“Workplace hoarding”: India claims food grains mustn’t follow footsteps of Covid vaccinations

19 May, 2022 | Riya Girdhar

India is the world's second-largest wheat producer, but it has never been a major exporter because the majority of its harvest is consumed in India.

Food prices and availability should not follow the path of Covid-19 vaccines, which poor countries struggled to find even as richer countries hoarded doses, India said on Wednesday, as it expressed concern about a ‘unjustified increase’ in food prices that threatens the stability of many of the same poorer countries. Speaking at a worldwide meeting on food security, Union minister V Muraleedharan defended India’s wheat export restrictions, saying they would secure supplies to those in need.

“Several low-income societies are currently facing the dual difficulties of rising costs and limited access to food grains. Even countries with ample supplies, such as India, have suffered an unwarranted surge in food costs. Hoarding and speculation are clearly at work. This cannot be allowed to go uncontested “Muraleedharan spoke at a meeting led by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, which took place during the US leadership of the UN Security Council in May.

The conference took place just days after India banned wheat exports, citing the need to manage retail prices of wheat and wheat flour, which had risen by an average of 14-20% in the last year due to a shortage caused by heatwaves and the war in Ukraine.

India recognises that rising global prices have jeopardised “our food security, as well as that of our neighbours and other vulnerable countries,” and it is “committed to ensuring that such adverse impact… is effectively mitigated and vulnerable cushioned against sudden (price) changes,” according to the minister.