India’s Public Stockholding: “Much more than a welfare program”

This is the second of a two-part series. Find Part 1 here. This post originally appeared at Food Tank

India’s National Food Security Act (NFSA) seemed to be an effective way to get a basic food ration to the majority of Indians who struggle to feed their families, at least in the state of Madhya Pradesh. There, Dr. Manohar Agnani, State Commissioner for Food and Civil Supplies, was expanding the reach and scope of the program while wringing fraud and inefficiencies from the system. But what about the payment of subsidized prices to farmers to acquire that food, the part of the NFSA that had run afoul of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules?

“The NFSA starts with farmers and procurement,” Agnani stressed to me. “It is much more than a welfare program.” He attributed their success in the state to “good supply chain management,” a phrase he seemed pleased to borrow from the private sector. This includes collection from farmers, local warehousing, and distribution to the network of ration shops.

“It’s very decentralized, with 3,000 collection centers in the state mostly managed by cooperative societies,” Agnani went on. “The government is buying about 40 percent of the state’s wheat, and even sending it to other states.”

But aren’t the larger farmers and the middlemen the ones who benefit from the minimum support price? I asked.

“We are buying from the smaller farmers,” Agnani said. He explained that in Madhya Pradesh farmers who are registered to sell to the Public Distribution System (PDS) cannot be large-scale farmers, traders, or from another state. Those rules are strictly enforced.

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Keep Your Eyes on the Price: WTO Remains Blind to Agricultural Dumping

Timothy A. Wise and Sophia Murphy

This originally appeared at Food Tank

Farm leaders from around the world converged in Buenos Aires this week. They traveled to pressure the trade ministers attending the biennial World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference to stop unfair trade practices that are hurting farmers. Once again, they went home empty-handed.

Some farmers lobbied delegates inside the heavily fortified Hilton Hotel, where the WTO trade ministers huddled for four days. More took to the streets, where their “Agriculture Out of the WTO!” banners waved in a week of peaceful protests.

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Hypocrisy takes center stage at WTO meeting

Timothy A. Wise

Re-published from the Global Post.

BALI, Indonesia — A tense and acrimonious four-day standoff ended Saturday morning at the World Trade Organization meeting in Bali.

A last-minute objection by Cuba and three Latin American allies held up the agreement Friday night, with Cuba objecting to the hypocrisy of a “trade facilitation” agreement – one part of the so-called Bali package – that ignored the United States’ discriminatory treatment of the island nation under the US trade embargo.

Overnight, text was added to reflect Cuba’s concern even if it did nothing to resolve the issue. Call it the story of the WTO.

Leading up to this week’s meeting, the US and other rich countries had attempted to declare India’s food security program in violation of the WTO’s archaic and biased rules and sought to discipline the program as “trade distorting.”

India and other developing countries fended off the challenge to these programs, which support small farmers and help feed the hungry. But the final agreement is no green light.

Countries considering such programs would not be protected by the “peace clause” that will shield India and some others for the next four years. And onerous reporting requirements put the onus on the developing country to prove that its stock-holding program is not “trade distorting.”

In return for the modest protections for food security programs, and a vague package of reforms for the least developed countries, developing countries also agreed here to a trade facilitation package that could benefit some of them but might demand more than they can give.

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Why the WTO Needs a “Hypocrisy Clause”

Timothy A. Wise

A top ten list of hypocritical US statements on India’s food security program

I ended a recent article on the US government’s objections to the food security proposal of India and other developing countries at the World Trade Organization meetings in Bali with the provocative statement that what the WTO needs is not a “Peace Clause” – a four-year cease fire on WTO suits – but a “Hypocrisy Clause” – an agreement to reduce or eliminate the trade-distorting hypocrisy that is preventing a Bali agreement. I called for immediate reductions by the “most developed hypocrites.”

In a subsequent talk, I was asked to elaborate. I offered my “top ten” examples of the US government’s most trade-distorting hypocrisy:

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U.S. Unprepared To Limit Swings in Food Prices

Kevin Gallagher

Cross-posted at The Globalist.

The United States has left the world’s poor at the global trade negotiating table.

After more than a decade in gridlock, world trade negotiators had high hopes of closing a final deal at the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is to hold a ministerial in Bali, Indonesia, Dec. 6-13.

But the U.S. is not prepared to let developing countries protect their poor from the harmful swings in world food prices. That is all the more unfortunate as these price swings are increasingly caused by U.S. policy in the first place.

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