India has banned the export of wheat, citing concerns over supply and climate. Even though India is not a huge exporter of wheat, this is a big deal because it will increase the costs of wheat for everyone and could be the first in a bigger trend of ending exports. Indeed, the price of wheat hit an all-time high on Monday.
Ukraine was a large exporter of wheat but not this year due to the war. India is experiencing an awful heatwave that is destroying crops. The government worried that exporting what wheat it does have could lead to food insecurities in India and wants to prevent that.
During the British rule of India, Britain exported millions of tonnes of wheat from India while 35 million Indians died of starvation during famine after famine. In his book, “Inglorious Empire”, Shashi Tharoor notes that “the last large-scale famine to take place in India was under British rule; none has taken place since.” Given this, it is easy to see why the Indian government would act quickly to prevent exports.
Yet world leaders condemn this move because it will make wheat buying harder on everyone and show other countries that protecting your own crops is a thing one can do. It may seem like a minor move, but given the precarious nature of globalization, there are no moves too small.