April 12, 2021 1:57:24 am
WHILE THE Centre and many economists have claimed that the farm laws will not only help enhance the income of farmers, but also reduce the population dependent on the agriculture sector by migrating them from rural to urban areas, experts on food and agriculture say there is not a single example in the world to support this theory.
They further said that the guaranteed income to farmers for their produce is the only way out of the crisis.
Experts said that the Centre and a large number of economists are mainly offering three solutions to enhance the income of farmers — one, to decrease population depending on agriculture or decrease the number of farmers; second, to enhance the size of farms; and third, to form Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) — farmers’ companies where they will pool their lands and become entrepreneurs by producing, branding and marketing their product for maximising profit.
“One needs to understand the world scenario first. In the USA, the farming population has reduced from 40 to 1.5 per cent in the last over a century but the farm income has not increased there. Rather 40 per cent income of farmers is coming from the government’s subsidies. US farmers struggled with a huge bankruptcy of around $425 billion, that too after the US government has pumped in the same amount i.e. $425 billion, in agriculture in the past 25 years. Despite massive farm subsidy, the rate of suicide in USA is 45 per cent higher in rural America than urban, and farm income is on a steep decline for the past over six decades,” said agriculture and food expert Devinder Sharma, adding that first argument stands nowhere in such a situation.
He also quoted the example of Sweden where only 1.6 per cent of the total population are farmers, but 54 per cent income of farmers is dependent on government subsidies.
Even in Germany where farmers form 2.5 per cent of the population, 1.30 lakh farms have closed since 2005, he added.
Coming to the second argument of economists of increasing farm size to enhance farmers’ income, here too, experts are citing examples of various countries. For instance, the average size of a farm in the US is 444 acres, in Canada it is of 3,000 acres with 1.6 per cent farmers’ population, in France, where there are 7 per cent farmers, it is 135 acres, but Canada’s farmers are facing bankruptcy worth $102 billion while in France, 1,500 farms are getting closed every year and the suicide rate of rural France is much higher than urban.
“In France, the big farmers have over € 4 lakh loan on them while 25 per cent farmers are operating below poverty line. When farmers with such big land holdings in these countries are in bad condition, how can such arguments be valid for India where average farm size is less than 5 acres?” asked Devinder Sharma.
Coming to the argument of formation of FPOs, Sharma cited the example of Australia, where the average farm size is 10,500 acres, and with such big farms, the farmers of Australia can exercise big bargaining with the government at the time of formation of policies regarding agriculture, but farm size has neither enhanced their income nor stopped farmer suicides there.
The experts summed up that factors like decreasing population in agriculture, increasing farm size and forming FPOs have not enhanced farmers’ income anywhere in the world and these need to be discarded with changing times. “There is a need for new economic concepts which guarantee income for farmers’ produce which must be ensured by bringing in reforms,” said Sharma, adding that when the food processing industry is growing so fast, why should farmers be getting poor prices for their produce, which is the base of the food processing industry.
Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) Ugrahan General Secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said that the Government of India has assured World Trade Organisation (WTO) that it will decrease the number of farmers in the country, which means that “our government is toeing the line of the WTO and the World Bank policies”.
Master Jodh Singh, a farm leader, and a writer himself, said: “Under the influence of the WTO and World Bank, our economists and government are making the anti-farmers laws, which have already failed in Western countries where there is a smaller population depending on farming as compared to India. How can such arguments help farmers in India where around 56 per cent population is dependent on agriculture?”
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