WTO must allow grain export from public stock: India

New Delhi: India wants the World Trade Organization (WTO) to allow exports of foodgrain from public stocks for international food aid and humanitarian purposes, especially on a government-to-government basis, an official said on Monday.

Ahead of a key ministerial meeting of the WTO next month, India has said that it does not expect a big outcome on agriculture issues although food security is a subject of discussions.

Fisheries subsidies, e-commerce, response to the pandemic, including Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver, and WTO reforms are the other areas where outcomes could be possible, said the official, who did not wish to be identified.

Agencies

India is not in favour of giving binding commitment under the WTO on supply of foodgrains to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) as it would restrict the country’s policy space to deal with domestic food security concerns, according to the official.

“At the WTO, India has been raising the issue that the exports from public stocks for the purposes of international food aid or for non-commercial humanitarian purposes, including on government-to-government (G2G) basis should be allowed,” said the official.

At present, the WTO members cannot export foodgrains from public stockholdings as they are subsidised grains.

India’s approach is crucial as a group of about 70-80 countries, led by Singapore, is pushing for binding commitments to not levy export restrictions on the foodgrains procured by the WFP.

“WFP is a cause of concern and we need flexibility. Covid and then Ukraine conflict have demonstrated that there is a requirement for G2G arrangement also besides WFP,” the official said.

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