India may import wheat in blow to Modi’s goal to feed world

By Pratik Parija and Vrishti Beniwal, Bloomberg

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi boldly declared that his country was ready to “feed the world” after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Less than four months later, the government needs to consider grain imports.

Even before Modi made his pledge, a record-breaking heat wave that started in March was threatening Indian wheat output. That cut production and pushed up local prices, making everyday life more expensive for hundreds of millions of Indians that use the grain to make staple foods like naan and chappatis.

Indications that a bumper wheat harvest wasn’t going to eventuate prompted the government to restrict exports in mid-May. State reserves have declined in August to the lowest level for the month in 14 years, according to Food Corp. of India, while consumer wheat inflation is running at close to 12%.

The looming shortage and rising prices now have authorities making preparations to buy from overseas. Government officials are discussing whether to cut or abolish a 40% import tax on wheat to help flour millers in some regions to import grain, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified as the talks are private. This was first reported by Reuters.

The finance ministry didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. A spokesperson for the food and commerce ministries declined to comment. The food department on Sunday said in a Twitter post there was no “plan to import wheat” and the country has sufficient stocks to meet its requirements.

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