Negotiations are underway to further reduce the sensitive list under the Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) which may see a liberalisation of agriculture trade too.
"There has been an encouraging development in opening agriculture trade on the bilateral front, for example, between Nepal and Bangladesh," said director of Economic, Trade and Finance Division at the SAARC Secretariat Amrit Lugun during the inauguration of a two-day regional consultation on 'Trade, Climate Change and Food Security in South Asia' that began here today.
Emphasising that political economy plays an important role in the issue of liberalisation of agriculture trade in the region, he called for an objective investigation into the gains and losses across different segments of the population from increased trade in agriculture and food products.
Participants, on the occasion, called for policies and strategies to cope with the impacts on agriculture and food production from a highly likely increase in global temperature of more than two percentage points above pre-industrial levels.
Similarly, they concluded that unclear operational modality of SAARC Food Bank has made the dream of feeding the poor in South Asia a far cry. They also called for simplifying the operational modalities of SAARC Food Bank and make it more pragmatic for member countries to benefit from it in times of need.
"There is a need to work out guidelines for effective operationalisation of the SAARC Food Bank, which has not been drawn upon by any member state even five years since its establishment although several countries have been hit by natural calamities resulting in food shortages," said National Planning Commission member Dr Abdur Rahim Mikrani while inaugurating the meeting organised by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) and Oxfam Novib.
About 50 experts from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka also covered issues like the Doha climate conference and global climate negotiations, SAARC Food Bank, SAARC Seed Bank, liberalisation of environmental goods, regional trade in agriculture and food products, climate change adaptation, biofuel and food security, and technology transfer.
Secretary at the ministry of science, technology and environment Keshab Bhattarai noted the alarming impact, existing and prospective, of climate change on agriculture and said that the government is in the process of implementing programmes for climate change adaptation at the grassroots level from 2013.
Although international migration and associated remittance play an important role in the economies in several South Asian countries, a negative attendant consequence has been the diversion of agriculture land into non-agriculture purpose, which has serious implications for food production and security, they said, adding that it calls for an integrated approach to address the problem of food insecurity, taking into consideration the impact of remittance on expenditure decisions at the household level.
Chief executive director at SAWTEE Dr Ratnakar Adhikari noted that inadequate climate finance is playing havoc with the ability of South Asian least-developed and vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change.
The participants emphasised on South-South technology transfer, including for climate change adaptation in the agriculture sector, among South Asian countries.
Similarly, discussions on SAARC Seed Bank Agreement concluded that the agreement in its current form tends to over-emphasise on the need to increase seed replacement rate and to create a preference over modern varieties to the detriment of the conservation and maintenance of local and farmer varieties.