Authorizing the export of cereals from the public stock: from the FM to the WTO

NEW DELHI: Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to allow India to export food grains from its public stocks to countries facing a food crisis.
She was speaking at a seminar on “Strengthening Global Collaboration to Address Food Insecurity” on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Bali.
According to WTO standards, countries are not allowed to export food grains from their public stocks because they are purchased at subsidized rates. “The WTO restriction is that grain purchased in this way cannot be brought to market for export. This is a condition that has existed since the days of the Uruguay Round. We’ve said many times
this (surplus) than what we have for our small farmers. . . we are quite willing to trade,” the FM said.
She said India can help reduce hunger or food insecurity, but there is hesitation from the WTO. Many countries around the world are currently facing food shortage due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
A group of 70-80 countries, led by Singapore, is pushing WTO member countries to accept binding pledges not to expand export restrictions on food grains purchased under the World Food Program (WFP) United Nations.
Some members, however, expressed concerns about a blanket exemption for WFP food purchases due to national food security considerations. The Minister of Finance underlined that food, fuel and fertilizers are global public goods and that it is essential to ensure access to them for developing and emerging economies. She said there was an urgent need to strengthen food production and the global food system.
The FM also shared India’s experience, including gains in agricultural production, food security programs and distribution mechanisms such as the “One Nation One Ration Card” program.
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