Global Statistics

All countries
704,753,890
Confirmed
Updated on June 22, 2024 5:59 pm
All countries
560,567,666
Recovered
Updated on June 22, 2024 5:59 pm
All countries
7,010,681
Deaths
Updated on June 22, 2024 5:59 pm

Global Statistics

All countries
704,753,890
Confirmed
Updated on June 22, 2024 5:59 pm
All countries
560,567,666
Recovered
Updated on June 22, 2024 5:59 pm
All countries
7,010,681
Deaths
Updated on June 22, 2024 5:59 pm
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View: India can’t lead the Global South and not feed it

Once again, global food markets are in disarray, facing disruptions not only due to Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal but also because of India’s decision to ban the export of many rice varieties. This move by the world’s largest rice trading nation, accounting for approximately 40% of exports, has sparked concerns about uncontrollable food inflation. Particularly worrisome is the impact on countries in the Global South, already burdened by high debt levels and soaring costs of food and fuel.

India’s export ban on rice is a significant error, both economically and geopolitically. It severely undermines India’s recent claims of being a natural and responsible leader of the developing world, a position that now appears questionable

New Delhi’s reasoning behind its recent decision is familiar: domestic food prices are surging, and with a general election on the horizon next year, the government is taking action. Historically, low food inflation has been vital for electoral success in India, and rice prices have climbed by over 10% in the past year. The government attributes this to escalating exports, prompting the imposition of export bans.

However, many Indian economists find it perplexing why export bans are the government’s immediate response, especially when there are ample rice stocks that could be distributed among the poorer citizens or released into the market to stabilize prices.

The reality is that for bureaucrats in control-focused New Delhi, export bans have become the go-to solution for rising domestic prices, rather than a last resort. A few months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine shook wheat markets last year, India halted wheat exports, further exacerbating food insecurity in vulnerable emerging nations.

Indian officials often claim, even at the World Trade Organization, that their restrictive trade policies are meant to safeguard millions of subsistence farmers. However, in practice, farmers seem to be the least of policymakers’ concerns. If supporting agricultural income were the government’s top priority, it wouldn’t restrict exports precisely when prices are rising and farmers have a chance to make rare profits.

For India to assume a leadership role globally, it must recognize the global repercussions of its decisions. Even in wealthier countries like the US, consumers, including many from the Indian diaspora, have rushed to supermarkets to hoard various Indian rice varieties.

Indian policymakers have prepared defenses against such complaints. They point out that the ban excludes the most popular Indian variant, basmati. However, this provides little comfort to Indians abroad, particularly those from South India who prefer shorter-grain varieties.

They also rightfully mention that despite the export ban announced last year, India actually shipped out nearly double the amount of wheat during the summer of 2022 compared to the previous year. This was due not only to system loopholes but also because contracts made before the ban were honored. Similar exceptions will be made for rice shipments.

This strategy reflects India’s attempt to keep its grain while positioning itself as a generous provider to the developing world. However, it remains uncertain whether this approach will be effective more than once. Purchasing Indian grain on the open market is one thing; having to approach Indian diplomats for rice or wheat due to fears of food riots is entirely different.

India’s myopic decision is likely to breed resentment over time, especially if global rice prices reach a 10-year high and the developing world attributes shortages predominantly to the Indian ban.

Fundamentally, India’s claim to leadership in the Global South rested on the principle of treating other developing countries as equals, distinct from the West or China. Indian policymakers should reconsider arbitrary export bans that reduce those nations to the status of supplicants. Genuine global leadership entails assuming responsibility for the world’s challenges.

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