From farmer's land to vegetable market... Must know info about agri supply chain..! - Part 9
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.
Without providing any subsidies but demanding them to sell their products at paltry price, what would be the fate of our farmers? The WTO (World Trade Organization) has been operating in such a way, creating a precarious condition for the developing countries, while extending its support to the developed countries.
With the prejudiced operations of the World Trade Organization, reducing the agriculture subsidies internally in the developing countries while remaining non committal to the subsidies offered in the developed countries, and favoring create unbridled world trade for the multinational companies by relaxing import taxation, the agro-economy of the developing and third world countries have been seriously affected.
The larger markets, as available in the countries like India, are needed for the multinational companies. The ulterior motive of the World Trade Organization is to pave way for the multinational companies belonging to the American-European countries to grab the agriculture market, starting from seeds to sales, in the developing countries. What is going to be affected because of that is our own livelihood only.
Through international agreements such as SCM (Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures), TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), TRIMS (Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures) and AOA (Agreement on Agriculture), the WTO strives selling dreams like ‘unbridled growth’, ‘globalization’, ‘free trade’. But what the developing countries like us received in reality because of those agreements is nothing but, poverty, unemployment, exploitation, loss of labor rights, loss of fair price and loss of income. The condition is such that any breach of these agreements will lead to grave consequences like, large penalties and pecuniary actions. We can cite a recent example. In India, when there was an opportunity given only to Indian Companies, under ‘Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Light Project’, America filed a lawsuit against it with the World Trade Organization. And the verdict was given favoring America. But at the same time, there was no controversy arising against the subsidies given to American companies by the American government. The multinational companies of America were able to sell solar panels at the lower cost because of the subsidies. But it is our local producers who are affected because of that.
In September 2016, the central government reduced the import tax of wheat from 25% to 10 % and it was abolished totally in December. Because of that the price of wheat procurement internally had fallen drastically. Similar story repeated for grams and cotton last year, giving a big blow in their prices. This is the way the World Trade Organization allows the inequitably positioned sides to fight with the giants. The developing and third world countries who signed the agreement are suffering irrevocably.
Agreement on Agriculture is one of those agreements, based on the ‘Uruguay deliberations’ happened between 1986 and 1994. It was structured in such a way to favor those Western countries to have more benefits. For example, we can cite the clause of agreement to gradually bring down the percentage of agriculture subsidies given by the countries of the world to a particular percentage within a specified period of time agreed upon. There was no difficulty for the farmers of the developed countries but only for the farmers of the developing countries because of the agreement. Therefore the developed countries dump their agriculture products at the lower price in the markets of the developing countries.
At this juncture, there is another ghost of bigger size coming to swallow us completely as if the existing ghosts are not adequate. The new ghost is nothing but the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). This is an effort by the ten members of the ASEAN and India, China, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Korea trying to arrive at a memorandum of understanding. There are many clauses in the agreement favoring those exploitative multinational companies. If it’s implemented those companies would come back with renewed vigor to penalize other countries at the international level. But if those companies try to breach the agreement or if they try to sell wrong products, there are no pecuniary measures against them. There is going to be a deliberation on this on 24th July 2017 in Hyderabad, Telengana state, involving 700 delegates from 16 countries, including India, China and Australia. Most of the countries wish India to bring down its import duties towards goods and services tax for the 90% of the products under trade among the 16 countries. But if it happens, there is a possibility for China to capture the Indian market by its goods and services. There is also a danger of establishing a large market for A-2 milk produced from New Zealand and Australia. it is needless to mention about the predicaments of our farmers and local producers, if this agreement is implemented.
Experts caution us that if this agreement is implemented there is going to be a big blow on our agriculture economy. By this agreement our own government would be made to surrender our agriculture lands to the multinational companies. High yielding and genetically modified seeds will be imposed on us. The price of seeds and pesticides will escalate. The chemical fertilizers of the multinational companies will be prioritized. By virtue of these the local small trade will be greatly affected.
The urbanites cannot treat it casually as if the agreement has no impact on them, because the agreement will affect all sections of our society. It will harm the agriculture, neighborhood economy, rural livelihoods, consumers, and better markets of our country.
The harmful effects of these agreements, against our democracy should be debated in the common platforms. Media should write about it. Our objections should be shared with the prime minister and minister of trade. Agriculture leaders, agriculture associations, trade unions should fight against it. We should pressurize the state government so that it opposes the agreement. Then only, we will be able to protect ourselves from these harmful consequences. It is noteworthy to mention that the government of Kerala has already written a petition against the RCAP.
(To be continued)
(This series of articles written in Tamil by Ananthu for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 25 th July 2017 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)