India has submitted that per farmer subsidies provided by some developed countries were up to 200 times that of developing countries, and there was a strong case for establishing a level-playing field for millions of low-income farmers by starting the reform process with finding a permanent solution to public stockholding for food security, at the ongoing 13th WTO Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi.

“In the negotiating session on agriculture on Tuesday, India made a strong and compelling argument to finalise the permanent solution to public stockholding (PSH) and deliver this outcome at MC13, as this has been pending for 11 years. India recalled the three mandates on PSH from the Bali Ministerial of 2013, the General Council decision of 2014 and the Nairobi Ministerial decision of 2015,” per a statement issued by the Commerce Department.

New Delhi highlighted the vast differences in the actual per farmer domestic support provided by different countries, as notified to the WTO. “Some developed countries provide subsidies which are 200 times than the subsidies provided by the developing countries. It was the membership’s duty to ensure a level playing field in international agriculture trade for millions of low-income or resource-poor farmers,” it emphasised.

Proposing a sequential approach to the overall reform process in agriculture, India said first and foremost, the permanent solution to the PSH has to be delivered as it already had a past mandate. After that, it was important to protect the treaty-embedded Special and Differential Treatment provision allowing flexibilities to developing nations. “After that, if any discussion on reduction of domestic support commitments take place, the process should start with eliminating subsidies for countries who provide massive subsidies on a per capita basis,” the statement added..

At present, PSH subsidies given by developing nations, including for MSP programmes, are subject to a cap of 10 per cent of production value.India and other developing countries want a permanent solution incorporated in the Agreement on Agriculture that will give them the flexibility to expand their MSP and other PSH programmes without the apprehension of breaching the cap and attracting legal action. 

Although a peace clause negotiated at the Bali Ministerial Conference of 2013 gives developing countries immunity against legal action in case the cap got breached, it is limited to programmes existing in 2013 and riddled with many onerous conditions.

Without a permanent solution on PSH, the most critical and long-pending mandated issue at the WTO, developing countries’ fight against hunger cannot be won, it said

The significance of the issue was so high for developing countries and LDCs that more than 80 countries representing over 61 per cent of the world’s population, comprising the G33 group of countries, Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) and the African Groups, had co-sponsored a proposal on permanent solution.

India argued that the focus of the negotiations should not be narrowed down to the trade interests of exporting countries only, as the real concern is the food security and livelihood of people.