WTO Member States Ask India How Long it Intends to Ban Rice, Wheat Exports

India banned the export of broken rice, non-basmati rice, and wheat to control domestic prices. It will have to appear before World Trade Organization's Committee of Agriculture to provide its explanation on its agricultural policies.

New Delhi: India has been asked by the members of the World Trade Organization – including the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan – how long it intends to impose the ongoing ban on non-basmati rice exports.

Besides non-basmati rice exports, which have been banned since July 2022, India has also placed curbs on wheat exports from May 2022 and broken rice from September 2022. The government said the restrictions on food exports are to ensure sufficient stocks in domestic markets as well as to arrest soaring food prices.

India will have to respond to questions posed by member countries on its agriculture policies at WTO’s Committee of Agriculture meeting, which will be held on September 27 and 28.

“The announcement of the ban by India states it is ‘to ensure adequate availability of non-basmati white rice in the Indian market and to allay the rise in prices in the domestic market.’ However, it is understood from media reports that India currently has sufficient supplies to meet domestic demand,”  the US, Canada, Japan, and Australia submitted a question to CoA to be directed at India, Business Line reported.

In another query, the member states asked, “Please describe what quantity of rice India considers to be adequate availability of non-basmati white rice in the Indian market. What quantity of public stocks does India consider adequate for domestic needs.”

The query also pointed out that, according to the US Department of Agriculture, in August 2023, India’s rice production stood at 134 million tonnes and stocks at 36 million tonnes for 2023-24.

With India banning its rice exports in the second week of July, in a bid to arrest its rising domestic prices, the price of rice in the global market has soared to a 15-year high. India accounts for 40% of the global rice trade. The export ban by India, therefore, has come to affect nearly half of the world’s population, for whom rice is the staple food.

Separately, the US, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, Ukraine, and Japan sought an update from India on the export bans on wheat and broken rice, and how long it intends to continue. The member countries called for transparency on export restrictions in the wake of the current food security crisis afflicting the world.

“It is important that we understand the intended duration of the measures which have already been in place for 16 months in the case of wheat, and a year in the case of broken rice,” the member states said.

They also asked India to ensure that its export restrictions are in line with General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) rules and they are only temporary in nature.