Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Make Trade Fair

Long time since I have blogged. Have been busy with lot of personal stuff and will be for a month or so. But till then I would want to share some articles which highlight efforts by some NGO groups.

This effort is pretty important. This raises awareness about the trade policies especially agricultural subsidies offered by the developed world to their farmers. It is well known/documented that these subsidies have several negative imapcts including

1. These lower the world-wide prices for agricultural produce causing farmers from developing/under-developed world to sell in the market at a loss or negligible profit.

2. They promote inefficient production in developing world. A theory which goes quite against the basic principles of capatalism promoted by the developed world.

3. Even in US Mainstream Media it is well documented that these subsidies dont benefit the smaller farmers in US but only the bigger farmers/corporates. People get on average >$125,000 in subsidies for this and most are high net worth indiviuals.

There are several other negative impacts and well documented on Oxfam or WTO or even in main stream media. The article below talks about an Indian NGO doing a public campaign against these. This is specially important in relation to the upcoming WTO talks in Hong Kong.

Hundreds of farmers, students and volunteers worked around the clock to gather one million signatures for a "make trade fair" campaign that ended last week. The drive, concentrating on sugarcane farmers in the region, was to protest dumping of sugar in the country by foreign producers; campaigners hope to make India self-sufficient in sugar production. Muthuvelayudham of CCD says "the main aim is to put an end to export oriented industrialization and to concentrate on self-sufficiency and restoring indigenous farming processes lost due to globalization and liberalization." He argues that the farmers are the biggest losers in the globalization game.

The one-month-long campaign was launched on 16th October simultaneously in Orissa and Tamilnadu. Covenant Centre for Development (CCD), an NGO from Tamilnadu, spearheaded the movement in all south Indian states and in Orissa. Cycle rallies in Sooranam in Madurai and Bhubhaneshwar, Orissa marked the launch.

Developed countries provide high subsidies to their farmers which makes farming financially viable in those nations. Further, by clever manipulation of their subsidy reduction commitments, rich nations have increased the support to farmers in the developed countries. The subsidies allow producers in developed nations to compete globally; trade policies that have forced open the markets of developing countries additionally make Third World farmers vulnerable to the imports of highly subsidised products. India has seen a massive increase in the imports of agricultural commodities and products from about Rs.50 billion in 1995 to over Rs.150 billion in 1999-2000 - a three-fold increase in only a few years.

Students on a bicycle rally during the launch of signature campaign in Sooranam, Tamilnadu.

Trade policies crafted far from their lives nonetheless affect farmers in significant ways; the woes of Indian sugarcane farmers attest to this. With fifteen acres of fertile land, two wells that contain water sufficient for whatever crop one wants to grow, 72-year-old Mookaiah I from Palamedu, Tamilnadu should be in a good position, but he begs to differ. He and his family have been living hand-to-mouth for the last four years. Traditionally a sugarcane farmer, Mookaiah now has no money to cultivate sugarcane or any other crop. His land stands barren. Until the 1950s Mookaiah and his family cultivated sugarcane and used it to make jaggery. And when Tamilnadu government decided to open a cooperative sugar mill at Alanganallur in Madurai, he along with other sugarcane farmers decided to sell their produce to the mills.

Selling cane to sugar mills was the easiest thing, he says. "The mills took care of everything. They gave us the seeds; they told us what kind of fertilizers to use and they arranged labour for harvesting too. We got paid handsomely. We were promised that this arrangement would not be disrupted." This was better than making jaggery, for which the cost of production would be too high and the market prices would vary depending on the quality of jaggery, which in turn depended on the quality of sugarcane. The farmers didn't have to worry about all that if they just sold their sugarcane to the mills.
Continued on India together site. I dont copy/paste the complete article because taht would be wrong and diverting traffic away from india-together site.


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