India’s ban on rice exports raises fear of global food price rises

11 months ago 146

India has introduced an immediate ban on non-basmati white rice exports to curb domestic inflation after heavy rains hit domestic crops, raising fears of further increases in global food prices.

The ban comes after a 20% duty on international exports introduced in September failed to curb foreign demand, which has soared after extreme climate conditions hit production in countries and demand rose on the back of grain supply disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

India is the world’s largest rice exporter, accounting for more than 40% of global shipments. While the ban does not apply to higher-grade basmati rice – India’s best-known variety – non-basmati white rice accounts for about 25% of exports.

International sales of Indian rice soared by 35% in the year to June, contributing to a 3% rise in domestic prices over the past month alone. People in India are now paying 11.5% more for rice than a year earlier, according to its ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution.

The Indian government said the new ban, introduced on Thursday evening, would “ensure adequate availability of non-basmati white rice in the Indian market” and “lead to lowering of prices for the consumers in the country”.

Soaring food inflation has put pressure on the BJP government in Delhi in the run-up to national elections next year and state-level elections in the months to come.

Global food supplies have already been hit by Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has driven up commodity and grain prices around the world.

There are fresh fears that a new global food crisis could be on the horizon after Russia earlier this week pulled out of a year-old UN-brokered deal that let Ukraine export grain through the Black Sea, saying its decision to exit was final.

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The US has pledged a further $250m (£194m) to create and expand other routes for Ukrainian grain to leave the country, but Russia’s defence ministry has in effect said any ship leaving a Ukrainian port will be a legitimate military target, raising fears that supplies could face further disruption.

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