WFP taps India for 200,00 tonnes of rice as global hunger worsens

By Puja Das, Ravi Dutt Mishra

The World Food Programme has sought 200,000 tonnes of rice for its humanitarian operations from India, the largest exporter of the commodity, amid what it called “catastrophic levels” of global food insecurity triggered by the covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war, two people aware of the development said.

The request comes after the UN-brokered Black Sea grain deal, crucial for the global supply, collapsed last month as Russia withdrew stating the deal no longer justified its humanitarian purpose. Global food prices surged further after India restricted rice exports following Russia’s move.

The UN’s request is currently a subject of internal review involving the department of commerce, ministry of external affairs, department of revenue, department of food and public distribution and the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

It is expected to be cleared based on the evaluation of the stock position, with one government official pointing out India has never declined a request made by the WFP.

“The decision will be made strictly on the basis of availability of the commodity and keeping the country’s food security in mind. We have agreed at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that we will not impose any export restriction on the WFP. We have come up with rice export restrictions but they will be set aside when it comes to the request made by WFP,” the official said.

Meanwhile, WFP has formally sought the country-of-origin certificate, commercial invoice, sanitary and phytosanitary certificate along with crop year certification to process the assistance.

As part of the Black Sea grain deal, WFP-chartered vessels transported more than 380,000 tonnes of wheat through various Black Sea ports to support operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen. This played a crucial role in easing food prices triggered by the Ukraine war.

In India, food inflation as measured by the Consumer Food Price Index, which accounts for nearly half of the overall consumer price basket, rose to 4.49% in June 2023 against 2.96% (revised) in May 2023. While Morgan Stanley says it expects headline inflation to track higher than their previous expectation, the underlying trend in inflation remains unchanged, as reflected in core inflation forecasts.

The official cited above said global food prices are high and availability is a major concern with grain movement restricted from Russia and Ukraine.

“The price of rice coming out of Australia and the US, the next big producers, is much higher compared to elsewhere. And India has to ensure food security because the quantity that will be sought by India is enormous,” the official added.

Queries sent to the ministries of commerce, consumer affairs, food and public distribution ministries, finance and external affairs remained unanswered till press time.

This article has been republished from The Mint

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