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Business News/ News / Leave WTO over MSP issue, farmers tell govt
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Leave WTO over MSP issue, farmers tell govt

Farmers, already protesting to press the government to meet a number of their demands, want India to put pressure on developed countries at the WTO’s next meeting to keep agriculture out of its ambit

Farmers demonstrating on tractors travel along the Yamuna Expressway during a protest in Noida on Monday, (Bloomberg)Premium
Farmers demonstrating on tractors travel along the Yamuna Expressway during a protest in Noida on Monday, (Bloomberg)

NEW DELHI : Farmers on Monday launched a nationwide tractor procession on highways to press their new demand for India to exit the World Trade Organization. 

One of the main farmers’ unions, Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), on Sunday announced it would observe ‘Quit WTO Day’ on 26 February, adding to the list of demands in the ongoing farmers’ agitation. 

Farmers want the Union government to put pressure on developed countries at the WTO’s next meeting to keep agriculture out of the ambit of the intergovernmental body, peeved by its limits on crop price guarantees allowed for individual nations.

The WTO’s 13th ministerial conference is scheduled for 26-29 February at Abu Dhabi. Ministers from across the world will attend the meeting to review the WTO’s multilateral trading system as well as decide on the organisation’s agenda.

“Government of India must firmly defend the rights of the country to protect its farmers and ensure national food security," SKM said in a statement. 

SKM said India’s national food security system, including the government’s minimum price guarantees and public procurement as well as grain distribution, has been a subject of recurrent disputes at the WTO.

“The policy of the WTO is very bad for farmers. The WTO does not give rights to farmers," said Sarwan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, a farmers union. “The government should take India out of the WTO."

Quoting government officials, Mint in September reported that India would seek the removal of additional final bound total aggregate measurement of support (FBTAMS) entitlements at the WTO meeting in Abu Dhabi. 

These are fixed additional allowances over the ‘de minimis limits’ under the rules of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). 

In trade parlance, ‘de minimis limits’ are the minimal amount of domestic support allowed for a country even if that distorts global prices. These allowances have been set at 5% of the value of production for developed countries, and at 10% for developing nations. 

This has been a matter of considerable friction over the years, most recently when New Delhi had to defend its minimum support price programme—the price at which it procures foodgrains for public stock holdings—amid a looming global food crisis caused by the Ukraine war. 

Protesting farmers on Friday declared to hold their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march till 29 February and decided to stay put along the Punjab-Haryana border until then.

SKM and Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM), the two farmers’ outfits spearheading the protest at the Shambu and Khanuari borders, have announced a series of protests until a decision on the next move will be made at the end of this month. 

The latest round of farmers’ protest, which began on 13 February, follows muted farm earnings over the past year, during which the government has placed export curbs on wheat, rice, sugar and onion, depressing local prices. 

Farm incomes were hit also because of repeated climate shocks such as heatwaves and uneven rains. Their demands include a legal guarantee on the minimum support price, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, pension for farmers and farm labourers, and farm debt waiver.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Puja Das
Puja Das is a New Delhi based reporter, covering food, farm, fertiliser, water, and climate change policies for Mint. Puja reports on food security, farmers' distress and how the agriculture sector is impacting India's rural economy along with policy initiatives to help meet the pledges made at COP21 in Paris. Puja holds a post-graduation degree in Broadcast Journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, Bangalore.
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Published: 26 Feb 2024, 05:19 PM IST
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