At G-20, India staves off pressure to export food | delhi | Hindustan Times
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At G-20, India staves off pressure to export food

delhi Updated: Jun 24, 2011 00:11 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times
Zia Haq

The first G20 farm meet in Paris pushed countries such as India, which hold sufficient grain reserves, to lift ban on food export and reveal domestic food data about production and stocks held. India, however, considers such information sensitive and is reluctant to share.

The agriculture ministers of 20 big economies - including India's Sharad Pawar - met on Wednesday and Thursday amid two global warnings last week, one by the UN, which suggested global food imbalances were quietly working up a disaster.

"Our priority will always be to ensure domestic food security first," agriculture secretary PK Basu had told HT before leaving for the G20 meet.

US agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack has hinted that positions of countries like Russia and India at the Paris meet could affect their leveraging power at future World Trade Organisation talks.

Rising food prices and decimated output because of extreme weather have forced several big growers to limited exports. Global food prices have risen 37% in a year due to restricted supplies, pushing 44 million more people into poverty since June 2010, according to a World Bank report.

India, the world's second-largest wheat and rice grower, has not lifted a ban on wheat exports since 2007 and on rice since 2008 to shore up local supplies. Russia and Ukraine curbed wheat exports after a drought shrank farm output.

The US wants "better knowledge" of food stocks of countries and lifting of food-export ban to stabilise food prices. France, which holds the G-20 presidency, wants a central bank of sensitive data on crops and international market regulations.

"A lack of transparency in global physical agricultural markets is adding to price swings," French president Nicholas Sarkozy has said.

India, even China, have balked at the idea of committing to lift export bans. "Despite a ban, we do allow humanitarian exports to some countries like Afghanistan and Bangladesh," a farm ministry official said.