New Delhi: India on Wednesday called out the West on the issue of food security saying that grains should not go the way of the COVID-19 vaccines while it voiced concern over hoarding and discrimination amid the “unjustified increase” in prices. New Delhi stressed that its decision to restrict wheat exports will ensure that it is able to truly respond to those most in need. The statements came as Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan spoke at the ministerial meeting on ‘Global Food Security Call to Action’ chaired by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken under the US Presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of May.
“A number of low-income societies are today confronted with the twin challenges of rising costs and difficulty in access to food grains. Even those like India, who have adequate stocks, have seen an unjustified increase in food prices. It is clear that hoarding and speculation is at work. We cannot allow this to pass unchallenged,” Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said, as quoted by news agency PTI.
The ‘Global Food Security Call to Action’ meeting came just days after India’s decision to ban wheat exports in a bid to check high prices amid a shortage of wheat due to scorching heatwave.
The decision is aimed at controlling the retail prices of wheat and wheat flour which have risen by an average of 14-20 per cent in the last year while also focusing on the foodgrain requirement of neighbouring and vulnerable countries.
In its notification, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) had stated that wheat exports will be allowed on the basis of permission granted by the Union government.
At the high-level meeting, India spoke about the issue of the wheat export ban for the first time in the UN since its May 13 announcement.
Muraleedharan emphasised that the Indian government has recognised the sudden spike in global prices of wheat which put “our food security and those of our neighbours and other vulnerable countries at risk.” “We are committed to ensuring that such adverse impact on food security is effectively mitigated and the vulnerable cushioned against sudden changes in the global market. In order to manage our own overall food security and support the needs of neighbouring and other vulnerable developing countries, we have announced some measures regarding wheat exports on 13 May 2022,” he stated.
“Let me make it clear that these measures allow for export on the basis of approvals to those countries which are required to meet their food security demands. This will be done on the request from the concerned governments. Such a policy will ensure that we will truly respond to those who are most in need,” he said, as quoted by PTI.
The minister further stressed that India will play its due role in advancing global food security “and it will do so in a manner in which it upholds equity, display compassion, and promotes social justice.”
India Hits Out At West, Highlights ‘Track Record’ Of Helping Allies In Distress
New Delhi called out the West and cautioned that the issue of food grains should not go the way of COVID-19 vaccines, which were purchased by the rich nations in quantities in excess of what they needed, leaving the poor and less developed nations scrambling to administer even the initial doses to their people.
“It is necessary for all of us to adequately appreciate the importance of equity, affordability and accessibility when it comes to food grains. We have already seen to our great cost how these principles were disregarded in the case of COVID-19 vaccines. Open markets must not become an argument to perpetuate inequity and promote discrimination,” Muraleedharan said in a strong statement.
Union MoS Muraleedharan also highlighted India’s “track record” of helping its partners in distress, stating that even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing conflicts, India has never been found wanting.
“We have provided food aid in the form of thousands of metric tonnes of wheat, rice, pulses, and lentils to several countries, including our neighbourhood and Africa, to strengthen their food security,” he said, pointing out that in view of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, India is donating 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat to Afghan people.
India has continued its humanitarian support for Myanmar, including a grant of 10,000 tons of rice and wheat, he said. “We are also assisting Sri Lanka including with food assistance, during these difficult times.” “In keeping with our ethos of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, (the world is one family) and our ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, we will continue to assist our neighbours, in their hour of need, and stand by them, always,” he emphasised.
India has underlined that the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing conflicts, including in Ukraine, impacted the lives of ordinary people adversely, particularly in the developing countries. The situation has also led to spiralling energy and commodity prices and disruptions in global logistical supply chains.