Commodities

Pulses import policy comes under WTO scrutiny

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on June 15, 2021

Australia, Canada, US question temporary removal of shipment restrictions

Major pulses exporting nations such as Australia, Canada, the US and Russia have welcomed India’s announcement to permit unrestricted import of pulses including tur (pigeon pea), urad and moong till October 31, 2021. They have, however, demanded that India give a detailed explanation at the WTO on why the ‘temporary’ quantitative restrictions were lifted only for a few months and on what basis a decision on re-introduction of the measures is to be taken after the prescribed date.

In questions posed for discussion at the WTO Committee on Agriculture meeting during June 17-18, the countries also asked India to clarify whether restrictions on importation of yellow peas for fiscal year 2021-22 were still continuing and if so to give a copy of the official notice.

CoA meeting

“The pulses exporting countries want to discuss with India the basis of its decision making as far as imposition of quantitative restrictions is concerned. This discussion may happen at the CoA meeting at the end of this week,” an official tracking the matter told BusinessLine.

India’s quantitative restrictions on various pulses were scheduled to expire on March 31, 2020, but India had indicated these ‘temporary’ measures, introduced in 2017 and 2018, would be extended for 2021-22 with an annual quota of 4,00,000 tonnes for tur (pigeon pea), 400,000 tonnes for urad, and 1,50,000 tonnes for moong, a representation made by the exporting nations pointed out. “However, the announcement in the Gazette of India on May 15, 2021, permitting import of tur, urad, and moong albeit temporarily through October 31, 2021, is welcome,” it said.

But the four countries sought more clarity about the future. They insisted that India should expand its definition of “market situation’’ which it says is the basis of determining whether import restrictions were needed. “... please provide more specific information, including data (domestic vs world price, domestic production, consumption, etc.) that supports India’s claims regarding how it determined to extend the quantitative restrictions for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which began in April 2021 and subsequently lifted in May 2021,” the representation said.

Australia, Canada, the US and Russia demanded an explanation on why restrictions were lifted for the identified pulses only till October 31, 2021, and wanted clarity on how and when India will assess whether the temporary restriction will be reintroduced October 31, 2021.

They further said that India should explain how the restrictions were consistent with WTO rules as the multilateral body does not allow quantitative restrictions on exports and imports except under exceptional circumstances.

Separate EU representation

The EU, in a separate representation, said that it understood that now yellow peas could be imported into India subject to a certain minimum price and an additional 50 per cent duty. It asked India to indicate the minimum price in place, confirm that an additional 50 per cent duty was applicable and also specify time limits fixed for this import regime.

Published on June 15, 2021

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