Sharma: success for the farmers’ movement in India would send a global signal

5 February 2021 — Political Concern

Addressing the Oxford Real Farming ConferenceDevinder Sharma (below, left) said that the farmers’ movement in India could have global implications (Tribunearticle).

If the Indian farmers succeed in making Minimum Support Price (MSP) a legal right, it would cause major disruptions to international trade.

An economically worked out minimum assured price would make farming a viable proposition

Instead of leaving them to face the vagaries of the markets, which have pushed farmers globally into a debt trap, the demand to ensure that no trading takes place below the MSP would not only provide farmers with a safety net but would gradually become an economic design for the rest of the world to emulate.

Markets have destroyed millions of farm livelihoods

Sharma earlier explained that more than 90% of the cocoa farmers are living in extreme poverty, receiving only $1.30 as the average daily income. Their share of income in the end-consumer price is a fraction of the enormous profits the chocolate manufacturers make, but until recently no one has looked at their plight and revealed that markets have destroyed millions of farm livelihoods.

The huge agricultural support that the US, Canada and European Union provide for commercially important farm commodities lowers international prices.

According to a joint paper published in 2017 by India and China for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – welcomed by over 100 countries – the US, EU and Canada give huge subsidies accounting for 90% of the product-specific support for agricultural commodities and grossly depressing global prices. In many cases, this support is twice the total value of the crop produced (215% for wool; 141% for mohair by the US; and in the EU by 120% for white sugar and 155% for tobacco).

Despite this, the US describes Indian support to farmers as a hurdle to global trade and the WTO advocates dismantling India’s Farm Support Programme, curtailing the MSP for wheat and rice to keep it within the prescribed limit of 10% for product-specific support(page 2 onwards) under the Aggregate Measure of Support regulation

Flourishing agriculture sectors are the first necessity for achieving the goal of hunger-free world.

The farmers’ demand to make MSP a benchmark for domestic and international trade would result in severe disruptions in international trade, but it would also better the lives of a large section of country’s population, holding the key to future growth and bridging the huge income disparity the world has failed to address.

If MSP became enshrined in law, it would send a global signal, shifting the focus from trade competitiveness and ensuring that livelihoods of farmers – the primary producers – would become economically viable and sustainable everywhere in the world.

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