Weeks after India was accused of blocking WTO talks over food subsidy issue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the country does not stand in the way of rule-based global trade but the interests of its poor and farmers cannot be sacrificed.
He conveyed India’s position to visiting Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Jose Graziano da Silva whom he urged to take the lead in protecting the interests of the poor and farmers at the World Trade Organisation.
During the meeting with da Silva, Modi said India wants active participation of FAO in addressing the emerging challenges in Indian agriculture and in designing a special campaign targeted at women in India, which would highlight ways to improve nutritional value and food habits.
“India does not stand in the way of a rule-based global trade agreement, but India cannot sacrifice the interests and food security of the poor and the farmers,” Modi said when da Silva called on him, according to a PMO statement.
In the WTO talks in Geneva in July, India had taken a tough stance on the issue of foodgrain holding and food subsidy after which the US blamed it for failure of the negotiations.
The 160 members of WTO had gathered there to adopt a treaty to simplify, standardise and streamline the rules for shipping goods across borders, having previously agreed to its terms at a ministerial conference on the Indonesian resort island of Bali last December.
However, India refused to agree to the text because it wanted more attention paid to its concerns over WTO limits on stockpiling of food which will ultimately hit its subsidised food distribution programme, the world’s largest, targeted at nearly 850 million people.
Describing da Silva as one of the champions of the “No Hunger Project” in Brazil, the Prime Minister said India looks forward to active participation of FAO in addressing the emerging challenges in Indian Agriculture. Modi sought FAO’s cooperation in designing a special campaign targeted at women in India, which would highlight ways to improve nutritional value and food habits, the PMO statement said.
He discussed ways and means for the FAO to contribute towards increasing nutritional value in the mid-day meal scheme for school children, enhancing production and protein content of pulses, improving production of oilseeds, enhancing milk productivity, and modernization of fisheries sector in India.
Seeking partnership with the FAO for capacity-building in food storage, he suggested that some portion of such capacity addition brought about by the FAO’s efforts through international financial institutions, could be earmarked for the food and nutritional requirements of the poorest countries.