Thu | Jun 30, 2022

Wheat supplies to Jamaica secure, say Flour Mills, minister

Published:Monday | May 16, 2022 | 12:10 AMDavid Salmon/Gleaner Writer
A farmer carries wheat crop after harvest at Ganeshpur village, in Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh state, India, Sunday, April 11, 2021. India's partial ban on wheat exports, announced on the weekend, is not expected to affect supplies to Jamaica.
A farmer carries wheat crop after harvest at Ganeshpur village, in Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh state, India, Sunday, April 11, 2021. India's partial ban on wheat exports, announced on the weekend, is not expected to affect supplies to Jamaica.

Local importers of wheat have sought to assure the island’s producers that there is no anticipated disruption to supplies after India announced a partial ban on exports. Derrick Nembhard, managing director of ADM/Jamaica Flour Mills, said the...

Local importers of wheat have sought to assure the island’s producers that there is no anticipated disruption to supplies after India announced a partial ban on exports.

Derrick Nembhard, managing director of ADM/Jamaica Flour Mills, said the company has supply agreements tied to the new crop through to September.

Jamaica Flour Mills currently does not import wheat from India but sources its supplies from North America.

Nembhard is, however, wary that the weekend announcement by the Indian government could trigger more price hikes in an increasingly volatile global economy.

“The Indians are looking to their own market to ensure that they can supply their local demand with product before they go out to export to others. So will it have an effect? Yes,” Nembhard said bluntly in a Gleaner interview Sunday.

“... Prices on the wheat market are already volatile. The announcement made by India is just going to make the market a little more jittery and therefore … as price is concerned, that is going to be a little more fluid.”

Global wheat prices have risen by more than 40 per cent since the beginning of the year.

Despite the current price volatility, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Pearnel Charles Jr also does not expect a fallout in wheat supplies to Jamaica.

Charles told The Gleaner that less than 0.001 per cent of Jamaica’s wheat supply is sourced from India, and those imports are for speciality wheat, which is different than the general variety consumed by Jamaicans.

At present, wheat imports from the country are “insignificant”, said Charles, accounting for less than 2,000 kilograms per year. Jamaica’s annual demand is approximately 182 million kilograms.

“We note the trend of countries restricting exports and are taking steps to protect the interest of Jamaica in that regard. However, we do not expect that Jamaica will be directly impacted by the Indian government’s decision to ban wheat exports,” the agriculture minister said.

Indian high commissioner to Jamaica, Masakui Rungsung, explained that India’s harvest has been disrupted by a heat wave and record drought, which have impaired wheat production. It is estimated that wheat production has declined by three million tons this year from 106 million tons recorded in 2021.

Rungsung also sought to clarify that Delhi’s decision does not represent a blanket prohibition of exports.

“It is not a ban on the export of wheat but to regulate the going out of wheat in these circumstances because it is imported. It does not stop us from engaging in government-to-government [negotiations] so that wheat does not end up being hoarded. This is to ensure that food is not only secure in India, but for other countries,” the diplomat said.

India is a major exporter of wheat to neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

Despite the introduction of export regulations, Rungsung said that India would continue to support vulnerable communities and honour already signed contracts.

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Aubyn Hill has indicated that Jamaica is open to engaging with India to source wheat and fertiliser in the future.

Speaking to India’s WION correspondent Sidhant Sibal, Hill said: “Fertiliser is something we will be looking at. But in fact, as this relationship develops, we might be also looking for wheat from India, and those are the kind of discussions we are going to have as the war between Ukraine and Russia plays out.”

When asked if the Government was currently negotiating with its Indian counterparts for future wheat supplies, Charles said there was no need for those negotiations “even though India has indicated that there is a window for vulnerable countries”.

david.salmon@gleanerjm.com