Synopsis: Present agriculture reforms have not considered the ground level issues faced on the regional level and vertical level.
Introduction New farmers laws
Recently, the current government has opened up the output market with the purpose to let market forces improve effectiveness and create more value for farmers and the economy.
- New farm laws state that farmers are now free to sell all their products anywhere and to anyone beyond the APMC markets.
- The laws also promote contract farming by creating partnerships between farmers and food-processing companies and license unlimited notice of food except in special conditions.
However, reforms cannot be forceful and should be implemented as per the requirement of farmers.
What do the farmers want?
The farmers gave 3 main suggestions in the enquiries held with them:
- Firstly, the selling price of their produce should include the cost of production and reasonable profit margin.
- Secondly, rise and fall in prices should be nominal.
- Thirdly, Farmers are not comfortable in dealing with legal or administrative officials, so there should be little or no interface between them.
What are the issues with new laws?
There will be no control over the new markets by anyone which creates a lot of uncertainty.
- First, concerns related to Mandi-market system:
- Farmers could go to local leaders in case of malpractices in Mandis but there is no authority to report to in the new system.
- There is no certainty over the continuation of the mandi-MSP system as if the alternative traders offer better prices, farmers will go there and not to the mandis.
- Second, Issues related to contract farming:
- There is an advantage to the corporate-buyers as they can choose to not buy the full quantity and delay payments. The corporates have access to several lawyers, so the poor farmers can’t complain or compete against them.
- This is a contract between unequal and will result in unequal outcomes. Farmers do not have the resources or are not educated enough to deal with traders or corporates.
- Third, Issues related to similar solution for different problem
- The conditions of different regions are not similar as country is diverse with some 15 agroclimatic zones and has over 50 crops grown.
- It is also the reason behind farmers from outside the wheat-rice belts in northern India are not protesting.
- Thus, a comprehensive law for all the regions with different cropping patterns and climatic conditions might create troubles for farmers later.
What are the steps should be taken?
- The problem of lack of progress and high input prices in agriculture can be resolved through an efficient approach suggested in the M.S. Swaminathan Commission and/or the Ashok Dalwai Committee.
- For example, a solution should be worked out for farmers to switch from water-soaking paddy crops to other crops in Punjab and Haryana in the next five years.
- They would reduce the area under paddy by 25-30%, and the loss they suffer in the short run, will be compensated for by the government. This could also be done for sugarcane in western Maharashtra.