monitor the prices for production and food more closely than before, for example fertilizers. To this end, the agricultural information system of the G-20 group of industrialized and emerging countries should be strengthened.

India had previously imposed an immediate ban on wheat exports, fueling concerns about impending famine in the world because of the war in Ukraine. The government of the second largest wheat producer in the world announced on Saturday that the export ban was intended to curb price increases in their own country.

India actually wanted to sell a record amount of around ten million tons of wheat on the world market this year. An unusually early heat wave with temperatures of well over 40 degrees in India had recently fueled concerns about a failed harvest.

“Ban is shocking”

The export ban is now likely to drive up prices on the world market, since millions of tons of wheat are missing there due to the Ukraine war and the resulting lack of deliveries from the Black Sea region. This would hit poorer countries in Asia and Africa particularly hard. India said on Saturday that existing supply contracts would be fulfilled and that countries that would otherwise have to worry about “food security” would also be supplied. However, the export of further quantities will be stopped.

According to the United Nations, almost 25 million tons of grain that has already been harvested cannot be taken out of the country due to the war in Ukraine. In addition, the coming harvest will not be able to be maintained at the previous level. That drives the prices. In Germany, for example, wheat imports rose by around 65 percent in March within a year.

Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir accused Russia on Friday of using hunger as a weapon of war. This applies within Ukraine, but also around the world, since Ukraine alone supplies half of the grain for the World Food Program. Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) warned on Saturday that up to 50 million people in Africa and the Middle East are also at risk of starvation as a result of the crisis.

Venue relocated for security reasons

“The ban is shocking,” a Mumbai-based worker at a global grain trader said of India’s recent decision. The government had obviously also reacted to the high inflation rate. As in other countries, the prices in India have not only increased significantly for grain due to the sharp rise in fuel, labor and transport costs. In addition, the heat wave is causing the first crop failures.

As recently as February, the government had forecast production of more than 111 million tons, which would have been the sixth record harvest in a row. In May, the forecast was capped at 105 million, and traders are not ruling out that farmers will eventually harvest less than 100 million tons. According to the government, the export ban is also an act of caution. The state buys a larger part of the harvest in India every year in order to give the grain to the poorer sections of the population.

Another concern has led to the fact that Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir (Greens) and his counterparts had to change their Stuttgart conference venue at short notice for security reasons. There were fears that the event could be disrupted at the original venue, said a police spokeswoman for the German Press Agency on Saturday on request.

Among other things, an announced tractor rally in the immediate vicinity of Hohenheim Castle in the south of the state capital played a role. The spokeswoman said that farmers with around two dozen tractors had gathered in Hohenheim in the morning.

Özdemir and the G-7 counterparts began their meeting on Friday at Hohenheim Castle, which houses parts of the University of Hohenheim. The extensive palace complex is located in a publicly accessible university and park complex. Where the heads of department met on Saturday initially remained open.

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