Agri Business

Reforms, a push for corporate takeover of agriculture: AIKS

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on June 04, 2020 Published on June 04, 2020

File photo   -  The Hindu

Farm policy experts say the Ordinance promoting contract farming will hit farmers rather than empowering them

Farmer organisations have described the agri reforms announced by the government on Wednesday as an attempt to facilitate corporate takeover of Indian agriculture and said the measures will no way solve real problems of farmers in the country.

“Allowing traders and big buyers to buy produce outside the notified mandis directly from farmers would mean that the produce would be purchased without auctions and through bilateral negotiations between large traders and poor peasants. Such a system would be inherently biased against the interests of farmers,” All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the largest farmer organisation in the county, said in a statement.

AIKS reminded the government that the APMC Acts were introduced in the 1960s and ’70s to check monopoly powers of big traders and buyers who historically used their might to buy grain from poor farmers at low prices. “Although not always implemented effectively, the APMC Acts introduced a system of auctions which was designed to bring more competition in purchase of agricultural produce,” the Left-backed farmer organisation said.

Farm policy expert Kavita Kuruganthi, on the other hand, said these measures, portrayed as ‘great silver bullets’ are no solutions to “the real problems of farmers.” “There is no evidence to show that deregulation of markets has actually ensured remunerative prices for farmers,” she argued.

AIKS also argued that these Ordinances – 'Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020’ and ‘The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020’ – are against the federal principles and violate the rights of the State governments.

‘States to lose control’

It warned that State governments would not have any control over farming in future, despite agriculture being a State subject and called upon them to take a position against the Centre’s move. It threatened to burn copies of the Ordinances across the country on June 10.

Moreover, with these measures, price support will no longer be available and will expose farmers to the volatile world market prices. “It is not the restrictions in marketing that is causing distress to farmers, but the absence of remunerative prices,” the farmer’s body argued.

‘Aiding traders, not farmers’

The Ordinance promoting contract farming will eliminate farmers rather than empowering them and aid big landlords and agribusinesses to profit at farmers’ expense.

Kuruganthi said it would be delusional to think that contract farming did not progress in India because of the lack of a legal framework. “Corporations who want least transactional costs shy away from dealing with small and marginal farmers. To think that they would do so now, with governmental oversight, is naive,” she argued.

She also wondered how farmers would benefit from the amendment to Essential Commodities Act, which was always about consumers, and it is ‘laughable’ to say farmers would benefit from this. The changes will benefit only traders, neither farmers nor consumers, Kuruganthi added.

Meanwhile, Amith Agarwal, co-founder and CEO of agritech marketplace AgriBazar, said the removal of inter-State agri-trade barriers will help farmers, especially small farm owners and farmer producer networks, to sell their produce at an all-India level with better and transparent price discovery mechanism. The measure will improve the ease of doing business for the agri sector and foster greater transparency, efficiency and trust across the value chain, he added.

Published on June 04, 2020
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