Record-setting heat waves plaguing India are threatening crop yields amid increased global demand for grains. In response, the Indian government recently imposed a ban on wheat exports.

The early arrival of heat waves resulted in India’s hottest March on record, according to the India Meteorological Department. High temperatures continued through the following months and into June, peaking near 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

The record temperatures took their toll on wheat crop development, stunting growth and affecting projected yields. “India’s national planning commission, the Niti Aayog, estimates that wheat production will drop by 10 percent from the anticipated level of 110 million tons,” Dr. Prabhu Pingali, Director of the Tata-Cornell Institute, tells Food Tank. “Farms that suffered the most are the ones with poor or unreliable access to irrigation,” he adds. Fortunately, Pingali says, “the heatwave has not affected other crops to any significant extent.”

India is the second leading producer of wheat in the world, and steady increases in India’s wheat production over the past three years boosted projections for this year’s growing season.

Before the heat waves arrived, India stood as a noteworthy candidate to help freeze grain price inflation caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Combined, Russia and Ukraine accounted for over a quarter of the world’s wheat exports in 2020. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted supply chains and drew sanctions, resulting in a global wheat shortage. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi made assurances to send food relief to affected countries.

Despite these intentions, as temperatures lowered crop yields, the country decided to ban wheat exports to ensure a sufficient supply for national needs.

Read the full article about climate change by Jonathan Ribich at Food Tank.