The Indian government has blocked all exports of wheat with immediate effect in a move that could intensify the global shortage exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.
India, the world’s second-largest producer of wheat, was expected to bolster supply badly depleted by Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has caused exports from the Black Sea region to plummet and the UN to warn of a global hunger crisis.
A scorching heatwave has curtailed wheat output in India and domestic prices have soared to an all-time high.
The government said it would still allow exports backed by already issued letters of credit and to those countries that request supplies "to meet their food security needs".
The ban could drive up global prices to new peaks and hit poor consumers in Asia and Africa.
Prior to the ban, India had aimed to ship a record 10 million tonnes this year.
"The ban is shocking," a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm told Reuters. "We were expecting curbs on exports after two to three months, but it seems like the inflation numbers changed the government’s mind."
Rising food and energy prices pushed India’s annual retail inflation up towards an eight-year high in April, strengthening economists’ view that the central bank would have to raise interest rates more aggressively to curb prices.