India has prohibited all exports of wheat with immediate effect, the country's Ministry of Commerce and Industry announced on Friday.
The ministry said the drastic move was necessary due to "a sudden spike in the global prices of wheat arising out of many factors, as a result of which the food security of India, neighboring and other vulnerable countries is at risk."
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has put the world on the brink of major food crisis as the two countries are major suppliers to the international market, accounting for around 30% of global wheat exports.
Food prices around the world have soared by a third, with the UN warning that some 44 million people are heading towards starvation.
There were hopes that India, which is the world's second-largest wheat producer, could help to compensate for global shortages as the country projected a record harvest of 111.3 million tons (mt) in 2021-22, with between 10mt and 15mt earmarked for export. In April, the country announced that its granaries were full and that it was ready to "feed the world."
However, a sudden heatwave in spring put those plans on hold, with high temperatures causing premature ripening and shriveling of the grains in many parts of the country. It reportedly led to Indian farmers harvesting 15% to 20% less grain compared to last year.
According to local media, the Indian government had now revised its estimate for wheat production to 95mt, its lowest level since 2015-16.
Despite the ban, India is going to allow shipments of wheat for letters of credit that were issued before May 13, the ministry said.