GTRI Sounds the Alarm: High Import Duties Essential to Guard India’s Food Security, Warns Report

New Delhi: In a recent report, the Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI) has emphasized the importance of maintaining high import duties on sensitive agricultural commodities such as rice to protect India’s self-sufficiency and ensure food security for its population. The economic think tank underscores the need for India to continue its current approach to resist the pressure of opening its domestic agriculture sector to low-tariff subsidized imports.

India’s Agricultural Sector: Challenges and Strategies

India, the world’s largest importer of vegetable oils, faces a significant challenge in reducing its dependence on imported oils. In 2023-24, imports are estimated to double to USD 20.8 billion compared to USD 10.8 billion in 2017-18. The GTRI report suggests that educating consumers on the health benefits of locally produced oils like mustard, groundnut, and rice bran could be a solution.

Global Context and Domestic Policies

India’s approach of high import tariffs (30-100% on sensitive items) is seen as a necessary measure to protect its agriculture from subsidized imports. This strategy has led to India achieving self-sufficiency in almost all agricultural products except vegetable oils. Agricultural imports in 2023 are estimated at USD 33 billion, only 4.9% of total merchandise imports.

Sugar Sector Dynamics

The report also highlights the dynamics in the sugar sector. India, a major player in global sugar production and export, will import sugar in significant quantities in 2023 due to a decline in domestic production. The Indian sugar industry, despite being a major employer, faces challenges in sustainability due to heavy reliance on subsidies and environmental issues like water scarcity.

Export Concentration: A Vulnerability

India’s agricultural export basket, heavily reliant on just a few commodities like rice and sugar, accounts for 51.5% of the country’s total agriculture exports. This concentration makes the sector vulnerable to fluctuations in global prices and demand. The report notes that non-basmati rice export is currently banned, and disputes at the WTO over subsidies to rice and wheat add to this vulnerability.

The Road Ahead

To enhance its agricultural sector’s global competitiveness, India is focusing on initiatives like farm-to-fork and traceability systems. Challenges like inadequate cold chain infrastructure, inefficient logistics, and quality control issues are being addressed to improve export competitiveness. The GTRI report suggests a strategic shift towards improving infrastructure, quality control, and policy adaptation.


In conclusion, the GTRI report stresses the importance of India’s strategic policies in maintaining agricultural self-sufficiency and ensuring food security. By upholding high import tariffs and focusing on domestic challenges, India aims to fortify its agricultural sector against global uncertainties and domestic policy changes.



Send Us A Message