Fishery Subsidy Issue To Be In Focus At WTO Meet In Kazakhstan
Fishermen tend to a fishing net on board a fishing boat as it sits moored at the Nagor fishing harbor in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu, India (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Fishery Subsidy Issue To Be In Focus At WTO Meet In Kazakhstan

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Issues related to fisheries subsidy, an important subject for India, will figure prominently in the World Trade Organization's 12th Ministerial Conference meet in June at Kazakhstan, an official said.

The Ministerial Conference is the highest decision-making body of the 164-member WTO.

Trade ministers of all the member countries participate in the deliberations. The 12th Ministerial Conference will take place from June 8-11 this year at Nur-Sultan in Kazakhstan.

"This time fishery subsidies will figure prominently in the meeting. Although talks on the matter are not moving at a healthy pace, developed nations want a significant reduction in fishery subsidies," the official said.

The official added India wants an equitable and balanced outcome in the negotiations as the country provides support to its small and marginal fishermen who depend on the sector for sustenance. Unlike rich nations which provide billions of dollars of subsidies to their fishermen, India's subsidy amounts to only about Rs 770 crore. The government provides subsidy on things like fuel and boat.

Unlike India, the fishing community of developed countries use highly mechanised boats for fishing, which are called mother boats wherein they have processing units also. Developed countries want to intensify negotiations on fisheries subsidies so that an agreement can be clinched at the Kazakhstan meeting.

"As a developing country, India provides minimal subsidies to fisherfolk. A WTO agreement should consider needs such as these," the official said.

At the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, held at Buenos Aires in Argentina in December 2017, members had agreed to continue to engage constructively in fisheries subsidies negotiations, with a view to adopting an agreement by the next ministerial conference.

Meanwhile, India is drafting a national fisheries policy to promote marine fishery, aquaculture and mariculture. The only existing policy is on marine fisheries from which the production stands at 4.3 million tonne annually, but there is no policy on inland fisheries that produce the rest 23 million tonne.

Also read: Government Drafting National Fisheries Policy With Rs 45,000 Crore Budget

The sector provides livelihood to about 16 million fishermen and fish farmers at the primary level and about twice the number along the value chain. The share of fisheries sector in the total GDP (at current prices) increased from 0.40 percent in 1950-51 to 1.03 percent in 2017-18.

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