This is a series of deliberations about the politics behind popular market and the opportunities for successful organic agriculture markets as well as alternative markets.
When the price of tomato falls suddenly, available in the market for Rs 5 per kg, most of the consumers will be happy. But there will also be a few who worry about the fall in price. It may sound odd when it is beneficial in the eyes of consumers, what could be the reason for worrying about it by a few. It can only be understood when it is looked at the perspectives of a farmer.
Farmers spend thousands of rupees in the farm, plowing, seeding, irrigating, manuring, spraying pesticides, maintaining the farm for 90 days, harvesting and finally carrying the produce to the market. After all these toiling, if they can get only Rs 2 per kg why should they continue agriculture. They would have earned more had they opted to work as farm labors. It’s not only with tomato cultivation, but also to all types of farm products including banana, coconut, vegetables and tubers. I referred to tomato here as it is the most frequently affected crop reaching abysmally low price.
Farmers are shouldering a noble profession of farming who continue to feed the world relentlessly in spite of facing frequent losses. They might also remain desirous of sending their children to CBSE schools. They might also yearn to treat their family members who are sick at private hospitals. Those desires are justifiable considering the dismal quality of treatments at the government hospitals and education at the government schools.
Besides, those farmers would want to take their family members in cars, taking them to cinema and have food in restaurants. How is it possible for them if we have not given them the right to decide fair price for the products they cultivated? They do not enjoy any kind of concession for being farmers. They don’t get adequate income as their products fail to bring them appreciable returns. This is the appalling condition of farmers, remaining suppressed in our country. Could our society bear it if the farmers decide to discontinue farming, uprising against the suppression?
Keep the issue of pricing aside. With the current market structure we don’t even bother about the loss of water behind raising each product, wastage of energy, and the pollution aspects while transporting the products to the market. We are the losers if we lack the awareness about the process of production of a crop we consume.
Let us take the example of cooking oil that we use every day. Three and half kg of sesame is required to grind, press and extract one kg of oil. This is same for groundnut oil too. But had we known about the price of groundnut or sesame, adulterated oil would not have reached the market. Only when we begin to understand the mismatch between the higher price of sesame and low priced oil we could become aware of the adultery and corrupt way of producing oil.
There are many corrupt technologies such as refined and extraction being practiced in oil production. In the name of blending, oil is adulterated using cotton oil, palm oil, soya oil and rice bran oil.
How each product is processed, such as sugar, jaggery, sago, turmeric powder, chili powder, what type of chemical is used as colorant, what kind of adultery happens, what preservative is used, and what are the health implications due to those chemicals and additives? We don’t care about those details. We don’t even have the understanding about the harm rendered by those chemicals. And we don’t have any concern about the benefits of traditional rice varieties and minor millets.
Even the policies of our government do not support the healthy farm products. Be it a private market or a ration shop, the products sold in those markets are established in such a way to benefit only large farmers and businessmen.
When the policies of our government continue to be so appalling it is meaningless to speak about the politics of mammoth tycoon such as World Trade Organization (WTO).
The World Trade Organization intrudes from deciding the subsidies to our farmers to fixing the price of their products. Its motive is to make us import all products and no product should be exported from India. By this multinational companies will thrive in profits unimpeded.
Last September, the Central government reduced the import fee of wheat to 10 % and by December, it quashed it fully. This led to the drastic fall of price for inland wheat. Last year there was a severe loss for grams and cotton. These are the ways by which our farmers are being betrayed.
A question will arise why the organic products, grown naturally and poison free should be sold in the markets that are full of problems and ploys. That’s why it is important to think differently to recreate our own market. Only those who did so tasted success and remain exemplary models. Though there are many examples of alternative markets we will discuss only about a few. Let us know about an exemplary market conducted by the farmers in Karnataka district, in the next issue.
Who benefits from the World Trade Organization?
The atrocities of the World Trade Organization that seeded the spread of poverty and unemployment by using delusive jargons such as ‘Development’, ‘Globalization’ and ‘Free trade’ are yet to lessen. The agreements made by this organization with developing countries are unharmonious. They can benefit only the western countries.
Till now, the objective of the World Trade Organization is to eradicate the subsidies given to the farmers by the developing countries. It’s stated that subsidies given to the farmers will affect the world trade and pricing. But we cannot question the various subsidies provided by the developed countries in the West. They provide it in a different name.
With the advent of these trade agreements, we have come to a point where development is possible in our country only if we sacrifice our agriculture, livelihood, labor welfare and subsidies. What is hurting is that it is executed legally.
First time in the world a ‘multifaceted agreement’ is implemented and a condition is created where severe action against non adherence is imposed by the World Trade Organization. In order to spread the import of products from the developed countries, reduction in import tax and other concessions are acceded. While we suffer due to loss of food security bill, agriculture subsidies, stock and impact on the procurement price given to farmers, they flourish in wealth and trade.
America is the highest provider of agriculture subsidies in the world. In 2011 it gave about 139 billion dollar of agriculture subsidy. In 2012 it gave more subsidies than earlier and hence they are deemed to have breached the clauses agreed upon with the World Trade Organization. Therefore they show impatience to bury the Doha rules that control them. When Brazil sued America for having provided more subsidy for cotton farmers, instead of reducing the subsidy it paid 100 million dollar as compensation to Brazil.
Only the welfare of America and Europe is protected by the World Trade Organization. Unfortunately we have the governments and politicians who are spineless to be bold enough to say we do not need such a wretched trade or such a kind of organization.
When we finally realize our mistakes later on for having signed such ominous agreements it would be late for us to take any mitigating measures by then.
In our country, when agriculture production dwindles due to environmental degradation and climate change, the products cultivated by those farmers of the West by virtue of large subsidies may be imposed on us. At that juncture, the livelihood of our farmers would be completely destroyed.
We are at the verge of being compelled to reveal the conspiracy of the countries of the West and the World Trade Organization and fight against their imposing threat through collective efforts.
(This article series written in Tamil by Ananthu for Pasumai Vikatan has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)