From farmer's land to vegetable market... Must know info about agri supply chain..! - Part 11
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.
We have been continuously discussing about the free trade agreements being imposed on the developing and third world countries. You might have a question ‘do we need these details?’ But those who wish to reconstruct the alternative organic farming market should definitely understand the politics behind the popular market. Only when we learn ‘how we are tied down’ it would be possible for us to weed out those forces and establish an alternative market.
Recently, the meeting related to ‘Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)’ was concluded in the city of Hyderabad, Telengana state. If this agreement was signed up the milk trade in India will be severely impacted.
Australia and New Zealand are the countries that contribute one third of the milk production in the world. The production cost is very less as the farmers of those countries get high amount of subsidy. If those milk products are provided with the import tax exemption then those productions will be marketed at the very low price compared to the price of milk in our country. This will affect the livelihood of 15 crore people who are involved in milk production in our country.
In our country, many are producing milk using one or two cows. Because of that the number of farmers involved in milk production will be in millions. But in Australia, the total milk producers are six thousand only. And it is only twelve thousand in New Zealand. Each farmer in those countries rears about hundreds and thousands of cows. They are getting subsidy so generously to that extent.
In case of selling those milk products in India, the hygiene regulations will be structured favoring the huge companies with the consent of our government. But they will not mention anything about the chemicals that will be mixed with the milk as preservatives. Before we try to understand its implications the farmers would have already been thrown out of their business. Similar fate will await all other agriculture products. Experts therefore warn us that everything including dresses and drugs will be imposed on us, marginalizing the producers within the country.
When these kinds of trade agreements are implemented, the developed countries strongly object to the provision of increased import tax by the developing countries trying to protect the in-house producers in our country. The multinational companies in developed countries are capable of buying the government. To site an example is the ‘banana wars’.
Banana is one of the fruits that is sold more across the world. It is consumed more desirably in the western countries. It was a cheap food product during 1800s. From 1905 to 1910, there were three companies in the West who began to rule over the trade of bananas. These companies made the government of Honduras in the Central America as puppets, where banana was cultivated aplenty. All sections of the government including transport and administration of the country fell in the hands of those companies.
These companies ruled over the Latin American countries like Costa Rica, too. Based on this incidence the word ‘Banana Republic’ was created. This word is used to denote the country that operates with an intention to benefit those kinds of unstable companies and keeping their economy relying only on a few products.
Those kinds of corporate companies aim only for money. In order to achieve that goal, they will be ready to do anything. The popular markets constructed by these kinds of companies will be full of conspiracy. Conversely, the responsibility to construct an ethics based neighborhood market lies with all of us.
Till recent years, trading in our country was only the responsibility of our society. After the economic reformation that happened during 90s, the western culture of trading had started penetrating here too. Unimpeded trading and multi layered chain of distribution have captured the popular markets. These kinds of markets that are useless for consumers and producers are found worldwide. They make the huge companies and brokers fertile. This leads us to face many problems like, illogical way of price determination, toxicity, contamination, lack of transparent details about food products, and lack of rights to choose by the consumers.
The policies that intend to prevent scarcity of food products and also to develop the agriculture based entrepreneurship usually affect the income of the farmers. Similarly, the changes made in the import and export policies burden only the farmers. The farmers who produce food are made to be mere strangers to the market.
The popular market has been functioning without any worry for the farmers, child and bonded laborers, environment, quality, health, alternative fuel, fair price, etc.
By virtue of green revolution and attraction towards cash crops the farmers switched to monoculture cultivation, thereby depending only on the popular markets for their own food. Besides, they are made to depend on the same market to have the seeds and also to sell their products.
The best way to change this pitiful state of affairs is to democratize the market. That means, the market that is held by those huge companies be transferred into the hands of the farmers and consumers, thereby reduce the gap between the producers and consumers. Self sufficiency, self reliance and sustainability should be their chief slogans.
(To be continued)
Sovereignty of the country being pledged!
During the same time when the meeting on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership was held, there were also people coming together protesting against the free trade agreements and regional comprehensive economic partnership in the city of Hyderabad. Between July 22nd and 28th 2017experts from many different fields and people organizations participated in the meeting.
Farmers, farm laborers, cattle growers, fishers, labor union members, laborers, retail shoppers, sex workers, bank employees, engineers, teachers, lawyers, environmental and social activists participated in the meeting. There were debates on various titles including ‘Agriculture and Farmers’, ‘Business organizations and labor unions’, ‘Enjoying the services’, ‘Women and free trade agreements’, ‘Dalits and free trade agreements’, and ‘Tribes and natural resources’.
Those social activists who participated in the event, Yogendra Yadav, Kavitha Gurukanti, Kiran Vissa, Dr Prasad Rao, Dr Sengupta, Atulkumar Anjan, Leena Mengane, Ranja Sengupta, Viju Krishnan, all of them voiced that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the free trade agreements have been destroying our lives and the livelihoods as well as our rights. It was emphasized during the meeting that these free trade agreements have been signed without being discussed at the councils of the people, parliament, state assemblies, and local councils. In the name of people but without our knowledge the sovereignty of the country has been pledged.
Besides, decisions were executed that ‘India should immediately stop the deliberations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and free trade agreements; the documents on discussions related to these agreements should be reviewed by the people and the views of agriculture associations and labor unions representing the people should be considered; the Indian government should discuss on this in the parliament; review meetings should be held with the state governments and local councils; law should be made in such a way that no agreements related to free trade in India unless it is approved by the parliament; all state governments, and state parties should inform their stand on these agreements.
Danger of increased drug pricing!
In the 25.07.2017 dated Pasumai Vikatan, there was an article entitled ‘The ghost that endangers agriculture’ we wrote about the ‘Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership’.
During 17th to 28th July 2017 there was a 19th meeting in relation to this agreement, in Hyderabad, Telengana state. It was held by the ten ASEAN countries with six other free trade partnering countries such as India, China, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Korea. There were deliberations on three titles, Goods, Trade related services and Investments. Corollary to this, other titles, patents, electronic trade, law and organization based problems were also discussed. Besides, there was a meeting among the trade consortiums and social organizations, representing the government.
The Secretary to the Indian Commerce Department, Rita Teotia urged the sixteen countries who participated in the meeting, to exercise equal trade opportunities, standard of life and employment opportunities among the regions.
But the social activists state that the deliberations on the free trade that have been in progress since 2002 are against the farmers and poor and, favorable only to multinational companies. To confirm their statement, the deliberations of the meetings have been maintained confidentially, not being shared to be viewed by the people.
Coming September, there is going to be a meeting among the ministers of those sixteen countries. It is learnt that there could be some noteworthy decisions to be taken in regard to the agreement. There are also rumors about the possibility of increasing the price of drugs in India, as many multinational companies are penetrating the market by virtue of this agreement.
(This series of articles written in Tamil by Ananthu for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 25th Aug 2017 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)