Poor Farmers Have Some Rights, Mr Sam...


Disclaimer: I am almost a layman; I have not been delving too deeply into the trade negotiations; just reading the news. The views are my personal views, and readers are free to give a decent comment if I am wrong... 

 "Acquisition of stocks of foodstuffs by developing country members with the objective of supporting low-income or resource-poor producers shall not be required to be accounted for in the AMS (Aggregate Measurement of Support)."

In simple terms, the USA is not agreeing to allow the smaller farmers access to subsidy in the form of administered purchase prices. If USA has its way, all such subsidies shall be a part of the Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS).

AMS  explained here: Agriculture - explanation of the agreement - domestic support

And the reason is a real classic, and I quote: "The US feels any agreement on this issue will give unprecedented flexibilities to China, which gives much more subsidies as compared to India in numbers; their procurement levels are also much higher."

Lets take a look at Indian realities... "Small holdings agriculture which is the focus of this paper is important for raising agriculture growth, food security and livelihoods in India. It may be noted that Indian agriculture  is the home of small and marginal farmers (80%). Therefore, the future of sustainable agriculture growth and food security in India depends on the performance of small and marginal farmers.  Agricultural Census data shows that there were about 121 million agricultural holdings in India  in 2000-01. Around 99 million were small and marginal farmers.  Average size has declined from 2.3 ha. In 1970-71 to 1.37 ha. In 2000-01. Small and marginal farmers account for more than 80% of total farm hhs. But their share in operated area is around 44%. Thus, there are significant land inequalities in India."

From : Page on Igidr

From the same research : "According to NSS 2003 data, the monthly consumption of marginal farmers was Rs.2482 and  monthly income was Rs.1659 (Table 14 and Fig 4.1). It shows that they have dis-savings  of  Rs.823. As NCEUS (2008) says “consumption expenditure of marginal and small farmers exceeds their estimated income by a substantial margin and presumably the deficits have to be plugged by borrowing or other means” (p.12). NCEUS (2008) also indicates that the poverty for small holding farmers is much higher than other farmers. The need for increase in productivity and incomes of small holdings and promotion of non-farm activities for these farmers are obvious. "

So, the hard data above shows the absolute necessity of support for these farmers. The impact on their earnings, and the productivity levels will be disastrous. Being an agriculture graduate with nearly 5 years rural sales experience, I am also aware first-hand of the status of these poor farmers. But no, the great Mr Sam (Also known as Uncle Sam and The USA) can only see that China might gain. It is the same cold war and the middle east problem in another form - Indian interests do not feature in our - aah - strategic partner - at all. They didnt in 1947, and they dont now. That is the only logical conclusion I can draw from this. If this is a strategic partner, then God save me from my enemies!

Some Indian NRI should educate the US Government on a Hindi Word: Insaaniyat. You wouldnt believe it, but it has an exact English word as well : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ins....  Look it up, USA - and update your vocabulary, please. I find it disgusting that the interests of 80% farmers of India - 99 Million of them - can be subjugated to international politics. Disgusting! These are people who need the support very badly, and counting them in AMS would seriously hamper our national interests. The average holding is 1.37 Hectares - and as per WTO, and I quote : "Any farmer holding less than 10 acres was considered small and marginal at the WTO but this was lately brought down to less than four acres." Look at the numbers, and their lack of profitability. Regardless of the reasons for the lack of productivity, it is incumbent upon any society to ensure the protection of their interests. Even the Europeans have agreed to negotiate, and I quote: "European countries are ready to discuss the issue and find a solution, officials said". (By the way, that is 99 Million Farmers - meaning approximately 400 Million People, taking average family size of 4. Let us take things in the proper perspective here.)

Thank you, Uncle Sam. But frankly, I am disgusted... and today, you stand alone on this. This proves conclusively to me that Indian Interests do not feature on US' list. And they talk about a strategic partnership! God save me from my Strategic Partners! It is the same as it has always been - USA focussing on China and Pakistan today, and on Pakistan and Russia yesterday. We have nothing to give the USA except a market. Fine, USA has expectation from us... but remember, we have expectations too. It cannot be a one-sided affair, Mr Sam!

Frankly, this episode has left a bitter taste in my mouth... pusillanimous! Disgusting!

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