At WTO, India wants a permanent solution to the food grain buffer stock dispute.
India will stick to its demand that the World Trade Organization (WTO) give priority to a permanent solution for the issue of public stockholding (PSH) or buffer stocks of foodgrains.
The country won’t get into the debate about whether this is the only way to ensure food security because the model has worked well for the country.
‘India’s Permanent Representative to the WTO recently told a meeting of the WTO’s General Council that the country’s PSH programme had helped make sure that 1.4 billion people had food security, even during the pandemic. The source said, Its usefulness as a tool for achieving food security doesn’t need to be debated theoretically; it just needs to be recognised.’
New Delhi is disappointed that the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva in June 2022 did not come up with a permanent solution to public stockholding. This would have let members like India keep their Minimum Support Price (MSP) programmes for food items without worrying about going over caps and getting sued by other members.
Even though there is a ‘peace clause’ that says members can’t take action against developing countries if the current cap of 10% of production value is broken, it comes with a lot of conditions, such as having to give a lot of notice.
India’s continued commitment to a permanent solution is important because WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said last month that a members’ retreat could be set up in September to discuss how to get the agricultural negotiations going again.
No need to hurry
New Delhi has said over and over that it will be hard to make progress in other areas of the agriculture talks until all the unresolved issues from the previous rounds are dealt with. This includes finding a permanent solution to PSH.
‘At the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013, it was decided that a permanent solution would be found by the end of 2017. However, even in 2022, there doesn’t seem to be any rush.’ A source said that some countries are now trying to calm things down by asking India to talk about the details of PSH.
At a meeting of the Committee on Agriculture right after the MC12 in June of this year, Uruguay pointed out that several members who agreed with them had asked India for consultations and technical talks about the Bali Decision on public stockholding programmes for food security the month before.
The United States, Paraguay, Thailand, Australia, Japan, and Canada all said they supported the request for a consultation.
At the GC meeting, India’s representative said that the proof of the pudding was in the eating and that the PSH had helped provide food security for 1.4 billion people, even during a time of crisis in the last two years. It had also helped India help countries in need that had asked for bilateral support for food security in their country.