'Bali pact unlikely to affect food programme'

'Bali pact unlikely to affect food programme'

Despite concerns raised by the United States and Canada, the outcome of the Bali WTO meeting would not affect India’s food security programme, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma told Parliament on Tuesday.

"Nothing in the aforesaid agreement impinges on our food security programme for the poor and vulnerable sections of society, which is very much part of our sovereign space," Sharma said in a statement tabled in both Houses.

The existing WTO Agreement on Agriculture does not bar public stockholding schemes for food security, but government support to such schemes is capped at 10 per cent, if foodgrain are acquired for them below the market price.

Developed countries wanted to give India only temporary protection from challenges under WTO’s dispute settlement process with conditions.

"This would have rendered the mechanism entirely ineffective and have implications for India's policies on procurement and public distribution including the implementation of National Food Security Act passed by Parliament," Sharma said. He said India, with the support of other developing countries, was able to force US and EU to cede ground on the issue.

As per an interim solution, WTO members will be protected against challenges to their public stockholding schemes for food security and the interim solution will continue till a permanent solution is agreed upon by the 159 member countries, Sharma said.

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