Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma is likely to convey to the visiting Director General of World Trade Organisation (WTO) that India will not compromise in any way on the issue of its recently unveiled UPA II government’s flagship Food Security programme as it concerns the livelihood of millions of rural and urban poor.
Mr. Sharma, who will meet the newly elected WTO DG, Roberto Avezedo on Monday, is likely to convey India’s strong message that food security is the most fundamental of the human needs and the lack of it could have profound ramifications as was witnessed during the food price volatility and crisis of recent years.
“In the WTO, the G-33 coalition of developing countries has worked very hard on a proposal which addresses a critical dimension of the development concerns of developing countries. There is currently very little in the trade rules to squarely address the issue of food security. The G-33 proposal addresses this lacuna and deserves full engagement to reach an outcome in Bali. An outcome on the G-33 proposal would be an important contribution by the WTO towards addressing the challenges of food security in developing countries. Public stockholding is a widely used means to ensure food security in many developing countries where agriculture is largely rain fed. Updating of the rules would greatly help these countries in carrying out such operations without defaulting on their commitments,” a senior Commerce Ministry official remarked.
Officials said the problem is a very real one. Developing countries are finding themselves hamstrung by the existing rules in running their food stockholding and domestic food aid programmes. The developed world too had market price support programmes and was able to move away from market price support - though not fully even now - because of their deep pockets. This is not possible for developing countries. It is important for developing countries to be able to guarantee some minimum returns to their poor farmers so that they are able to produce enough for themselves and for domestic food security. “Issues of development and food security are critical to a vast swathe of humanity and cannot be sacrificed to commercial considerations,” the official who is involved in the WTO negotiations said.
Mr. Sharma is likely to convey that the Peace Clause in Article 13 of the agreement on agriculture (AOA) was there for 9 years. We can only go so far as accepting a Peace Clause as an interim mechanism till we arrive at an acceptable final solution. “We are even prepared to commit that procured food grains would not be released for international trade and the management of public stocks would be done in a transparent manner,” Mr. Sharma will convey to Mr. Avezedo, the official said.