While developed nations have made attempts to portray India as a villain for the recent controls on wheat and sugar exports, India has hit back, saying that it has never imposed any curbs on WFP.
Sources also indicated that traders in some of the countries raising the issue may be behind the move as they are adversely impacted by the checks, which cause an increase in prices. The proposal related to WFP is being pushed by around 80 countries, led by Singapore, many of which have never contributed for the scheme meant for humanitarian aid. For instance, Singapore is the leader of the pack but given its size it has never participated in the programme. Ditto for several European countries. “It is like countries in the tropical region, which do not play ice hockey, demanding that the rules be changed without getting inputs from those who play the game,” an official said.
Food security is emerging as a key area where the WTO secretariat is also showing a keen interest. In her opening remarks on Sunday, WTO DG Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said: “WTO must also respond to a looming food crisis. Droughts, floods, heat waves and other extreme weather events had already combined with Covid and pandemic-related supply chain bottlenecks to lead to rising food prices around the world. The war in Ukraine has escalated this situation.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, international wheat prices have increased 56% compared to last May. Overall cereal prices are up nearly 30%. Recent prices for vegetable oils are 45% higher, year on year. And World Bank’s index of fertiliser prices in low and middle income countries is 128% higher than it was a year ago. ” She demanded swift action.
She suggested that WTO members should allow a free flow of food and agricultural inputs, especially for humanitarian purposes, and backed the plan for WFP to be exempted from export restrictions.