Several farmers groups have demanded that the government push Brazil to withdraw its complaint against India’s sugar pricing policies at the World Trade Organisation. The demand comes just ahead of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s arrival in Delhi on Friday as chief guest of the Republic Day celebrations.
Brazil has said it is open to finding a “non-litigious solution” to the dispute, adding that the issue would not affect bilateral collaborations on biofuels derived from sugarcane.
Challenge to price
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM) noted that “the Brazilian government, under the leadership of Mr. Bolsonaro, is directly threatening the livelihoods of five crore Indian sugarcane farmers” by challenging the minimum price for sugarcane set by the Indian government.
“The irony of the whole situation is that the Indian government only announces Fair and Remunerative Prices (FRP) to be paid by the sugar mills to farmers,” said Bhartiya Kisan Union general secretary Yudhvir Singh, who is also convener of the ICCFM. “However, the government does not pay farmers or procure from them, given that there are very few public sector mills in the country. Then where is the question of India exceeding its domestic support commitments?” he asked.
The letter noted that unlike Brazil, India’s sugar sector is not geared towards global trade. In 2018-19, India overtook Brazil to become the world’s largest sugar producer.
However, Brazil holds a 35% share of the global exports market, in comparison with a mere 5% share for India, according to Food and Agriculture Organisation data. Most Indian sugar is consumed domestically.
Asked about the dispute, Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo told The Hindu his country remains open “to find a satisfactory, non-litigious solution to the matter, addressing our concerns as well as India’s development goals.”