WTO mounts pressure on India to support UN World Food Programme at MC12.
With the Ukrainian crisis posing a threat to global food security, the WTO is putting more and more pressure on India to support the UN World Food Programme (WFP) at the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva next month. The WFP buys food for non-commercial humanitarian purposes.
‘At a special meeting of the WTO’s Committee on Agriculture on Friday, a waiver for WFP purchases from export bans and restrictions was seen as low-hanging fruit and a concrete deliverable at MC12. Due to the long war between Ukraine and Russia, which could cause a global food crisis, there is more pressure on India and other countries that don’t want to make commitments in the area,’ a trade official told in Geneva.
In November 2020, Singapore laid out its plan to stop export restrictions on WFP purchases made for humanitarian reasons that were not made for profit, but India did not agree with it. New Delhi said that the export restriction was an important way to protect the poor and make sure that there was enough food in the country. It said that it would decide on a case-by-case basis whether WFP purchases would be allowed to be exported.
The next month, at a General Council meeting, India’s Ambassador to the WTO said that India had always been proactive about giving food aid to the WFP and vulnerable countries in its immediate and wider neighborhood over the past 50 years. He said that in 2019, the WFP bought about 11,000 metric tonnes of pulses, sorghum, wheat, and rice from India to help poor people. India has also never turned down food aid from the WFP.
‘Even though India is against a commitment to exempting WFP purchases from export restrictions, the voices of developed countries like the US and Canada and some food-importing economies are getting louder. Last year, almost 80 countries signed a statement at the WTO saying they wouldn’t limit WFP exports because it was important to deal with the Covid-19 crisis and other disasters. Now that the Ukrainian crisis is threatening food security, their arguments for an exemption are stronger,’ the official said.