Lift ban on maize exports!

The Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council is a set of retired officials. As such they are the ones who had lost touch with the ground level realities long ago.
They have now invited themselves severe criticism from paddy farmers. The government agreed for an MSP of Rs.1,000 per quintal and this announcement saw the rise in paddy acreage this kharif.

Suddenly the government became bold and once again resorted to some trick. The minimum support price after arrived at by the Costs and Prices Committee, a mechanism in place to determine the costs and other expenses involved for each crop, every season. Now after this very important committee has recommended a price, why suddenly bring in the PM’s pet body which doesn’t seem to have any work other than doing this sort of unpopular public service.

What went into this sudden cut in the price of a food item that is the very basic strategic crop and once you do this then the whole enthusiasm of the farming community is busted.

The result is for all to see.

Such an unpopular act performed by the government, soon after its popular mandate for governance is sure to dent the image of the government in the elections.
Is this what we expect from the government?

Surely, this announcement won’t go unchallenged and soon enough this will also be taken to the Sonia’s court and the government is very likely asked to see wisdom and change gear!

The World Trade talks ,after seven years of negotiations had failed.
Surprisingly, Indian farmers seem to become more awake, the farm leaders have welcomed the failure of the WTO talks!

Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers, Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson, Yudhvir Singh had openly welcomed this Dhoha talks failure. Apart from minister Kamalnath, WTO man, Pascal Lamy, others who have a concern and expertise like Bhaskar Goswami of Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security, Biswajit Dhar, head, Centre for WTO studies at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade have also welcomed this breakdown of talks.

There must be enough reasons, we believe and we welcome their clarifications on the Special Products(SP) and Special Safeguard Mechanisms(SSMMs) to protect the small farmers.

MNCs exporting farm goods, mostly American firms are too powerful and capable of manipulations that could really hurt once for all any chance of Indian farming getting up and standing up to face the future competitions. So, as the minister Mr.Nath says, this must be taken as a pause not a breakdown and let us go ahead with newer terms negotiated.

For the record, the US which alone still pays 9 billion farm subsidies, as last year, and this large subsidy is at the heart of the trade-distorting current situation. This trade-distorting US farm subsidies are also now would be allowed to go up to that of about 14.5 billion. This is the sticking point.

However, in order to win over the developing countries, to pen up their economies for Western goods and services, the US and the EU have come forward to cut their farm subsidies, EU, by 80 per cent and USA by 70 per cent.

Yet, India and China are protesting for they know well that once you open up the US could flood the Indian market, or other developing countries markets by cheap US farm exports.

So, the policy makers in Delhi have to see the many layers of the issues that face Indian farmers.

First, the Indian farmers are not getting adequate prices for a range of important crops, from cotton to maize and other grains that go into export trade.

Not the least are the two major food items, wheat and rice, and rice in particular is the only major agri commodity that is still critical for India’s food sufficiency goals as well as an exporting item.

India basmati and non-basmati rice exports are a critical aspect of Indias growing export trade, more so the farm exports trade.

Of course, the export traders’s interests are different from the interests of the farmers.

So, what comes mostly in the mainstream newspapers as news is only the news about the farm exporters points of view.

Indian farmers are still very backward when it comes to contributing to make informed policies. They neither read the English newspapers nor the specialist magazines like this one.

So, we are also left with no choice but to write what we know.
Rains, failure of rains are all the mainstream newspapers report. This kharif season, rains have been deficient and there is everywhere reports that major crop sowings are affected. Acreage coverage is reduced, for in Maharashtra there is a second seed sowing ,because of the erratic rains.

Poor rains, poor sowing, poor acreage, poorer output is the current refrain!
Given the fact that farmers are the weakest link in the chain. Textile industry is stronger than cotton farmers, so cotton prices are always kept depressed, the largest farmers suicides take place only in the cotton belt!

As per the latest data, the acreage for all major crops,paddy,1121 basmati, coarse cereals, pulses, oilseeds, cotton, maize and, except, sugarcane have all risen by 60 per cent(basmati) to cotton(35 per cent) and maize(21 per cent).These are also the crops that are exported and so the traders lobbies for each of these crops are working over-time to plead against exports and the government routines, always under great pressure from these lobbies, resort to export ban!

See even the Bihar Chief Minister Mr.Nitish Kumar, one-time Union agri minister, wants the ban on maize lifted as it hurts farmers. Bihar produces 10 per cent of Indian maize output and thus, the state farmers are hit.

The common variety of paddy is the one that is consumed at home and even for this variety there are export markets.

So, the MSP reduction for paddy from Rs.1,000 per quintal to Rs.850 would surely hit the largest number of poorer cousins of these other crop growers and would hit them severely.

The PM’s economic advisory council has invited the anger of the farmers across the country. It is time the council is wound up which anyway didn’t do much to glorify itself with its wisdom!

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