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July 2024

Thailand recalls Ambassador to WTO after India protests against her remarks on rice procurement

“The Thai Ambassador has been replaced. She has ridiculed India’s PSH (Public Stockholding) programme” a top government official said, adding that the language and behavior of the Thai ambassador were not in good taste.

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Thailand has decided to replace its Ambassador to the WTO, Pimchanok Vonkorpon Pitfield, in response to a stern protest issued by India regarding her controversial comments on New Delhi’s rice procurement program.

According to a PTI report, citing a top government official, Pitfield has been instructed to return to Thailand after the ongoing 13th ministerial conference (MC), currently in its fifth day of discussions, concludes. It has been revealed that she will be succeeded by the Thai foreign secretary.

During a consultation meeting on Tuesday, Pitfield made remarks that accused India’s rice procurement program, operating at Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the public distribution system, of being geared more towards capturing the export market rather than serving the people, prompting strong disappointment from India, as per the official.

Consequently, India formally lodged its protest with the Thai government and expressed dissatisfaction to various entities, including WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the agricultural committee chair of Kenya, and the UAE.

“The Thai Ambassador has been replaced. She has ridiculed India’s PSH (Public Stockholding) programme” PTI quoted the official as saying, adding that the language and behavior of the Thai ambassador were not in good taste.

After lodging their protest on the issue, the Indian negotiators had also refused to participate in some deliberations in groups where the Thai representative was present.

The government official said that her facts were wrong as only about 40 per cent of the paddy produce is procured by the government to meet food security commitments.

A part of the remaining quantity, which is not procured by the government-owned agencies, is exported from India at market prices.

India is a major player in rice exports along with Thailand. Certain developed and developing nations on different forums have alleged that India’s public stockholding of commodities such as rice distorts global market prices.

India was the largest rice exporting country in the world from 2018 to 2022 followed by Thailand and Vietnam.

In 2023, India banned the export of broken and non-basmati white rice in view of uncertainty around rice production here and other rice-producing countries due to geopolitical scenario, El Nino sentiments, and extreme climatic conditions to check domestic prices and ensure adequate availability in the market here.

Rice export from India was 22.24 million tonne in 2022, which accounts for 40.63 per cent of the world’s rice exports.

Export of broken rice has been prohibited from September 2022 and non-basmati white rice from July 2023. The export of basmati and parboiled non-basmati rice is continuing.

Thailand is also a member of a 19-nation group of agriculture exporters called the Cairns group. Other members of the group include Argentina, Brazil, Australia and Indonesia. The group is pushing for the free flow of agri commodities without any restrictions.

With inputs from agencies QR Code

Published Date: March 1, 2024

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