(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)
Agriculture in India is not just an occupation or business but for the people, it is the way of life, very much enshrined in the socio- economic fabric of the country. The developing countries should safeguard the interest of their large number of small and marginal farmers, ensure food security for the people and provide livelihood for their agricultural workers.Farmers in developing countries have been severely hit by domestic support and export subsidies provided by developed countries to their farm sector. This has depressed global prices (distorted prices), leading to India becoming a dumping ground of heavily subsidized agricultural products.
Developed countries have not only blocked market access for developing countries but are trying to push their heavily subsidized farm produces and commodities into the markets of developing countries.
The developed countries have not fulfilled their commitments to reduction of subsidies and supports stipulated in the first phase as per the agreement on agriculture (AoA). Instead, they have increased subsidies by 50% through shifting it from one box to another. It has become very difficult for developing countries to compete in the world market. It totally goes against the spirit and provisions of AoA.
It has become evident that developed countries, which are pumping in massive farm subsidies to the tune of $ 1 billion a day, would try to continue providing support to their farmers in one way or the other. The US Senate rejected a 30 per cent cut in the annual farm subsidy payments. It will further aggravate the trade imbalance between the developed and the developing countries.
India shall have to be very firm that unless there are real reduction in subsidies, the question of lowering its bound tariffs does not arise. Remarkably, the US exports to India has increased substantially.The US investments in India are aimed mainly on technologies.
India being one of the largest farming country in the world and agriculture as the major livelihood resource of the people, it becomes highly imperative to adopt a very clear and farmer centric strategy in all agriculture related negotiations:
• The objective should be to eliminate all subsidies and supports by all developed countries with immediate effect. The developed countries have so far not fulfilled their commitments on Agreement on Agriculture within the prescribed time frame. All subsidies are trade distorting, creating serious trade imbalance between developed and developing countries.
• The developing countries should never commit for reduction of tariff unless total subsidies and supports are phased out by the developed countries.
• The situation being so, question of Market Access does not arise unless the subsidies and supports are phased out.
• Both additional tariff and quantitative import restrictions should be admissible as special safeguard measures for developing countries.
• The developing countries should avail special safeguard mechanism (SSM) for all products & must also have the right to select & limit special products of their choice.
• The issue of sensitive products of developed countries should be a matter of intense negotiations.
• The peace clause should not be renewed in any form.
WTO has adversely impacted Indian Agriculture and its farmers. Instances as under are self explanatory and indicator of the real situation:
The MSP for Paddy is Rs. 530/- per quintal while in Orissa, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh the growers are forced to sell Paddy from Rs. 425/- to Rs. 450/- per quintal. The MSP for Mustard is Rs. 1715/- per quintal. In Rajasthan the growers were compelled to sell Mustard from Rs. 1450/- to Rs. 1450/- quintal, much less than the MSP.
(Editorial : Farmers' Forum Magazine)