WTO must allow grain exports from public stocks: India

NEW DELHI: India wants the World Trade Organization (WTO) to allow food grains from public stocks to be exported for international food aid and humanitarian purposes, particularly on a government-to-government basis, an official said Monday.

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

Fisheries subsidies, e-commerce, response to the pandemic including the waiver of trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) and WTO reforms are the other areas where results could be possible, said the official, who asked not to be named .

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India is not in favor of making a binding commitment to supply food grains to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) under the WTO as it would limit the country’s policy space to address national food security issues, the official said .

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

At present, WTO members cannot export grain from public stocks as it is subsidized grain.

India’s approach is crucial as a group of some 70-80 countries, led by Singapore, is pushing for binding commitments not to impose export restrictions on food grains procured by WFP.

“The WFP is a concern and we need flexibility. Covid and then the Ukraine conflict showed that there is a need for a G2G agreement alongside the WFP,” the official said.

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