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SKM Calls to Observe 26 February 2024 as Quit WTO Day, Tractor Demonstrations on National and State Highways

DALJEET KAUR | February 25, 2024 09:39 PM

Opposes the Proposal of 50% Cut in Member Countries Entitlements to Support Agriculture by the End of 2034
NEW DELHI: Samyukta Kisan Morcha-SKM demands the Modi Government to put pressure on the developed countries to keep agriculture out of the WTO in 13th Ministerial Conference of World Trade Organisation scheduled on 26-29 February at Abu Dhabi. India’s food security and price support programmes are subjects of repeated disputes at WTO. The major agricultural exporting countries, has proposed a 50% cut in the global level of WTO members’ entitlements to support agriculture by the end of 2034.

The issue of public stock-holding is most critical for India especially in view of the ongoing struggles of farmers and workers for the MSP to be fixed at C2+50% level and for a statutory guarantee of the MSP to all farmers. In fact in India, 90% of the farmers are out of the purview of the present system of MSP based on A2+Fl+50% and facing acute agrarian crisis and indebtedness. The resultant intensifying unemployment, poverty and rural to urban distress migration have created precarious situations in the countryside during the least ten years of Modi rule. The Government of India must firmly defend the rights of the country to protect its farmers and ensure national food security. No international institutions or agreements can be allowed to come in the way of these.

Indian Govt being given a lease in 2014, as exception for 5 years, allowing it not to implement conversion of PDS into Cash transfer. India's food stocking program for PDS is exempted from challenge by WTO members under the temporary peace clause. That is likely to be upturned and if so, India needs to Quit WTO to prevent WTO regulations from interfering in its food security programs and agriculture production.

The Government of India must rally support from other less developed countries to collectively fight for a permanent solution to these issues, so that developing countries are not only allowed to maintain their existing programmes but are allowed to strengthen them to support their farmers and people at large.

As part of the ongoing struggle the farmers across India will observe 26 February 2024 as Quit WTO Day and put tractors on the National-State Highways from 12 pm to 4 pm without obstruction to traffic. The struggle is to demand the Modi Government to stop state repression on farmers' struggle and to implement the agreement signed with SKM on 9th December 2021 including MSP@C2+50% for all crops with legally guaranteed procurement and comprehensive loan waiver among others.

Global prices for agricultural commodities have risen steeply since the Agreement on Agriculture - AoA was negotiated. In 2021-23, the FAO food price index was more than 2.54 times the prices in 1986-88, the reference years used in AoA for computing the level of support. Given that current world price levels are much higher than the reference prices, any price support provided at prices anywhere near current world market prices results in the violation of the restrictions under current WTO rules.

Given this, India’s National Food Security System – including the system of MSP and public procurement, and the distribution of grain through the National Food Security Act – has been a subject of recurrent disputes at the WTO. Developed and major exporting countries have made proposals for further cuts in levels of public support to agriculture.There are also proposals that emerging economies like India should eliminate ‘trade-distorting’ support that exceeds de minimis thresholds. Such proposals must be firmly rejected by India and other less-developed countries. India must also firmly oppose proposals to increase market access to exporters through reduction of tariffs as is being demanded by some developed countries.

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