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Offering Non-commercial, Humanitarian Food Assistance to Its Neighbours: India at WTO

The headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva.  (Photo: Reuters/Denis Balibouse/File Photo)

The headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva. (Photo: Reuters/Denis Balibouse/File Photo)

In 2019 alone, the WFP (World Food Programme) had sourced about 11,000 metric tons of pulses, sorghum, wheat, and rice from India to assist vulnerable populations.

India has always been at the forefront to provide food assistance at humanitarian and non-commercial grounds to the vulnerable populations of its neighbouring countries, according to a statement made by New Delhi at the General Council meeting of the WTO. In 2019 alone, the WFP (World Food Programme) had sourced about 11,000 metric tons of pulses, sorghum, wheat, and rice from India to assist vulnerable populations, it said. It added that over the last five decades, India’s consistent actions underlined its commitment to the cause of food-security and the work of the WFP.

“India has always been at the forefront of offering non-commercial, humanitarian food assistance bilaterally to the vulnerable populations of its neighbouring countries with in-kind food donations," it said. This was part of a statement delivered by India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO (World Trade Organisation) at the General Council meeting on a proposal on agriculture export prohibitions or restrictions relating to the WFP (World Food Programme). The three-day meeting ended on Friday.

This proposal was on the agenda among other matters. India has stated that this proposal gives a feeling that “we are trying to manufacture" a problem to show some solution by the WTO on this sensitive issue ignoring the overall aspect of food security for all. The country added that a meaningful and balanced outcome on food security as part of a draft decision must include two essential elements.

The elements are “necessary safeguards that provide comfort to supplying members that their own food security will not be jeopardized as a result of the decision, and widening the scope of food aid in the decision to include bilateral food aid for humanitarian purposes from PSH (public stockholding) stocks, along with food aid channelled through the WFP from PSH stocks of supplying members," it added. I

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t has also expressed disappointment that the need for recognising exporting countries’ food security responsibility towards its citizens has not found a place in the proposal. “Since the objective of this draft decision is to make food-aid available to the most vulnerable people in times of a crisis, will this decision also encompass the provision of exports to the WFP from the PSH stocks of a supplying member? …After all, food security is the final objective, and it should not matter which stock it is coming out of as long as the exports are for a non-commercial, humanitarian purpose," it added.

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first published:December 19, 2020, 17:40 IST