India is facing increased heat at the World Trade Organization for continuing with its quantitative restrictions (QRs) on import of certain pulses to check falling prices in the domestic market.
Australia, Canada and the US, who had complained about the restrictions imposed in April, have submitted fresh questions on the validity of the measures under global trade rules and also demanded to know whether the government planned to extend the restrictions beyond the year-end.
“Despite many members raising concerns in several WTO committee meetings over the past year, India continues to maintain the QRs and, to date, has not explained how such measures are consistent with its WTO commitments,” the US representative noted in a question to India which will be taken up at the meeting of the WTO Committee on Agriculture (CoA) on Monday.
All the three countries have asked New Delhi to explain how its restrictions were justified under the WTO rules.
Australia, in its submission, noted that India’s QR of 100,000 tonnes of peas (including Yellow Peas, Green Peas, Dun Peas and Kaspa Peas), initially imposed for a period of three months till June 30, had been extended twice, first till September 30 and subsequently till December 31.
“Since India had earlier indicated that the QR was fully utilised during the first three months of restrictions, Australia wants to know whether additional volume has been included in the quota or whether there has been an effective import ban on peas for the July-December period,” the official said.
New Delhi has not lifted the quantitative restriction on pulses imports despite protests at the WTO as there is a glut in the domestic market and prices are ruling below the minimum support price (MSP).
The complainants also wanted to know whether India was intending to extend the QR for a third time following December 31 and how much notice did it intend to provide traders if there is an extension.
Canada, in its submission, asked India to specify how its agencies decided if pulses will be procured at the administered prices or market prices.
Apart from allowing import of 1 lakh tonnes of yellow peas in April this year, the Indian government also permitted 2 lakh tonnes of arhar and 3 lakh tonne of urad and moong through December.
Although India is sitting on a stockpile of pulses, according to the Agriculture Ministry, the output of kharif pulses such as tur, moong and urad, estimated at 9.22 million tonnes, will be less than last year’s production of 9.34 million tonnes.
“In case the shortfall in production continues, New Delhi may find it easier to do away with the import curbs,” the official said.