Indonesia has evinced a keen interest in India’s Food Security legislation and wants to step up coordination with New Delhi in the WTO on the contentious issue of stockpiling food reserves.
Food security appeared to be a priority for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yodhoyono during his one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the delegation-level talks between the two countries here on Friday. More than once in his media statement after the talks, the President brought up the issue of food security.
According to External Affairs Ministry officials, both sides acknowledged that neither can import food and agreed that the issue of food security should be met bilaterally. Mr. Yodhoyono stressed the need to maintain stability of food prices and safeguard the food market from price distortions.
Also, there is an intent to work together further in the WTO to make it more just to protect food security requirements. Both are already part of the G-33 coalition of developing countries within WTO for flexibility to undertake limited market opening in agriculture.
Acknowledging the urgency shown by Mr. Yodhoyono in his talks on this front, Dr. Singh said officials had been asked to work towards drawing up concrete proposals to further this agenda. Briefing mediapersons on board the Prime Minister’s special aircraft en route home on Saturday, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said: “As two populous countries, we have an enormous responsibility towards ensuring food security.”
Through G-33, India and Indonesia are trying to lift the limit on subsidised food stockpiling to support poor farmers. “These stockpiles are not for trading or finding a market elsewhere for our goods but to feed our people,” explained Mr. Khurshid.
Providing further details, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said there is a G-33 proposal to allow developing countries having food security laws or public distribution systems in place to use public funds to procure foodgrains. .
The stockholding proposal was submitted by G-33 last November. The group feels stockholding programmes are the best way to ensure food security for its populations. Administered prices are needed so governments can compete with the private sector to buy the produce, stimulate production and ensure food is available besides guarantee proper payments to farmers and shield them from market fluctuations.