India dials WTO members for food security support

Written by ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 4 2014, 18:35pm hrs
Food subsidiesIndia had refused to ratify the trade facilitation agreement (TFA), scheduled to be completed by July 31.
India is engaged with several countries to garner support on the food security issue at the World Trade Organization, with an aim to conclude the Bali package.

With the month-long vacation over, the work at the WTO has resumed and its Director General Roberto Azevedo has been meeting with member nations to cobble support. We are talking to few countries...a good number of countries, Rajeev Kher, commerce secretary, told reporters here when asked whether India is engaging with other WTO members to gather support on its tough stand of not ratifying trade facilitation agreement (TFA), leading to failure of talks in Geneva in July.

Stressing that it is now up to Azevedo to convene meetings, Kher added, We will start from where we have left. The bottom line is already made clear. We are willing to talk but achieve the same objectives in whatever manner.

India had refused to ratify the TFA, scheduled to be completed by July 31, saying that though it supported the agreement, it will not ratify the same without any concrete movement in finding a permanent solution to its public food stock-holding issue for food security purposes.

Amending the WTO norms regarding stockpile of foodgrains is critical for India in order to implement its food security programme. The country had asked the WTO to amend the norms for calculating agriculture subsidies so that the country could continue to procure foodgrains from farmers at minimum support price and sell them to poor at cheaper rates without violating the norms.

Currently, food subsidies are capped at 10 per cent of the total value of foodgrain production, taking the base year of 1986-88 into account. India has asked to change the base year, factoring in the impact of inflation and currency movements over the years.