India, on Wednesday, 18 May, called out the West, saying that food grains should not go the way of COVID-19 vaccines, and raised concern over hoarding and discrimination amid the increase in food prices.
India said the country's decision to restrict wheat exports would ensure that it could help those most in need.
"A number of low income societies are today confronted with the twin challenges of rising costs and difficulty in access to food grains. Even those like India, who have adequate stocks, have seen an unjustified increase in food prices. It is clear that hoarding and speculation is at work. We cannot allow this to pass unchallenged," Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said while speaking at the ministerial meeting on 'Global Food Security Call to Action' on Wednesday, 18 May.
The meeting was chaired by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken under the US presidency of the UN Security Council for May.
India prohibited the export of wheat on 13 May in a bid to ensure food security in the nation, while only allowing export shipments with an irrevocable letter of credit (ILOC) issued on or before the date of the notification.
However, on Tuesday, India relaxed its order restricting wheat exports. The Centre announced that those wheat consignments that have been handed over to the Customs for examination and registered into its systems on or prior to 13 May would be allowed for export.
The decision was taken to control the retail prices of wheat and wheat flour and meet the food grain requirement of neighbouring and vulnerable countries. The prices of wheat and wheat flour have risen by an average of 14-20 percent in the last year.
Last week, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) said in a notification that wheat exports would be allowed based on the permission granted by the Centre.
'Rise in Wheat Prices Have Put Food Security at Risk'
Muraleedharan said India recognised the sudden increase in the global wheat prices, which have put "our food security and those of our neighbours and other vulnerable countries at risk."
"We are committed to ensuring that such adverse impact on food security is effectively mitigated and the vulnerable cushioned against sudden changes in the global market. In order to manage our own overall food security and support the needs of neighbouring and other vulnerable developing countries, we have announced some measures regarding wheat exports on 13 May 2022," he said.
"Let me make it clear that these measures allow for export on the basis of approvals to those countries which are required to meet their food security demands. This will be done on the request from the concerned governments. Such a policy will ensure that we will truly respond to those who are most in need," Muraleedharan added.
He said India would play its due role in advancing global food security "and it will do so in a manner in which it upholds equity, display compassion, and promotes social justice."
India Calls Out the West
India said the issue of food grains should not go the way of COVID vaccines, which the rich nations purchased in quantities excess of what they actually needed, leaving the poor and less developed countries struggling to administer even the first dose to their citizens.
"It is necessary for all of us to adequately appreciate the importance of equity, affordability and accessibility when it comes to food grains.
"We have already seen to our great cost how these principles were disregarded in the case of COVID-19 vaccines. Open markets must not become an argument to perpetuate inequity and promote discrimination," Muraleedharan said.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, "We have seen the report of India's decision. We're encouraging countries not to restrict exports because we think any restrictions on exports will exacerbate the food shortages. But you've – again, India will be one of the countries participating in our meeting at the Security Council, and we hope that they can, as they hear the concerns being raised by other countries, that they would reconsider that position."
Muraleedharan Highlights India's Track Record of Helping Partners in Distress
Muraleedharan spoke about India's track record of helping its partners in distress, adding that India has never been found wanting even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing conflicts.
"We have provided food aid in the form of thousands of metric tonnes of wheat, rice, pulses, and lentils to several countries, including our neighbourhood and Africa, to strengthen their food security," he said.
Muraleedharan informed that India was donating 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan in view of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country, adding that the country has also granted 10,000 tonnes of rice and wheat to Myanmar.
"We are also assisting Sri Lanka, including with food assistance, during these difficult times. In keeping with our ethos of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam', (the world is one family) and our 'Neighbourhood First' policy, we will continue to assist our neighbours, in their hour of need, and stand by them, always," he said.
(With inputs from PTI.)