Agri Business

WTO members raise queries yet againon India’s pulses import restrictions

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on October 29, 2019

India first imposed quantitative restrictions two years ago to curb import of peas into the country

Concerns raised by Australia, Canada, US, Russia to be discussed at panel meeting

Australia, Canada, the US and Russia have raised concerns yet again on India’s pulses import policies which will now be discussed with other members at the World Trade Organization this week. New Delhi has been asked to explain why the “temporary quotas’’ have been in operation for more than two years and how they were justified under the global trade rules and how these would be removed once the restrictions lapsed on March 31, 2020.

Questions have also been raised on India’s policies on sugar exports, dairy sector loans, rice exports and wheat procurement prices, a Geneva-based official told BusinessLine.

“The WTO Committee on Agriculture, in its meeting on October 30-31, will take up concerns raised against policies of all countries, including India. If the concerns are not answered satisfactorily they may sometimes take the form of disputes in the future,” the official said.

Seeks explanation

Australia pointed out in its representation that despite raising questions on policies related to pulses several time in the past, India has never explained the WTO-basis for its measures, particularly with respect to QRs. “Australia, therefore, requests again that India explain fulsomely the WTO-basis for the application of the QRs and the justification for the ‘temporary’ QRs, given they have been in place for more than two years for some varieties,” the representation said.

India first imposed QRs two years ago restricting import of peas (yellow, green and dun) into the country to 100,000 tonnes during the period of April 1 to June 30, 2018. The quotas were subsequently extended several times with the latest one restricting imports into India to 150,000 tonnes during the period of April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020.

The QRs have been maintained on pulses imports to check its inflow into the country as the government’s efforts to increase production has resulted in an increase in domestic availability and a consequent decline in farm gate prices. This, in turn, has hurt local farmers.

Canada, in its representation, expressed worry over the notification issued last month by India establishing an import deadline of October 31, 2019 for dried peas that enter within the quantitative restriction. The earlier deadline was March 31, 2020, it said. “India has essentially shortened the time-frame for the dried peas QRs by five months,” it said. Canada asked India to provide the rational for reducing the application period and sought information on the current utilisation rate.

The US, too, asked India to explain how it will implement changes to remove its quantitative restrictions on mung beans, peas, black gram lentils, and pigeon peas, after they expire on March 31, 2020.

Largest producer

India is the world’s largest producer of pulses, accounting for 34 per cent of area and 24 per cent of production, according to government figures. Myanmar is the second largest producer, followed by Canada, China, Nigeria, Brazil, and Australia.

About 90 per cent of the global pigeon pea, 75 per cent of chickpea and 37 per cent of lentil area falls in India. The major pulses producing States are Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.

Published on October 29, 2019

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