Opening up Indian food trade to European Union and the US

(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)

The decision of Government of India to give Free Trade status to European Union in agriculture products spells disaster for Indian farmers. If the ostensible purpose of the Indian Government is to ensure food security and food sovereignty, then this move will destroy our farmers and our food growing potential.

The main causes for food insecurity and consequential widespread malnutrition in India is not inability of farmers to grow enough food. Farmers have been led to believe that: (i) they must earn cash to raise their standard of living; (ii) in order to earn cash they must produce for the market, (iii) earn cash income and (iv) use the cash to buy food and other services from the enforced market economy.

In the US and EU a farmer is fortunate to get a net return of 5% on revenue; in the LDCs the entire household must work, including women and children, to earn a subsistence or starvation wage. Indian farmers have been duped by seed, fertilizer and pesticide companies ever since the Green Revolution started.

Market forces entice farmers to grow cash crops that are raw materials for food, feed and fibre industries controlled by global cartels. They are lured by promises of higher income but it falls when there is bumper crop and it falls when yields drop. This is of course Government engineered.

The major threat to Indian agriculture would come from the huge subsidy that the European Commission and the US government provide to its biggest farmers [not their own small farmers, please note] that allows the cartel backed by their respective governments to manipulate global agricultural commodity prices exactly as they want. The top 10% of the biggest agricultural producers [in the USA] received more than 72% of its $23 billion subsidy programs in 2005. Meanwhile, 60% of all US farmers do not collect any government subsidies.

The European Commission data show that in 2004, US$36 billion (€28.2bn) of direct subsidies was paid out of a total Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget of $58bn (€45.6bn) and 7% of Europe's primary food producers received more than 50% of these payments. The biggest 2,460 farmers in Europe received on average $667,000 (€524,000) each, totaling $1.7bn (€1.3bn).

The sops totaled over 140 billion dollars over 1995-06 in the US as well and covered cotton, canola, soy, sorghum, among other agriculture commodities. These products would be dumped on India by the combined might of US and EU, while their corporatized farmers enjoy huge subsidies. The US Government is on record for stating that food shall be used as a weapon.

Take rice, which is staple food for nearly 3.7 billion Asians. The US Government provided about one billion dollar subsidy to just three rice growers in the US over 1995 to 2006: $526 million to Riceland Foods, $314 million to Producers Rice Mill and $146 million to Farmers' Rice Cooperative.

And US rice is contaminated with genetically engineered genomes that would kill healthy Indians. When German farmers found that genetically engineered seeds had contaminated their foods, they requested their Government to enhance contamination level from 0.1% to 0.9%, a nine times increase.

In matters of agriculture, the Government of India must stop Free Trade with EU and the US because in these two regions small farmers have disappeared, industrial farming is the norm and that is controlled by five seeds corporations and about ten agri-business corporations.

Together they control global supply of food grains, milk, meat and all foods. The Government of India must not support global monopolies if it has any respect for law, morality and socio-economic reality of India where 70% household are dependent on farming.



(Editorial : Kisan Ki Awaaz Magazine)