India’s recent ban on export of broken rice and imposition of export duties on other non-basmati rice has been criticised at the WTO by members such as the US, the EU and Senegal, which raised questions on its adverse effect on an already fragile global market, a Geneva-based trade officialsaid.

“New Delhi clarified that export prohibition was only on broken rice that is used in India’s poultry feed and it was in response to a sharp increase in its exports in the recent month which had put pressure in the domestic market,” the official said.

Concerns on India’s export restrictions and prohibitions on rice, wheat and wheat flour were raised at the Committee on Agriculture meeting of the WTO on September 14 and 15.

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India banned the export of broken rice and imposed a 20 per cent duty on export of all varieties of rice, except basmati and parboiled rice, with effect from September 9.

Earlier, on May 13, it had banned export of wheat while orders prohibiting exports of wheat flour, maida, semolina and wholemeal aata were issued on August 27. The restrictions were imposed following concerns of domestic shortage and price rise due to the wheat crop getting affected by a strong heat wave.

Posing uncertainities

The Indian representative argued that members’ position on India’s food export was contradictory as one minute they raised concerns on India exporting too much while the next, they were upset about export prohibitions, the official pointed out.

Washington complained that the constant changes in India’s export policy only posed uncertainties while the EU said that although India was entitled to impose export restriction, it also was bound by the duty to make a notification. 

“Senegal, which is a significant importer of India’s broken rice and other rice products, said it was majorly affected by India’s export ban and urged the country to keep trade open to ensure food sufficiency,” the official said.

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India underlined that its export restrictions were necessitated by food security needs. It added that the government will consider the requests of other governments for exemptions as India was committed to support the needs of neighbouring and vulnerable countries adversely affected by sudden changes in the global market for wheat.

While New Delhi said the measures were temporary in nature and under continuous monitoring, the official said that there was no mention of how long the ban will stay in place.