Latest News
Will work faster to double income of farmers, says Agriculture Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan ...



    From subsidy on fisheries to agriculture: Here's what dominated day 3 at WTO

  • Date : 15 June, 2022

     Facing severe headwinds and odds stacked against the World Trade Organization’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), ending without even a single outcome, the Organization's director-general, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has proposed an extension to the top decision meet in Geneva on day three of the meet. 

    This seems to be a desperate move by the head of WTO as member nations are sticking to their entrenched positions signalling that a “no solution” scenario is far better than going back home with an “adverse solution.”  
    That’s why the director-general called on members to go the extra mile to find convergence at the MC12 on the various issues witnessing contradictory positions, including a long-awaited agreement on the text of agreements related to fisheries, especially dealing with curbing "harmful subsidies" for the sector, along with texts related to agriculture. 
    With less than 24 hours left before the scheduled closing of MC12, the director-general on Tuesday told Heads of Delegations (HoDs) at a meeting that the good news is “that progress is being made but it needs a little more work and more time. The not so good news is that we are running out of time.” 
    The thematic sessions on fisheries subsidies and agriculture did not witness even the minor degree of flexibility and self-restraint expressed by members in the thematic sessions of the previous day on the WTO response to the pandemic, including the intellectual property (IP) response, and on trade and food security. 
    Timur Suleimenov, First Deputy Chief of Staff of the President of Kazakhstan and MC12 Chair, pointed out that “members know by now what is doable, what needs more time for discussion and what is not possible. Any attempt to backload the final 22 hours of this conference only increases the chance that all of us will go home empty handed. 
    Fisheries: India refuses the bait 
    A total of 67 members took the floor during the fisheries thematic session, which was preceded by a move to introduce a 'bait' in the form of a fisheries funding mechanism for helping developing and less developed nations. 
    The text of the draft agreement lays down elements which made developing and under-developed countries erupt in protest.  The key contest is over the Article 3 on Subsidies Contributing to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which posits that “no Member shall grant or maintain any subsidy to a vessel or operator engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing or fishing related activities in support of IUU fishing.” 
    Pic courtesy - WTO
    The next big clash is over the Article 5 of the agreement, dealing with subsidies contributing to overcapacity and over fishing, as its sub clauses lay down a zero subsidy clause for construction, acquisition, modernisation, renovation or upgrading of vessels, purchase of machines and equipment for vessels (including fishing gear and engine, fish-processing machinery, fish-finding technology, refrigerators, or machinery for sorting or cleaning fish), purchase/costs of fuel, ice, or bait, costs of personnel, social charges, or insurance. 
    Countries like India have vehemently opposed the entire draft agreement also due to the presence of sub clauses prohibiting subsidy in the form of income support of vessel operators or the workers they employ, price support of fish caught, sea support and losses of vessels or of fishing activities. 
    They contend that subsidies like income and livelihood support during the seasonal no fishing for regeneration of fish stock, and provisions of social security nets to the socially disadvantaged fishing communities, do not contribute to overfishing and instead they contribute to the reduction of vulnerabilities of the poor fishing communities. 
    India's Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal at the meet, armed with data, attacked the text. He said: "Many nations from both hemispheres allowed their gigantic industrial fleets to exploit and plunder the ocean's wealth over the past several decades, leading to highly unsustainable fishing.” 
    In a strong counter challenge, he further underscored that 'Common but differentiated responsibility’ and ‘polluter pays principle’ should be the bedrock of any agreement related to sustainability. "India would strongly urge that Distant Water Fishing Nations should be subject to a moratorium on giving any kind of subsidies for 25 years for fishing or fishing-related activities beyond their EEZ." 
    He underlined that subsidies to fishermen in India are one of the lowest. “India, for every fisher family, gives barely $15 in a year. There are countries here which give as high as $42,000, $65,000 & $75,000 to 1 fishermen family. Some have 1,500 fishermen, another 11,000, another has 23,000 fishermen, and yet another 12,000. The concern of the small number of fishermen prevails over the livelihood of 9 million fishermen in India." Furthermore, rejecting the draft agreement he said, "This is completely unacceptable! And that is the reason, India is opposed to the current text.” 
    Many other developing countries too echoed the comments made by Goyal claiming that the outcome of the ongoing exercise was not providing a level-playing field to the developing nations to address the aspirations of the traditional fishers and their livelihood. They urged the developing countries to beware of such efforts. 
    Though India has the support of a large number developing and less developed countries, but many are not being as vocal. And that’s because many are either land-locked or have very small population and fishing families. Then there is a bait on offer to some countries in the form of WTO Fisheries Funding Mechanism, to support developing and least-developed countries by helping them build capacity to expand and better manage their fisheries. 
    Fissures exist among developing nations too. For example, Cheryl Natividad-Caballero, Undersecretary for Agri Industrialisation and Fisheries, for Philippines has backed the Fund by saying: “The Philippines has undertaken initiatives and research on science-based approaches to sustainable fisheries management and will benefit from funding grants." 
    Fishing by big countries and those who have large fleets is a serious issue. The FAO status of the world fisheries and aquaculture 2020 report suggests that there are an estimated 67,800 fishing vessels of at least 24-metre length. It further reports that the proportion of these large vessels was highest in Oceania, Europe, and North America. A recent study too found that the large fishing vessels, making up only 5 per cent of the fleet, constituted more than 33 per cent of the total engine power. 
    Moreover, recent studies have shown that high sea fishing at the current scale is enabled by large government subsidies, without which as much as 54 per cent of the present high seas fishing would be unprofitable at present prevailing fishing rates. 
    The push by big fishing nations to curb subsidies in countries like India now faces a demand for a transition period of 25 years as a must-have. 
    With this all eyes will be on the day four of the meet which in the last three days has seen no convergence on other key issues, like agriculture and trips waiver to vaccines, drugs and equipment to battle the ongoing pandemic. 
    On day three the other big conflict came on the text for agriculture. 
    The developing countries contend that they have been severely impacted due to the recent food crisis, both during COVID-19 and the current geopolitical situation. Countries like Egypt and Sri Lanka at the meet have sought help in improving food availability in their countries and while disagreeing on the draft Food Security Declaration, have called for an immediate permanent solution to the Public Stockholding issue. 
    India on the issue has rejected the idea of temporary declarations and has demanded Permanent Solution to Public Stock Holding, which is pending for more than 9 years. 
    Commerce minister Goyal at the meet said, "India has had an experience of transitioning from a food deficient nation to a largely self-sufficient food nation. Our state support in the form of subsidies and other government interventions played a very important role to achieve this sufficiency, therefore, we are fighting on behalf of all the developing countries, including the LDCs collectively, based on our own journey." 
    India and many other countries contest that right from the Uruguay round -- where after 8 years of negotiations between 1985-86 and 1994 when the Marrakesh Agreement was decided leading to the establishment of WTO -- agriculture always got a raw deal and those who were distorting markets by granting huge subsidies managed to secure their subsidies. 
    The stand of nearly 80 odd nations is that the rules of the draft agreement are largely suited to the developed countries without any relevance to today's situation in either term of growth in prices, inflation, and changing dynamics, with absolutely no system of calibrating it over the years. 
    Goyal reminded the members, "The ministerial conference of 11 December 2013 decided, and I repeat ‘decided’ that the members had agreed to put in place an interim mechanism to negotiate on an agreement for a permanent solution for adoption by the 11th ministerial conference. We compromised, agreed on the developed world's trade facilitation agreement and settled for a permanent solution for public." 
    A large group of nations feels the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) provides considerable flexibility to the developed members to provide huge subsidies in the form of Aggregate Measure of Support (AMS), and further, to concentrate these subsidies on a few products, without limit, but the same flexibilities are not available to majority of the developing countries including, LDCs. 
    Countries like India have highlighted that there exist vast differences in the actual per farmer domestic support being provided by different countries, as per the information notified to the WTO. This difference in the case of some developed countries, vis-a-vis the developing countries, is more than 200 times. 
    India's proposal for government-to-government or G2G transactions for food grain supply to needy nations is facing stiff challenge from the developed world. Top sources among WTO members from developing nations say that the resistance comes from the fact that G2G Transactions can hurt large food grain companies who feel that their access to markets in needy nations may get dismantled. The parent nations are thus protecting these companies. 
    Source: Business


A tribal woman farmer showing lights on ornamental fisheries

26 Apr 2024

Dipali Mahato
Ornamental fishery farmer

Name : Dipali Mahato

Designation : Ornamental fishery farmer

Name : Mr Anil Ghanwat

Designation : President, Shetkari Sanghatana

Name : Dr Bindu R. Pillai

Designation : Acting Director and Head, Aquaculture Production and Environment Division, ICAR-Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture

Name : Dr O.P. Yadav

Designation : Director, ICAR-Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur

Name : Ravishankar C.N.

Designation : Director, Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (ICAR-CIFT)



10 Apr 2024

Telecommunications Engineering Centre & ICAR release joint technical report

Telecommunications Engineering Centre & ICAR release joint technical report on how smart technologies can be integrated into traditional farming