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06 May 2022 – Current Affairs

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47.4 lakh India Covid deaths: WHO


Why Should You Know?

• COVID-19 could have killed as many as 47.4 lakh people in India in 2020 and 2021, either directly due to infection or through its indirect impact, according to the World Health Organisation.
• The figure, disputed by India, is nearly ten times the country’s official Covid death toll of 4.81 lakh at the end of 2021.
• In its report on excess deaths due to Covid, WHO said that an estimated 1.5 crore people are likely to have succumbed to the direct or indirect impact of the disease globally during the first two years of the pandemic – instead of the 54 lakh that have been recorded officially by countries separately.

Major Points Of Press Report

• For India the WHO said about 8.3 lakh death are compensation claims from states. If, indeed, the WHO numbers are taken at face value, that would imply India missed 90 per cent of all Covid-19 deaths in the first two years of the pandemic – and possibly millions of deaths were not even recorded.
• Significantly past data shows that India records over 90 per cent of all its deaths.
• According to WHO,8.3 lakh Covid-19 deaths happened in 2020-the official Covid-19 toll for India for that year is 1.49 lakh.
• The government said that an estimated 81.2 lakh people died in the country that year due to all causes.
• This is consistent with past data that shows that, on an average, about 83.5 lakh people die in the country every year in the last decade and a half.
• In 2019, India recorded 92 per cent of these deaths. The level of death registrations has seen a sharp rise in the last few years, from 79 per cent in 2017, to 86 per cent in 2018, to 92 per centin 2019.
• In its statement, the government also claimed that 99.95 per cent of all deaths were recorded in 2020.
• If 8.3 lakh of the 81.2 lakh deaths were caused by Covid-19, as the WHO says, non-Covid deaths in the year 2020 were only around 73 lakh. India’s total death toll for a year has never been below 80 lakh since 2007 till when data is available.

WHO Estimates

• 39.1 lakh Covid-19 deaths happened in 2021. This is at least 4 lakh more than what the entire world, put together, reported that year.
• India’s official Covid-19 death toll for 2021 is 3.32 lakh. That would mean that India missed almost 92 percent of the Covid19 deaths in that year.
• At a time when government is offering mandatory cash compensation for every Covid-19 death, there is an added incentive for people to get the deaths registered.
• In fact, compensation claims offers fresh light on the debate over the actual number of Covid19 deaths in the country.
• Data from 11 states, which together account for 75 percent of the country’s death burden, shows that the total number of applications made for compensation is less than twice the combined death toll in these states.
• In Gujarat, the number of applications is over 10 times the death tally but in Kerala the applications are less than the recorded deaths (see box).
• The fact that even in Bihar, applications are less than the total deaths shows that compensation claims might not beafoolproof way to assess the actual number of deaths.
• Apart from the fact that the affluent sections might not be filing these claims to get Rs 50,000 compensation, issues related to accessibility of government agencies and services could also be barriers to people filing these applications. At the same time, however, there is also the possibility of people filing fake applications,
• The Supreme Court has already warned people against filing fake claims, and a state like Maharashtra has rejected over 60,000 applications that were found fake.
• The bottom-line, however, is that the application numbers are not anywhere near the WHO’s numbers.
• The WHO numbers would also imply that the Covid-19 deaths per million population in India is 3,448, instead of 384 according to the official death toll.
• The global average for deaths per million is about 804. In India, Kerala has the highest deaths per million population right now, barring Goa.
• About 1,950 people per million population died in Kerala, which is supposed to be one of the best states in keeping records.
• Assuming that Kerala has counted 100 per cent of its deaths (which it has not because it is still reporting back-dated deaths almost every day), some experts argue that even if its death per million number is extrapolated to the entire country -as anacademic exercise–that would mean about 26.5 lakh Covid-linked deaths, still just over half of WHO’s numbers.

UN agency in talks with India on wheat procurement


Why Should You Know? 

• The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) has said that it is in discussions with India on procurement of wheat as several countries face food security challenges amid the Ukraine war.
• He was responding to a question on India having a huge surplus of wheat and whether the organisation was doing anything to utilise this stockpile with India as the Russia-Ukraine war has exacerbated the global food security situation.

Major Points

• To a question on whether restrictions by the World Trade Organisation over how much India can export should be suspended amid the current emergency, one of their recommendations is about ex emption of the WFP from export bans.
• Noted that a couple of weeks ago, several agencies of the UN had encouraged governments not to impose export bans, which then artificially increased the price of major staple commodities.
• This is something which is a big recommendation and hopefully, countries are listening.
• India’s wheat production stood at 109.59 million tonnes in the 2020-21 crop year (July-June).
• The World Food Programme launched the 2022 Global Report on Food Crises on Wednesday in which UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the war in Ukraine is “supercharging” a three-dimensional crisis – food, energy and finance – with devastating impacts on the world’s most vulnerable people, countries and economies.


• The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations.
• At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.


• Location: Geneva, Switzerland Established: 1 January 1995
• Created by: Uruguay Round negotiations (1986-94)
• Membership: 164 members representing 98 per cent of world trade
Budget: 197 million Swiss francs for 2020
• Secretariat staff: 623
• Head: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Director-General)


• Administering WTO trade agreements
• Forum for trade negotiations
• Handling trade disputes
• Monitoring national trade policies
• Technical assistance and training for developing countries
• Cooperation with other international organizations

8 West Bank Hamlets


Why Should You Know?

• Recently, Israel’s Supreme Court has upheld a long-standing expulsion order against eight Palestinian hamlets in the occupied West Bank, potentially leaving at least 1,000 people homeless, an Israeli rights group representing the villagers.
• The verdict, issued, marks the end of a more than two-decade legal struggle by Palestinians in the Masafer Yatta region of the southern West Bank to maintain communities they say go back decades.
• “Without warning in the middle of the night, the Israeli High Court of Justice published a verdict with unprecedented consequences,” the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which has represented the residents.

Other major point

• “Without a roof “The High Court has officially authorised leaving entire families, with their children and their elderly, without a roof over their heads.
• The military declared the area a firing and training zone in the early 1980s. Israeli authorities have argued that the residents only used the area for seasonal agriculture and had no permanent structures there at the time. In November 1999, security forces expelled some 700 villagers and destroyed homes and cisterns, the association said.
• The legal battle began the following year. In its ruling late Wednesday, the Supreme Court sided with the State and said the villagers had rejected a compromise that would have allowed them to enter the area at certain times and practice agriculture for part of the year.
• The military said the ruling had confirmed that the firing zone was duly declared in accordance with the Military Commander’s authority, due to military and security needs.”
• The families say they have been there for decades, from long before Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 War.
• Israel halted plans to formally annex parts of the West Bank in 2020, but it retains overall control over the territory, with the Palestinian Authority administering major population centers and cooperating with it on security matters.
• Nearly 5,00,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, which is home to nearly 3 million Palestinians.

West Bank

• Throughout the 1970s and ’80s the issue of Israeli rule over the West Bank Palestinians remained unresolved.
• Israel regarded possession of the West Bank as vital to its security, and the growing number of Israeli settlements further stiffened Israeli unwillingness to relinquish control of the area

World Food Prize



Why Should You Know?

• A NASA climate research scientist who has spent much of her career explaining how global food production must adapt to a changing climate was awarded the World Food Prize.
• Cynthia Rosenzweig, an agronomist and climatologist, was awarded the $2,50,000 prize in recognition of her innovative modelling of the impact of climate change on food production.
• She is a senior research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and serves as adjunct senior research scientist at the Columbia Climate School at Columbia University, both in New York.
• Ms. Rosenzweig said she hopes the win will focus attention on the need to improve food and agricultural systems to lessen the effects of climate change.
• The Des Moines-based World Food Prize Foundation award recognized Ms. Rosenzweig as the founder of the Agricultural Model Inter-comparison and Improvement Project.
• The organisation draws scientists from around the world and from many disciplines to advance methods for improving predictions of the future performance of agricultural and food systems as the global climate changes.
• The foundation credited her work with directly helping decision-makers in more than 90 countries establish plans to prepare for climate change.

The World Food Prize Foundation

• The World Food Prize Foundation was initially sponsored and formed by businessman and philanthropist John Ruan, Sr. with support from the Governor and State Legislature of Iowa. Mr. Ruan endowed The Prize and relocated it to Des Moines in 1990 when its first sponsor withdrew.
• Without Mr. Ruan’s generosity, the Prize and Dr. Borlaug’s vision could not have continued. Today, over 80 companies, foundations and individuals support the Foundation.
• In 2001 John Ruan’s son, John Ruan III, succeeded his father as chairman of the Board of the Foundation. Barbara Stinson became President of the Foundation in January 2020. A distinguished international Council of Advisors provides guidance and support to the Foundation.

World Food Prize Foundation Annual Week of Events

• The World Food Prize Foundation annually convenes discussions and activities each October in Iowa, drawing over 1,200 participants from over 60 to 65 countries.
• In addition to the Laureate Award Ceremony, the World Food Prize series of events include the: Borlaug Dialogue; Global Youth Institute for high school students; Laureate Lecture Series; and presentation of the Dr. Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation.

U.K. and Japan New Defence Agreement


Why Should You Know?

• The militaries of Britain and Japan will “work more closely together” under a defence deal that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced during talks with his Japanese counterpart on Thursday.
• Mr. Johnson hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the British leader’s 10 Downing St. residence.
• The deal will allow the armed forces of the two Group of Seven nations to deploy together for training, exercises and disaster relief.
• Japan has condemned Russia’s invasion and joined Western nations in imposing sanctions against MosCOW.

About Defense pact 

• A defense pact is a type of treaty or military alliance in which the signatories promise to support each other militarily and to defend each other.
• In general, the signatories point out the threats in the treaty and concretely prepare to respond to it together.

No Threat to Solomon Islands


Why Should You Know?

• Australia will respond calmly to the Solomon Islands after it signed a security pact with China, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, dismissing a furious response by the leader of the Pacific nation to Western criticism of the deal.
• In a fiery speech to Parliament, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said “we are threatened with invasion” but he did not name any countries or give evidence for his claim.

The Solomon Islands

• The Solomon Islands, a nation of hundreds of islands in the South Pacific, has many WWII-era sites.
• Guadalcanal, a province and one of the archipelago’s largest islands, honors fallen Allied soldiers at its U.S. War Memorial.
• Guadalcanal is also home to the nation’s capital, Honiara, whose bustling Central Market showcases the islands’ produce and traditional handicrafts.

The Status of The Naga Peace Talks


Why Should You Know?

• The annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released recently said that the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) was involved in 44% of insurgency-related incidents in Nagaland in 2020.
• The Union government had, in 2015, signed a framework agreement with the NSCN-IM to find a solution to the Naga political issue. The negotiations are yet to be concluded.

Why did the Naga insurgency begin?

• The term Naga was created by the British for administrative convenience to refer to a group of tribes with similar origins but distinct cultures, dialects, and customs. The Naga tribes are accumulated in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Myanmar.
• Residing in the Naga hills of Assam during the advent of the British and the annexation of Assam in 1820, the Nasas did not consider themselves a part of British India.
• The British adopted a way of governance over the Nagas that involved keeping in place their traditional ways of life, customs, and laws while putting British administrators at the top.
• At the time of the withdrawal of the British, insecurity grew among the Naga tribes about the future of their cultural autonomy after India’s independence, which was accompanied by the fear of the entry of “plains people or “outsiders into their territory.
• These gave rise to the formation of the Naga Hills District Tribal Council in 1945, which was renamed the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946.

Major Points

• Amid uncertainties over the post-independence future of the Nagas, a section of the NNC. led by Naga leader A.Z. Phizo declared the independence of the Nagas on August 14, 1947, a day before India’s declaration.
• The underground insurgency began in the early 1950s when Mr. Phizo founded the Naga Federal Government (NFG) and its armed wing, the Naga Federal Army (NFA).
• The Central Government sent the armed forces into Nasa areas to curb the insurgency and imposed the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which is still in place in parts of Nagaland.
• The Nagas, led by Mr. Phi20, demanding an independent state outside of India, boycotted the 1952 and 1957 general elections and armed clashes grew. Unlike other groups in the north east which were accepting some form of autonomy under the Constitution, Nagas reiected this in favour of sovereignty.
• Some leaders among the NNC formed their own group to hold discussions with the government, leading to the formation of the State of Nagaland in 1963.
• This, however, did not satisfy many in the NNC and NFG, who, following years of negotiations with the government, eventually signed the Shillong Accord of 1975, agreeing to surrender arms and accept the Constitution.

When did the NSCN come into the picture? 

• This signing of the Shillong Accord was not agreeable with many top leaders of the NNC and those operating from Myanmar as the agreement did not address the issue of Naga sovereignty and coerced them to accept the Constitution.

Three NNC leaders –

1. Thuingaleng Muivah of the Tangkhul Naga tribe of Manipur’s Ukhrul district, Isak Chishi Swu of the Sema tribe, and S. S. Khaplang from Myanmar’s Hemis tribe, formed the National Socialist Council Of Nagaland (NSCN) to continue the armed movement.
2. The motto of the NSCN was to create a People’s Republic of Nagaland free of Indian rule.
• In 1988, after years of infighting and violent clashes along tribal lines and over the main cause of the movement, the NSCN split into two factions. One, led by Mr. Muiwah and Swu called the NSCN-IM and the other, led by Mr. Khaplang called the NSCN-K. The NSCN-IM demanded and continues to demand ‘Greater Navaland’ or Nagalim-it wants to extend Naxaland’s borders by including Naga-dominated areas in the neighbouring States of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
• The NSCN-IM has now grown to became the most powerful insurgent group, also playing a role in the creation of smaller groups in other States.
• Its armed operations intensified along with illegal activities like tax extortion, smuggling of weapons and so on.

Where do the peace talks stand now?

• In 1997, the Government of India got the NSCN-IM to sin a ceasefire agreement to begin the holding of talks with the aim of signing a Naga Peace Accord.
• After this ceasefire, there have been over a hundred rounds of talks spanning over 24 years between the Centre and the insurgent group, while a solution is still awaited.
• New Delhi has been holding peace parleys simultaneously with the NSCN-IM, and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) comprising at least seven other extremist groups, including the NSCN(K), In 2015, it signed a Framework Agreement with the NSCN (IM), the first step towards an actual Peace Accord.
• The then Joint Intelligence Chief R.N. Ravi was appointed the interlocutor for Naga peace talks and signed the agreement on behalf of the Centre. He was later appointed as Nagaland’s Governor in 2019 to further the negotiations.
• The negotiations hit an impasse in 2020, with the NSCN-IM demanding the removal of Mr. Ravi as interlocutor. accusing him of high handedness” and tweaking the agreement to mislead other Naga groups.

Naga issue 

• The Naga insurgency, climaxing in 1956, was an armed ethnic conflict led by the Naga National Council (NNC) which aimed for the secession of Naga territories from India.
• The more radical sectors of NNC created the Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) which also included an underground Naga Army.
• The Naga peace talks refer to talks undertaken between the Indian government and the various stakeholders in Nagaland to resolve decades-old disputes. Some of these issues date back to the colonial era.

Tea Exports Drop 2.4% in First 11 Months of FY22


Why Should You Know?

• Tea exports declined by 2.4% to 184.35 million kg during the April-February period of last fiscal, according to the latest Tea Board data.
• The value of exports in the first 11 months of 2021-22 increased marginally to 14,956 crore as compared with 4,933 crore.
• CIS countries, including Russia and Ukraine, imported 41.18 million kg, the highest among the overseas destinations of Indian tea, during the period under review from 46.19 million in the year-earlier period.
• Within the CIS bloc, Russia was the main importer with a shipment of 31.88 million kg in April-February period of 2021-22, down from 33.65 million kg in the same period previous year, according to the data.
• Iran was the second largest importer of Indian tea at 27.25 million kg, marginally up from 26.48 million in the first 11 months of the 2020-21. According to tea industry sources, exports were lower due to shortage of shipping containers and high ocean freight.
• Tea exports fell to 195.50 million kg in the 2021 calendar year from 209.72 million in 2020, the board data said.

Total Tea Export 

• Total tea export stood at US$ 826.47 million in FY20 and US$ 755.86 in FY21.
• The total tea export was US$ 296.21 million in April 2021 to August 2021 and for August 2021 it was US$ 75.38 million.
• India stands fourth in terms of tea export after Kenya (including neighbouring African countries), China and Sri Lanka.

Jog Falls Project



Why Should You Know?

• Karnataka’s Forest Department, which was supportive of the Jog Development Projects and had recommended ‘in-principal approval of environmental clearance for a five-star hotel, suffered a setback with the Centre questioning whether any environmental impact study has been carried out.
• Karnataka had submitted a proposal seeking diversions of 0.8536 hectares of forest land at Nadavada Talakalale village in Sagar taluk for the five-star hotel in lieu of the existing PWD guest house. The hotel was in addition to development of other facilities in the Jog Falls area.
• The Regional Empowered Committee (REC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has not only sought additional clarifications and details of the project but has also pointed out that the proposed development is amidst the fragile ecosystem of the Western Ghats.

Major Points

• In a letter dated April 22, 2022, it has sought to know whether any environmental study has been conducted about the impact, and any precautionary measures have been incorporated in the proposed activities.
• The MoEF&CC also referred to a set of objections filed by Living Earth Foundation, a Bengaluru-based environmental research and advocacy organisation, and sought comments on its representation.
• The Karnataka government had sought to demolish the existing PWD guest house to make way for a fivestar hotel.

About Jog Falls

• Jog Falls, also called Gersoppa Falls, cataract of the Sharavati River, western Karnataka state, southwestern India.
• The Jog Falls are located 18 miles (29 km) upstream from Honavar at the river’s mouth on the Arabian Sea.
• Jog Falls is created by the Sharavati dropping 253 m (830 ft), making it the third-highest waterfall in India after the Nohkalikai Falls with a drop of 335 m (1,099 ft) in Meghalaya and the Dudhsagar Falls with a drop of 310 m (1,020 ft) in Goa.



Why Should You Know?

• Recntly, The Keral health department has identified Shigella bacteria as the cause for the food poisoning incident in which a 16-yearold girl died and about 30 others were admitted to hospital after they consumed chicken shawarma from an eatery at Cheruvathur in Kasaragod last week.

The bacterium

• Shigella belongs to the enterobacter family, a group of bacteria that live in the intestine, not all of which cause disease in humans. It mainly affects the intestine and results in diarrhoea, sometimes bloody, stomach pain, and fever.
• The food and water-borne infection spreads rapidly through direct or indirect contact with the excrement of the patient. You can get it from food that is contaminated with the bacteria – like in the Kerala case – or if you swim or bathe in contaminated water.

Not very common

• “Shigellosis is not a very common infection. We usually see infections like typhoid and cholera because of contaminated foods.
• Pregnant women, children under five years of age, and in those with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable.
• Four types of Shigella bacteria affect humans – Shigella sonnei, Shigella flexneri, Shigella boydii, and Shigella dysenteriae. The fourth type causes the most severe disease.

Death is unusual

• Doctors say that the infection does not usually kill, unless the patient has a weak immune system or the pathogen is resistant to the prescribed antibiotics.
• It is a very treatable condition; if a patient reaches hospital on time they can effectively be treated using IV antibiotics.
• The problem with Shigella is that it produces a lot of toxins that can affect all other organs.
• So, if the bacteria continue to proliferate in the body even after giving the antibiotics, it will continue to produce toxins, which can then affect the kidney, cause seizures, lead to multi-organ failure, and shock, and even turn fatal.
• But this does not happen in most cases. “The mortality of the infection is less than 1%,” Dr Singh said.

Warning signs

• You must, however, if you also have high fever, blood in the stool, or constant vomiting such that you cannot keep any fluids down.
• A person who has severe diarrhoea – 20 or more bowel movements in a daymust see a doctor within a day; a patient with mild diarrhoea may wait for three to four days before going to a doctor.
• Is true of any diarrhoea, whether it is because of Shigella or any other reason. It is possible that the student from Kerala who died did not get medical treatment in time, he said.

Precautions to take

• The measures to prevent a Shigella infection are the same as that of any other foodand water-borne infection.
• Wash your hands before and after meals, and after a bowel movement. Drink clean water, wash fruits and vegetables that you would eat raw.




Why Should You Know?

• The government might have to increase its dependence on rice over wheat if it continues the free foodgrain distribution scheme beyond September 30, 2022.
• The stockpiles of rice are much greaterthan required while the wheat inventories will be just nearthe buffer levels by the end of FY23, according to trade and market sources.

Major Points

• Earlier too, NITI Aayog Member Ramesh Chand, in an interview with Business Standard a few days ago said the question whether the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) would be extended beyond September was speculative.
• When the PMGKAY was last extended for six months in April 2022, many people wondered why it was done because there were no elections around.
• But, the government did it as it felt that support was needed as the economy was on the mend. So there is a lot of thought that goes into the PMGKAY and the government does not take decisions in a hurry.
• According to the latest assessment shared by the food ministry, as on March 31, 2023, India should be left with around 38,6 million tonnes of rice in the central pool, based on the current demand and supply matrix.
• This will be significantly higher than the 13.6 million tonnes required forbuffer and strategic reserves.
• Therefore, even if 4 million tonnes is drawn from the stocks for the PMGKAY every month after September 2022, it should still leave more than the 13.6 million tonnes of rice as buffer by the end ofFY23.
• Another point that goes in favour of rice is that the new season procurement of the crop will start in October 2022, which too will add to the existing inventories.
• The only problem in distributing just rice under the PMGKAY is that every part of the country particularly the North Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan, etc- does not have the tradition of eating mainly rice. In the latest round of readjustment of the rice and wheat mix under the PMGKAY, the Centre has decided to distribute 5.5 million tonnes of rice in place of wheat in the next five months, starting from May.
• This, according to officials, has been done to meet demand from several states that have been sitting on rice stocks and wanted it to be distributed under the PMGKAY for free instead of wheat.
• But, the fact also is that the government might be looking to save some wheat for the future because production and procurement in 202223 are likely to drop.

Production in 2022-23

• Production in 2022-23 is expected to drop by almost 6 per cent to 105 million tonnes as against an earlier estimate of 111.3 million tonnes, while procurement is projected to fall by more than halfto 19.5 million tonnes as against a target of 44.4 million tonnes.
• Officials said in around 25 states of the country, there had been no change in the rice and wheat mix under the PMGKAY for MaySeptember, and the ratio has been altered only in remaining main among them are UP, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu etc. (meaning the 25 states are getting rice and wheat for PDS in the same proportion as earlier and not in the remaining states that included some bigones like UP, WB and Tamil Nadu, the share of wheat has been lowered to be replaced with rice).
• The Centre is expected to bear an additional burden of 4,800 crore because of this decision to provide more rice than wheat as the economy cost (procurement plus storage other charges) of the former is more than that of wheat, officials said.

Farm Exports Hit High


Why Should You Know?

• India agricultural exports crossed $50 billion during the fiscal ended March 31, 2022. Nolessinteresting is imports, too, which scaled an all-time-high of $32.4 billion.
• The previous record for exports was $43.3 billion in 2013-14. That year saw imports of only $15.5 billion, resultinginan agricultural trade surplus of $27.7 billion.
• The subsequent years saw falling exports alongside rising imports, narrowing the surplus to $8.1 billion in 2016-17.
• Exports took long to recover, to $41.9 billion in 2020-21 and $50.3 billion in 2021-22. But with imports shooting up the surplus of $17.8 billion for 2021-22 stood well below the levels in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

Global prices impact

• Chart 1 shows how closely linked India’s agricultural trade performance is to international prices. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Price Index – with a base value of 100 for 2014-16-averaged 122.5 points in 2012-13 and 119.1 in 2013-14.
• Those were the years when India’s farm exports reached $42-43 billion. The collapse of the index to 90 points in 2015-16 was accompanied by a plunge in exports below $33 billion.
• The last two years have seen a renewed boom in global agri-commodity prices, with the lifting of lockdowns and the effects of massive liquidity injections by central banks.
• The return of demand, reflected in the FAO index averaging 102.5 points in 2020-21 and 133 in 2021-22, has helped Indian agri exports rebound, In general, high international prices – like during late-2010 to 2014 and from October 2020-are favourable for agri exports.
• There’s an almost one-to-one relationship between the FAO index and India’s exports. High global prices also tend to benefit farmers, by pushing up their realisations closer to export parity levels and by making imports more expensive. But 2021-22 turned out different, recording a surge in exports as well as imports.

Trade composition

• India’s top agricultural export and importitems with individual values exceeding $1 billion in 2021-22, basedondata from the Department of Commerce, Leading the exports list is marine products, whose value has steadily risen, from just over $5 billion in 2013-14 to $7.8 billion in 2021-22.
• But the real increase has come from rice (specifically non-basmati), sugar and wheat. Not only did India ship out some 21 million tonnes (mt) of rice (17 mt non-basmati and 4 mt basmati)and 7,8 mtof wheat, offtake of the two cereals through the public distribution system, too, hit unprecedented levels of 55.1 mt and 50.6 mt, respectively.
• On the other hand, many of the items that contributed to the previous export boom have seen stagnation, even declines. These include basmati rice, buffalo meat and oil meals.
• The spike in imports has been largely courtesy of vegetable oils, whose imports have soared from $7.2 billion in 2013-14 to $19 billion.
• Pulses imports were at $2.2 billion in 2021-22, but down from the $4.2 billion high of 2016-17. Other big-ticket importitems were fresh fruits (mainly almonds and apples), cashew, spices and natural rubber.
• In spices, India happens to be both a large importer ($13 billion in 2021-22) and exporter($3.9 billion). Exports mostly comprise chilli, mint products and cumin.
• On the other hand, there has been arising trendin imports of pepper, cardamom and other plantation spices from countries such as Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.


• The war in Ukraine has imparted further bullishness to agri-commodity markets, with the FAO index hitting a high of 1593 points in March.
• That, going by past experience, should bode well for India’s farm exports. There are expectations of the country’s wheat and even maize exporters filling, at least partly, the void left by the two warring breadbasket nations.
• That optimism has somewhat ebbed, though, following the severe heat wave engulfing much of India from mid-March.
• Reports suggest significant yield losses, particularly for the wheat crop that was at the critical grainfilling stage when temperatures spiked.
• With government procurement set to more than halve from last year’s 43.3 mt, the projections of wheat exports topping 10 mt may not easily materialize.
• The overall prospects for agriexports hinge largely on the monsoon. Even with regard to 2021-22’s star performers, rice and wheat public granaries clearly aren’toverflowing like during the pandemic period.
• Meanwhile, there’s little respite in sighton the biggest agri-import item: edible oils. The war in Ukraine has dealt a body blow to the sunflower oil trade.
• That, coupled with drought in South America’s soyabean-growing area and Indonesia’s ban on palm oil exports, is likely to keep global prices elevated for some time.
• And it isn’t edible oils alone. In 2021-22, the country even imported $610 million worth of oil meals, a commodity that it used to heavily export till quite recently.
• All in all, 2022-23 could be more challenging for Indian agricultural trade, notwithstanding high international prices that are normally favourable for exports while keeping imports in check.
• If the Reserve Bank of India’s latest actions and hawkish commentary on food inflation are any indication, the policy push for exports may also not be as intense.

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