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WTO deal will not hit food security programme: Govt

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 - 6:41pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI
Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha feared that the deal would expose India's Food Security programme, which is still being rolled out, to international scrutiny.

Government today insisted in Parliament that the deal reached at WTO talks in Bali recently would have no adverse impact on foodgrain procurement in India or the food security programme after Opposition expressed apprehensions over it.

Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha feared that the deal would expose India's Food Security programme, which is still being rolled out, to international scrutiny.

Allaying Opposition's apprehensions, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said nothing in the agreement impinges on India's food security programme for the poor and vulnerable sections of society, which is very much part of India's sovereign space.

He said it was for the government to decide at what price it would procure food stocks from farmers and the WTO has no jurisdiction over the decision.

"It is our decision nobody can tell us," he said, responding to clarifications sought by Opposition on his statement made in Parliament.

The minimum support price (MSP) of crops, he said, cannot be lowered, it will go up and nobody can interfere.

Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley wanted to know from the Minister if the agreement would adversely impact the Food Security Act.

Jaitely pointed out India would be spending Rs 1.25 lakh crore on the food security and there are also additional subsidies for fertilizers and transportation among others.

Sharma said as per the interim agreement, until a permanent solution is found, members will be protected against challenge in the WTO under the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) in respect of public stock-holding programmes for food security purposes.

There is an apprehension that once India implements its food security plan completely, it may breach the 10 per cent subsidy cap under the WTO's AoA.

Developed countries like the US and Canada have raised concerns over India's food security plan saying stockpiling of foodgrains under the programme may distort the global agricultural commodity prices.

Under the food security plan, the government is procuring foodgrains from farmers at minimum support price (MSP) and selling at cheap rates to poor people.

Sharma earlier said that India will have the flexibility of providing support to its farmers without the apprehension of breaching its WTO entitlements. It has also effectively led to a commitment from members of the WTO to work on a permanent solution as part of a post-Bali work programme.

The MSP is deemed as support to farmers under the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). Under the current WTO rules, such support has to be kept within a limit of 10 per cent of the value of production of a product.

The BJP leader also pointed out that there was indication in the interim agreement regarding the permanent solution likely to be reached in the next two WTO ministerial.

He expressed apprehension that with India agreeing to the deal, it has opened its public purchases to international inspections.

Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) expressed apprehensions on the trade facilitation agreement and said government agreed for legal binding on it in lie of a temporary solution. He wanted to know how trade facilitation would be implemented and at what cost.

Others who participated in the discussion included N K Singh (JD-U), Kanimozhi (DMK), Y P Trivedi (NCP), Bhalchandra Mungekar (Cong), Naresh Agrawal (SP) and D Bandyopadhyay (Trinamool).


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