Strengthen Tariff To Protect Agri-mkts: Ajit

New Delhi, January 28: | Updated: Jan 29 2003, 05:30am hrs
With competition making it stiff to export farm produce in the international market, Indias participation and terms of agriculture trade have acquired great significance in the negotiations on Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). These terms have become even more critical as the AoA, which comes into force in 2005, will continue for the next 15-20 years.

In a detailed interview with FE, Union minister for agriculture Ajit Singh said, We have made our stand very clear in the rounds of negotiations that as a developing country we will continue to protect our agriculture sector and the farming community by using tariff barriers.

In order to meet the challenges of WTO we will also use sanitary and phyto sanitary measures, and will work towards strengthening our tariff structure, said the minister after his recent visit to Geneva round of talks on AoA.

We will also work out a way in which our tariff structure too will be linked to the domestic subsidy and support, this will not only protect our agriculture sector but also our domestic markets, he added.

We have also demanded special safeguard duty for certain farm products and we are sure that our appeal for the same shall be considered, the minister said.

Though we use high duty structure as a tool to protect certain vulnerable items, but have not yet hiked the rates to the extent of our bound rates. Like for soya oil, we have hiked our tariffs but have not yet reached bound rates. However we will use the bound rates if our products are threatened, he further added.

Of the 144 member countries which attended the negotiations round, there were many large part of whose population depends on agriculture. We have networked very strongly with other marginal farming countries like Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe so as to form a strong group to voice concerns of the developing countries, said the minister. Our aim to network with these countries also had the objective of looking at opportunities of accessing their markets, he added.

We are also aiming at networking strongly at the Mini-ministerial meeting that is on the anvil in Tokyo, he added.

The minister said India had to look at better and newer markets like West Asia and Africa for its produce, and it was not only through foodgrain that it would get better market access internationally but it also had to look at marketing vegetables and fruits and other horticulture as well.

He predicted that US and European Union would pressurise developing countries in the future to reduce duty rates so that they could export the excess produce. Therefore, he said, strengthening the tariff structure and moving towards a more market-oriented agriculture approach would give a competitive edge in the international market and also protect farms and farming community.