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Thailand replaces its Ambassador to WTO following strong protest by India on her remarks


Ambassador Pimchanok Vonkorpon Pitfield. File photo: www.wto.org

Thailand has replaced its Ambassador to WTO Pimchanok Vonkorpon Pitfield from here following a strong protest lodged by India on her contentious comment on New Delhi’s rice procurement programme, a top government official said on Friday.

The official said that Ms. Pitfield has been asked to report back to Thailand after the 13th ministerial conference (MC), which has entered the fifth day of talks. She has been learnt to have replaced the Thai foreign secretary.

India has expressed strong disappointment over Ms. Pitfield’s remarks during a consultation meeting on Tuesday accusing New Delhi that India’s rice procurement programme at Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the public distribution system is not for people but for capturing the export market, the official said.

Following this, India has formally registered its protest with the Thai government and has also expressed displeasure with the WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, agri committee chair Kenya and UAE.

“The Thai Ambassador has been replaced. She has ridiculed India’s PSH [Public Stockholding] programme” the official said, adding that the language and behavior of the Thai ambassador were not in good taste.

After lodging their protest on the issue, the Indian negotiators had also refused to participate in some deliberations in groups where the Thai representative was present.

The government official said that her facts were wrong as only about 40%of the paddy produce is procured by the government to meet food security commitments.

A part of the remaining quantity, which is not procured by the government-owned agencies, is exported from India at market prices.

India is a major player in rice exports along with Thailand. Certain developed and developing nations on different forums have alleged that India’s public stockholding of commodities such as rice distorts global market prices.

India was the largest rice exporting country in the world from 2018 to 2022 followed by Thailand and Vietnam.

In 2023, India banned the export of broken and non-basmati white rice in view of uncertainty around rice production here and other rice-producing countries due to geopolitical scenario, El Nino sentiments, and extreme climatic conditions to check domestic prices and ensure adequate availability in the market here.

Rice export from India was 22.24 million tonne in 2022, which accounts for 40.63 per cent of the world’s rice exports.

Export of broken rice has been prohibited from September 2022 and non-basmati white rice from July 2023. The export of basmati and parboiled non-basmati rice is continuing.

Thailand is also a member of a 19-nation group of agriculture exporters called the Cairns group. Other members of the group include Argentina, Brazil, Australia and Indonesia. The group is pushing for the free flow of agri commodities without any restrictions.



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