*******Let India export foodgrains from public stock: FM Sitharaman at G20 | Business Standard News

Clipped from: https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/allow-india-to-export-public-stock-foodgrains-to-nations-in-need-fm-122071501325_1.html

Says India could help in reducing hunger or food insecurity

Nirmala Sitharaman

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman | Photo: PTI

India should be allowed to export foodgrains from its public stockholding to countries facing a hunger crisis, something which is in contravention of current World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday.

Sitharaman was speaking on the sidelines of the meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors (FMCBG) in Bali, Indonesia.

“WTO norms have restrictions that grains so procured cannot be brought to the market for export... We have repeatedly said we are willing to trade in the surplus we have,” Sitharaman said.

According to WTO norms, countries are not allowed to export foodgrains from their public stockholding because those are procured at subsidised rates. The finance minister said India could help in reducing hunger or food insecurity but there was a hesitation on the part of the WTO.

“Food insecurity, especially in times of war, is one of the biggest challenges that many countries face,” she said.

Many nations are facing food shortages because the war in Europe has disrupted supply chains. Before the war, Russia and Ukraine were two of the biggest foodgrain exporters.

A group of 70-80 countries, led by Singapore, are pushing member countries of the WTO to accept binding commitments of not extending export restrictions on the foodgrains procured under the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

ALSO READ: India to boost foodgrain production, committed to help globally: Mandaviya

Some members, however, have voiced concern regarding a blanket exemption for WFP food purchases due to domestic food security considerations.

Speaking at the event, Sitharaman said food, fuel, and fertilisers were global public goods, and ensuring access to these for developing and emerging economies was critical. She said there was an urgency to strengthen food production and global food system.

Sitharaman also shared India’s experience, including robust gains in agriculture production, the widening of the food security programme during the Covid-19 pandemic, and innovative delivery mechanisms such as the “One Nation One Ration Card” scheme.

Sitharaman also spoke at the main G-20 FMCBG event and said India’s long-term growth prospects were anchored in public capital expenditure.

In an interview with Business Standard earlier this month, the finance minister had expressed similar views. She had said the Centre was counting on its capex programme to revive demand in the economy, and might not go for sector-specific fiscal measures.

“The route we have chosen and the one we are sticking with is capex. Even during the pandemic, we adopted this method of spend on capital assets, and made sure the economy revival happened. And states really showed that they had the absorptive capacity,” she had said.

The government has laid emphasis on capital expenditure to push economic growth, which has been hit by the pandemic. It is expected that the increase in public spending would crowd in private investment.

According to the latest Monthly Economic Report of the finance ministry, private sector investment has started to pick up, with the share of the Indian private sector in the investment proposals reaching a record high of 85 per cent in the April-June quarter, rising from an average of 63 per cent in the preceding four quarters.

The Centre’s FY23 capex target is Rs 7.5 trillion, of which Rs 1 trillion will be long-term, interest-free loans to states for their capex needs.

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