India has urged the World Trade Organisation (WTO) members to finalise a permanent solution to Public Stockholding (PSH) for food security in the ongoing 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi.

India pointed out that more than 80 countries representing over 61% of the world's population from the G33 group of countries, Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) and the African Groups have co-sponsored a proposal on this subject.

Public stockholding programmes are used by governments to purchase, stockpile and distribute food when needed. The concern of India and most developing countries is that WTO farm subsidy rules could limit their ability to purchase food at government-set prices, as part of their public stockholding programmes for food security purposes.

The point of contention is that while there is no limit on how much food governments can buy at market prices under these programmes, support provided to farmers through government-administered minimum prices is considered trade-distorting and needs to be counted towards a country's limit on trade-distorting agricultural subsidies under current WTO rules.

The WTO members had at the WTO's Bali Ministerial Conference in 2013 agreed on an interim peace clause on PSH issue under which they agreed not to challenge, under the WTO's dispute settlement system, support provided by developing members under their public stockholding programmes. However there are several gaps in the interpretation of this clause because of which developing countries are seeking a permanent solution.

During the WTO negotiation session on Agriculture that took place on February 27 in Abu Dhabi, India stated that the issue has been pending for 11 years.

India argued that the focus 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. India emphasised that 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.

India also recalled the vast differences in the actual per-farmer domestic support provided by different countries, as notified to WTO. It pointed out that some developed countries provide subsidies which are 200 times than the subsidies provided by the developing countries and stated that it was the WTO membership’s duty to ensure a level playing field in international agriculture trade for millions of low-income or resource-poor farmers.

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