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Allow India to export foodgrains from public stock to needy nations: FM Sitharaman to WTO

The finance minister highlighted that food, fuel, and fertilisers are global public goods, and ensuring access to these for developing and emerging economies is critical.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the third G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) meeting in Bali, Indonesia. (Twitter: @FinMinIndia)

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday asked World Trade Organisation (WTO) to allow India to export foodgrains from its public stockholding to nations that are facing a food crisis.

She was speaking at a seminar on ‘Strengthening global collaboration for tackling food insecurity on the sidelines of the third G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

As per WTO norms, countries are not allowed to export foodgrains from their public stock holdings as they are procured at subsidised rates.

“WTO restriction that grains so procured cannot be brought to the market to export. It is a condition which exists since the Uruguay Round days. We have repeatedly said that (surplus) than what we have for our small farmers…we are quite willing to trade,” Sitharaman said.

She said that India can help in reducing hunger or food insecurity but there is a hesitation on the part of WTO.

Many countries in the world are currently facing food shortages due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

A group of about 70-80 countries, led by Singapore, is pushing member countries of the WTO to accept binding commitments of not extending export restrictions on the foodgrains procured under the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

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Some members, however, have voiced concerns regarding a blanket exemption for WFP food purchases due to domestic food security considerations.

The finance minister highlighted that food, fuel, and fertilisers are global public goods, and ensuring access to these for developing and emerging economies is critical.

She said there is an urgency to strengthen food production and the global food system.

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Sitharaman also shared India’s experience, including robust gains in agriculture production, citizen-centric food security programmes, and innovative delivery mechanisms such as the landmark plan of the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme.

The world is going to celebrate 2023 as the International Year of Millets and since India is a major millet-producing country in the world, it can ensure valuable contribution to food security in the world through millet production, she said.

On the sidelines, Sitharaman met Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister and finance minister of Canada.

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“The two ministers exchanged thoughts on #GlobalMacroEconomic outlook and risks, and discussed important issues of #G20Finance track,” the finance minister said in a tweet.

First published on: 15-07-2022 at 05:18:16 pm
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