India has urged the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to relax rules to allow the country to export foodgrains from its ‘public stockholding’ to countries suffering from acute food shortages.
“WTO norms have restrictions that grains so (at administered prices) procured cannot be brought to the market for export – it is a condition which exists from the Uruguay Round days,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
“We have repeatedly said that (surplus) than what we have for our small farmers… we are quite willing to trade,” she said at a seminar on Strengthening Global Collaboration for Tackling Food Insecurity in Bali, Indonesia, ahead of the third meeting of G20 Finance Ministers and central bank Governors.
The FM emphasised the need for a robust mechanism to strengthen global effort to tackle food security, especially when the world is witnessing record levels of food inflation and supply chain disruptions due to Russia-Ukraine war. “World’s priority should be to get food to the poor” and India should be allowed “to export subsidised wheat and rice”, she said. The Finance Minister pitched for letting India play a larger role in reducing hunger and urged the WTO to cast aside the “hesitation” it has.
Export of foodgrains from reserves of public stockholding, and other similar systems which national governments have for food security, has become a contentious issue. At present, WTO rules do not allow export of foodgrains from a country’s public stockholding.
The primary reason behind such a stand is that governments/public institutions tend to procure stocks for food security reserves at ‘support/ subsidised rates’. Influx of subsidised foodgrain could put international prices in disarray.
The world is witnessing widespread food shortages due to supply chain disruption caused by RussiaUkraine war. Both countries combined are responsible for 30 per cent of global wheat exports, nearly 32 percent of barley exports and account for 75 per cent of world sunflower exports. Underlining direness of the situation, Sitharaman said, “Food insecurity, especially in times of war, is one of the biggest challenges that many countries face”.
In her address the Finance Minister also highlighted India’s robust gains in agriculture production; the technological advancement due to which it achieved Herculean task of bringing everyone in the food security net during Covid-19 pandemic; and innovative delivery mechanisms such as the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme.
“India’s experience in ensuring no Indian remains hungry even during the severest of lockdown (was) brought in by the sheer use of technology, which enabled and ensured the social welfare measures reach them… We ensured that the identity card of the individual and his family’s details are all linked with… Aadhaar.
We did not have even one incident of people waiting for food to be supplied.” she said. During the main G-20 FMCBG event, she spoke about broader growth trajectory of Indian economy and the capex route the Government is betting on for holistic development.
At the G-20 Ministerial Symposium on Tax and Development, the Indian FM cautioned the members about possible tax evasion by entities dealing in non-financial assets like crypto, and other unauthorised and unregulated regimes. She said there is lot of room for enhancing mechanism for tax transparency amongst members.
“Our investigations have shown that numerous layers of entities are often set up by tax evaders to conceal their unaccounted assets even though the automatic exchange of information framework provides for financial account information to various jurisdictions,’’ said the Finance Minister.