India slashes staple food export to Maldives

Amid a downturn in ties between India and Maldives, the south Asian giants has slashed exports of essential commodities to its once friendly neighbour.

Based on the 1981 trade agreement, India exports certain essential commodities whose quantities are notified every year. These items are exempt from any restrictions or prohibitions on Indian exports during the period of notification.

According to India's 'The Wire' newspaper the latest notification , which is comes into effect from April, fixed the amount of potatoes, onions, rice, wheat flour, sugar, pulses and eggs that can be exported to the Maldives over the next year.

In contrast to previous years, the Indian government has made a drastic cut in exports to the island nation which it defended by saying that the decision was made “with due regard to the supply availability and the overall need of the Government of the Republic of Maldives”.

The sharpest drop in allocation – 98.4% percent– has been for wheat flour. Just 946.21 metric tonnes of wheat flour has been allocated for export to the Maldives in 2018-19, compared to 59442.17 metric tonnes in 2017-18.

The second highest decrease in a year-to-year comparison was in sugar of 97.1 percent The lowest reduction among the seven items was in onions – a relatively low 49 percent.

The Indian government has denied any link between the drastic reduction in quota to the downturn in ties, insisting instead that the quota was “based on the average utilisation by the Maldives in the last three years”. Utilisation was measured as the actual amount ‘lifted’ by the Maldives of these commodities in previous years.

Bilateral ties between the two countries had soured after Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdulla Gayoom in February declared state of emergency following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of opposition leaders convicted in widely criticised trials.

Recently Maldives' chief government lawmaker Ahmed Nihan Hussain Manik was denied entry into Chennai while Maldives has reportedly put a squeeze on issuing work permits for Indian expatriates working in the island nation.