‘In someone else’s garden a man planted cucumber
Sell two for a penny, thus sent an order, the white man’
These song lines were presented by the rural people of India during the British regime, criticizing their intrusion and autocracy. But what is interesting in that is these lines are relevant even today.
We visit local markets buying vegetables and provision items. Have we ever thought about ‘who produced those items, how they reached the local stores, what’s the profit for the person who produced them in the farm, and is the price paid for buying them reasonable or fair? I’m sure, most of us would reply no to those questions.
The farmers who wrestle with the nature and earth, producing agriculture products do not profit from their labor. The consumers who procure the products too are not getting them at fair prices. But quite a few intermediaries serving as brokers gain abundant profit out of it. This pitiful trend is only because of the disconnect between the producers and consumers. This is the current structure of market system and that is the reason for many mismanagements.
If an agency or an individual controls the large part of the market there will surely be such menaces. A few many years ago neighborhood shops and locally gathering shandies remained as places of procuring products. That helped respective villages to sustain rural livelihood and develop rural economics.
If products are brought from distant places, the price will increase due to transport cost and preservation of the products from loss. Further, the prices of products will be increased considerably to meet the loss due to expiration of products if not sold out within the prescribed date of expiry. Besides, as the seller would not be in a position to oversee the sales directly by sitting afar, all commercial aspects of the sale of products other than production will be entrusted to the hands of the intermediaries. Only at this juncture misappropriation happens due to eventual economic crisis, tactful dealings in trade and heightened greed of making excess profit.
A product bought from a farmer at an abysmally cheap rate is minimally value added and sold to the same farmer at an exorbitant price. That was the reason for the decline of livelihood of farmers. Not to mention about the implications of green revolution.
It was only the British who restructured the market ecosystem at first. When their economy began to stabilize and the textile mills started growing they were in need of dyes. They started imposing restrictive rules on the farmers who were growing Indigo in their farms. The farmers were forced to use their seeds and follow their process of cultivation. They bought Indigo from our farmers to export it to their country. It led to the decline of exporting our textile products. At some point of time they started growing Indigo in their own country and therefore stopped procuring it from our farmers. That led to the loss of livelihood of many of our farmers, leading to the destructing of rural economy and eventual suffering of farmers.
Similar story of loss was experienced by traditional cotton cultivars. The short staple suitable for local handlooms was destroyed and long staple suitable for British industries was prioritized by them instead. Our farmers were forced to opt for long staples to fulfill their needs. At the beginning the farmers were producing long staples for the British and gradually became consumers of their seeds and their textiles.
That is the way markets were viciously started functioning with disparity. Financially stronger and bigger companies owned by filthy rich started overpowering the markets. Since then it has never been returned to the hands of our farmers. And our farmers were enslaved by mono cropping and cash crops finally. Further, they were forced to be dependent on others for seeds and farm inputs. Besides, it has led them to a condition to sell their products only to a few. And those few began to determine the prices of their products.
That was the way the farmer’s economy had declined. What is to be noted is that the farmers are at a loss on one side and on the other they are forced to depend on the market for their all daily needs. It is not only their economy that was destroyed but also the agro biodiversity and their capacity to be self reliant.
Today, whatever the product (market) is, most of it (90%) is in the hands of two or three companies. Let it be manufacturing of planes or the noodles or cool drinks that are considered as junks and it includes real estate, computer, drugs, seeds, whatever they may be, their market is controlled by two or three companies only.
Likewise only a few gain unbridled profit and gain great amount of money while most of others toil and suffer from poverty. How could it be a right market and how this market could improve economics?
In today’s market structured by exorbitant profiteering it is essential to rehabilitate it through fair pricing and economic equity for all. Let us further discuss about what is to be done by the farmers at this juncture and how to directly connect farmers with the consumers through fair price markets. (To be continued)
About the Author Ananthu
Ananthu studied engineering. He earned adequately abroad for many years. But his passion for nature kept growing infinitely. Therefore, he came back to India to focus on his passion on nature. He has been providing consultation in establishing organic farming markets and executive strategies of running those markets for the past ten years.
In Chennai, he has established an organic store ‘Restore’ and also created chain of markets called Organic Farmers Market (OFM), serving a key role in guiding these markets.
He is also running a textile shop ‘Thula’, along with his friends, towards supporting the livelihood of farmers who are cultivating country cotton in rainfed regions, handloom weavers and those who dye using natural products. For many years he has been voicing against the genetically modified seeds and in support of food safety. He is also serving as a convener of Food Safety Consortium.
(This article written in Tamil for Pasumai Vikatan has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)