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India’s rice export ban: Navigating global food security challenges

In September 2023, India, the world’s largest rice exporter, imposed a ban on the exports of several categories of rice, citing rising domestic prices and concerns of a potential shortfall in the next crop yield.


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  27 July 2023 4:02 AM GMT

Dipak Kurmi

(The writer can be reached at

In September 2023, India, the world’s largest rice exporter, imposed a ban on the exports of several categories of rice, citing rising domestic prices and concerns of a potential shortfall in the next crop yield. As India accounts for 40% of the global rice trade and its shipments reach approximately 140 countries, this decision has raised alarms among experts, who fear that it could drive up global rice prices and exacerbate food insecurity in vulnerable regions. The ban comes at a time when the world is already grappling with food security challenges due to the ongoing Black Sea wheat crisis and weather-related disruptions in key rice-growing regions.

The ban on rice exports is a response to the surge in domestic prices, which have risen by 11.5% over the past year and 3% over the past month. The Indian government aims to ensure adequate availability of non-basmati white rice in the domestic market and stabilise prices. Given that cereals like rice and wheat form a significant part of the diet of low-income people in India, food inflation is a sensitive issue for the government, especially as it faces a series of key state elections later this year and national elections in April.

India’s decision to restrict rice exports is expected to have a significant impact on global rice prices. Previously, India used to export around 22.5 million tonnes of rice annually, but with the ban, approximately 10 million tonnes will be taken off the international market. This represents about 40% of India’s total rice exports. Such a substantial reduction in supply could lead to supply-demand imbalances and contribute to higher global prices, affecting countries heavily reliant on rice imports.

India’s concerns about the upcoming paddy crop are not unfounded. The erratic monsoon season this year led to heavy rains and floods in key rice-growing regions in the north, while deficient rains in the south hindered planting efforts. These adverse weather conditions pose risks to the next rice harvest and raise concerns about potential shortages. Moreover, the looming “El Nino” effect, which typically causes hot, dry weather and lower rainfall in Asia, where most of the world’s rice crop is grown, adds further uncertainty to the equation.

The ban on rice exports aligns with India’s focus on maintaining adequate rice stocks to meet domestic demand. With a population of 1.4 billion, ensuring food security for its citizens is a top priority. India’s decision to safeguard its domestic interests by stockpiling rice reflects a cautious approach, given the uncertainties surrounding future crop yields.

While India’s decision is understandable from a national perspective, it has implications for the international community. As a responsible global player, India must balance its commitment to support food security worldwide while meeting its own domestic requirements. The ban on rice exports could exacerbate food crises in vulnerable regions, especially those heavily dependent on Indian rice imports.

To mitigate the impact on food-importing nations, India can explore alternative strategies. For instance, instead of a blanket ban on exporting non-basmati rice, India could have considered capping exports and prioritising exports of basmati rice, which is more in demand in the US and Europe. This approach would have allowed India to continue providing affordable rice varieties to countries in Africa and other developing regions.

India’s rice export ban comes at a critical juncture when global food security is under strain due to various challenges. While the ban is aimed at safeguarding domestic interests and maintaining food stability within India, it must be accompanied by measures that consider the needs of other nations. Collaborative solutions and alternative export strategies can help strike a balance between India’s domestic priorities and its global responsibilities. As India assumes the presidency of significant international organisations like the G20 and SCO, it can play a crucial role in fostering cooperative efforts to address food security challenges and support vulnerable regions in their pursuit of sustainable agricultural development.

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