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June 2024

At WTO, India defers answering queries on disallowing rice export for WFP

Australia, Canada, Brazil, Switzerland, UK say stopping participation in exports would violate WTO commitments


A worker throws rice through the air to remove dust at an agriculture product marketing committee yard at Sanand, Gujarat | Photo Credit: AMIT DAVE

Amiti Sen

With global spotlight on its rice export policy, India has played for more time at the WTO to formulate a response to clarifications sought by Australia, Canada, Brazil, Switzerland and the UK on whether it had stopped its rice exporters from participating in  UN World Food Program (WFP) tenders in violation of multilateral rules, sources said.

The UK, at the recent WTO agriculture committee meeting, noted that India’s restrictions on rice exports had resulted in a considerable decline in total exports of the staple in 2023-24 and hinted that these policies could be contributing to the rise in global prices, a Geneva-based trade official told businessline

“India did not come up with immediate answers to clarifications sought by Australia, Canada, Brazil, Switzerland, and the UK, at a recent WTO meeting, on whether it had stopped its rice exporters from participating in UN World Food Programme (WFP) tenders earlier this year for the supply of broken rice to Cameroon, Togo, and Algeria. It said that it had taken note of the question and would provide an answer soon,” the official said.

The countries pointed out that if India had actually stopped participation in WFP exports, it would be in violation of its commitment to exempt such supplies from export restrictions.

At the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva in 2022, WTO members had approved a decision to exempt the WFP’s humanitarian food purchases from export restrictions. India had initially not been in favour of the decision as it was concerned about retaining the flexibility of imposing export restrictions to ensure its domestic food security, but had finally given its consent.


In questions submitted at the WTO prior to the meet, the complaining countries had pointed out that in late February 2024, several news outlets reported that the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) of India had received requests to allow India’s rice exporters to engage in the WFP’s rice tender process, which was denied. They asked India to clarify whether these reports were true.

“At the meet, the US too expressed its deep concern over reports that India has prohibited exports through the WFP. It said India should end these measures and notify them in compliance with its WTO obligations,” the official added.

India banned the export of non-basmati white rice since July 2023. But it has been allowing shipments to countries on G2G basis for meeting food security needs.

“New Delhi also clarified that some exports of non basmati rice was being allowed to meet the food security needs of certain countries based on requests made by them,” the official said. QR Code

Published Date: June 1, 2024

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