Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday made a pitch for strengthening global collaboration to tackle food security and allow India to export subsidised wheat and rice, at the G20 high level seminar in Bali, Indonesia.
Sitharaman said the procured grains are much more than what is required for the public distribution system. “The issue has been a little peeve, in the sense, the WTO’s restriction that grains so procured cannot be brought to the market to export, is a condition which exists from the Uruguay round days,” she said, referring to the Uruguay round of talks with the WTO.
She said there is a hesitation in the WTO. “One little success we had is that through the world food programme, we are now able to give the amounts that they want. But that is not the end of the story. Besides the world food programme, there are others also who would want as well for selling in countries that so desperately need it,” she said.
She said there is time now to review so that they don’t receive external shocks on issues such as hunger and food. “I can understand there is a problem with fuel. I keep worrying about it. But that is an issue for later. First, is to get the food to the poor. So I think the conversation that is happening is absolutely necessary,” she said.
Sitharaman also pushed for inclusion of millets in the World Food Programme of the World Bank. The UN has announced next year as the Year of Millets.
“Millets are the wonder grain of the world. They are ancient, spread across other parts of the globe. Millets have so many different varieties and India leads in its production. I would like to sum it for you that the World Food Programme, the world is looking at food insecurity. It should not focus all its attention on just wheat and rice and a few pulses. It should look at coarse grains because that was a part of all our lives some time ago,” she said.
She added that “we later moved to finer grains, which are now giving us lifestyle diseases because of too much gluten. Whereas millets do not have too much gluten”..
Sitharaman said that in the Year of Millets, if everyone worked together, they could build awareness about both the supply — which is in abundance — and the demand, which differs in various parts of the world. “But we can effectively bridge the gap and be able to serve on bringing food security and not worry about shocks that give us food insecurity,” she concluded.
First Published: IST