US and Japan Criticize India’s Perpetual Ban on Onion Exports at the WTO


At the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the United States and Japan have raised anxieties about India’s frequent bans on onion exports, claiming that such interdictions without preceding notice put importing countries in a challenging position.

India has been asked to justify its actions and provide reasons for not opting for an export share, restricting the number of exports allowed.

Both countries said India was asked to defend its ban on onion exports at the WTO’s agriculture committee meeting last month. “However, India failed to present any concrete acknowledgment, instead just stating that it was in effect momentarily,” they stated.

Both nations then demanded an interpretation from India why the notification was not made before the measure was taken, even though the prior information is required under Article 12 of the Agriculture Agreement. “Explain how India has taken into account the impact of the action on the food security of importing members. Please explain why India chose export bans over an export quota, which would enable a set quantity of exports,” Japan and the United States urged in a joint statement.

The government limited the export of all varieties of onions in September, anticipating a shortfall after exports progressed by 30% from April to July.

Onion producers and neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal, which rely significantly on Indian onions, were outraged by the unexpected export prohibition. The commerce ministry partially removed the restrictions in October, allowing up to 10,000 tonnes of Bangalore rose onions and Krishnapuram onions to be exported with immediate effect.

Fresh onion crops led to the government ending all export prohibitions on onions, and the domestic market price began to ease.
Export restrictions on onions have become an annual occurrence at the start of winter, with unseasonal rains occasionally damaging the crop, causing the politically sensitive staple food’s price to skyrocket. To keep costs down in FY20, India bought onions worth $80 million from Afghanistan, Turkey, and Egypt.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina raised the issue during a business forum meeting in Delhi in 2019, making the ban on onion exports an irritation in the bilateral relationship.

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