Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka doled out the highest subsidies for fisherfolk in 2017-18, including a sales tax rebate on diesel and financial assistance during a fishing ban, India has told the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The states also provided assistance for purchase of new nets and boats, life-saving jackets and navigation systems, and the development of marine infrastructure. The notification comes in the wake of countries negotiating limits to harmful fishery subsidies at the WTO and India trying to protect subsidies given to its small fishers.
Of the total subsidy of about Rs 7.5 billion in 2017-18, the Centre’s contribution through the Marine Products Export Development Authority was Rs 227.06 million, India informed the WTO in its latest notification. The total dole out was up 23% from Rs 6.05 billion in FY17 and the government does not consider this an issue.
“This is an exercise aimed at transparency and to keep ourselves and the WTO member-countries up to date. The slight increase in total subsidies doesn’t signify much and is a very small proportion of our total fish production,” said a negotiator aware of the details. India’s marine fish production was estimated at Rs 524.3 billion in 2017.
“The types of subsidies that are prohibited are yet to be decided and negotiations are in an intense stage. At present, everything is permissible,” the negotiator said. All countries have been asked to flesh out whether issues should be based on effects or on lists and the role of regional fisheries management organisations. Last month, India told the global trade watchdog that the problem of unsustainable fishing has arisen due to overexploitation of oceans and huge subsidies to industrial fishing in some countries.
“It certainly cannot be attributed to the less than the $1per week given to 2 million subsistence fishermen in India,” India had said. The country’s trade envoy told the organisation that this support is critical for their livelihood and, if withdrawn, will lead them to destitution.