Trade: India must stand firm on food security issue, say farmers
Geneva, 23 Jul (Kanaga Raja) -- A number of farmers' organisations in India have called upon their government to stand firm on linking the issue of food security with the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
In a statement issued in New Delhi on the eve of the WTO General Council meeting (24-25 July), the groups called on the Government of India to not buckle down under pressure from the United States, the European Union and other developed countries, and to not dilute its position of linking trade facilitation with food and livelihood security and by pushing for a permanent solution to the G-33 proposal on public stockholding for food security purposes.
"We call upon the Government of India to use current negotiations to correct fundamental WTO wrongs, to build up and lead a coalition/alliance of like-minded countries to collectively secure safeguards for sovereign development policy space, food security and the livelihood concerns of farmers and its people," said the groups.
Among the groups that endorsed the statement are the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA); All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS); Bharatiya Krishak Samaj (BKS); Bhartiya Kisan Union, Haryana; Bhartiya Kisan Union, Punjab; Green Brigade, Karnataka; Kerala Coconut Farmers Association (KCFA), Kerala; BJP Kisan Morchha; Maharashtra Shetkari Sangathan; and Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, Tamil Nadu.
"In the backdrop of rising costs and extremely volatile global market prices, and to fulfil the constitutional obligation of food security to its people, and also to ensure the livelihood security of producers, the Government of India needs to sustain and increase domestic agricultural production through price support, procurement and other measures to achieve self-sufficiency in food production, across different food grains," said Yudhvir Singh, leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), one of the largest farmers' organisations in India, in a press release.
"This is all the more important in the context of hundreds of thousands of farmers committing suicides in desperation," he added.
Kavitha Kuruganti, of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), said: "The Government of India lost a historical opportunity in correcting deep-seated WTO wrongs in the Bali Ministerial. At least now, they need to stand firm on our sovereign policy space related to food and livelihood security, and sustainable development pathways."
"Indian government at that time settled for a temporary solution with so called ‘peace clause'. Lack of progress towards a ‘permanent solution' vindicates our apprehensions. At this point of time, the government should not buckle under any international pressure. It should remain firm in its position," she added.
In their statement, the Indian farmers' organisations expressed disappointment over the Chair's Summary of the G-20 trade ministers' meeting (held in Sydney on 19 July), which they said refers specifically to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) but does not refer to the food security proposal, which is of paramount importance for the people of India.
Noting that the Chair's Summary is fully silent on the livelihood concerns of farmers and other affected people in developing countries, the statement said: "This clearly shows that G20 is increasingly turning to fixing the interest of developed countries and totally ignoring the livelihood concerns of people in the developing countries and least developed countries."
"Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy. Food security in India rests heavily on the Public Distribution System (PDS) and the PDS itself cannot be operated unless farmers are given enough support so that they can continue to produce."
In the context of rising costs and extremely volatile global market prices, and to fulfil the constitutional obligation of food security to its people, the Government of India needs to sustain and increase domestic agricultural production through price support, procurement and other measures to achieve self-sufficiency in food production, across different food grains at that.
"This is all the more important in the present context of deep agrarian crisis manifesting itself in hundreds of thousands of producers committing suicides in desperation," said the groups.
"At the Bali ministerial, the Indian government had sought to secure such subsidies to farmers through the G-33 Food Security Proposal. However, due to bungled negotiations, the nation settled for a Peace Clause which allows such subsidies only for a temporary period while the developed countries pushed the TFA which is a permanent agreement," the groups said, adding that they were however promised by the Indian government that they will push for a permanent solution to the food security proposal.
India's primary interest, both domestically and globally, has to be the protection of agricultural producers' livelihoods and the domestic production of food in order to meet the right to food of its people, the groups stressed.
The statement noted that India has currently taken a position to block the ratification of the TFA unless other elements of the Bali Outcome including a permanent solution on the food security proposal and the LDC package are advanced.
It recalled that in a statement at the WTO, India's Ambassador stated that, "till we have an assurance and visible outcomes which convince developing countries that Members will engage in negotiations with commitment to find a permanent solution on public stockholding and all other Bali deliverables, especially those for the LDCs, India will find it difficult to join the consensus on the Protocol of Amendment."
"However, we are hearing conflicting reports of India being ‘fully committed to the (Bali) package'. This clearly gives an impression that India may agree to the finalization of protocol on trade facilitation without the finalization of Doha Round especially on the issue of food security, which is against the principle of the single undertaking," said the farmers' statement.
The farmers' organisations sought clarification from the Government of India whether it has moved away from its earlier stand. +