`West making third world a market for its produce'

MADURAI, MARCH 11. There has been a systematic degradation of agricultural operations in developing countries to enable developed nations make them markets for their produce, according to Devinder Sharma, a food and trade policy analyst.

Addressing a meeting on `Food security in peril in the advent of World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement on agriculture' here today, Dr. Sharma, who is director, Forum for Food Security, New Delhi, said the western countries were increasing the subsidy for agriculture despite the agreement stressing to doing away with subsidy.

The member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development were providing Rs. 5,000 crores as direct subsidy a day for 1.5 crore farmers, whereas 60 crore farmers in India were getting the same amount as indirect subsidies a year. "Even as they are continuing with the subsidies, they want India to stop it. Our own policy-makers are supporting them," he lamented.

Import of food grains

Recalling that `tax walls' were raised to prevent import of cheaper food grains during the green revolution to ensure assured market for domestic farmers, he said lack of such an adequate taxation policy had led to increased imports. This had badly affected domestic crops such as coffee, coconut, milk, butter and apples.

"The Government has forgotten that import of food grains is tantamount to importing unemployment," he said adding if the trend continued, it would jeopardise the employment opportunity of 60 crore farmers in India. "Just 10 years ago the country was self-sufficient in edible oil, and today 50 per cent of edible oil for domestic consumption is being imported at a cost of Rs.12, 000 crores," Dr. Sharma said.

400 million people to migrate

Lack of adequate price for agricultural produce had led to migration of men, resulting in "feminisation of agriculture," he said, stating that 32 per cent of farmers in the country at present were women. An international body had warned that 400 million people would migrate to urban areas by 2015 in India seeking employment.

The multinational companies, which were so far involved only in promotion of genetically modified seeds and procurement of food grains, were now eyeing the retail market, so that all the products of food processing industry would be available at a cheaper rate in developing countries to destroy local farming activities.

Their agenda was being supported by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and legitimised by the WTO, he said. The meeting was organised by D. Gurusamy, secretary, Food First Information and Action Network, Tamil Nadu.