10 Feb, New Delhi: Indian farmers joined people with HIV and small traders to protest against the EU-India Free Trade agreement, which will impact all three sectors by ending livelihoods and cutting access to cheap medicines. EU is calling for a speedy resolution of this agreement, while the Indian government has not undertaken any democratic consultations or impact assessments and the text is still kept secret from the people.
Small and medium farmers are against free trade in agriculture which encourage dumping of cheaply produced food products and put local food producers out of business while cutting the ability of nations to feed themselves by increasing reliance on imports. They instead support food sovereignty which is the ability of nations to feed their people through local production by small farmers, local resources, local agro-ecological methods and traditional knowledge of farmers. They oppose the corporate take over of the food system that cares more about profit than people or nature. This FTA is precisely a corporate take over of the food system, where agribusiness in both EU and India will benefit while pushing small farmers and milk producers out of business in both the regions.
Below is the letter from the farmers to the Prime Minister:-
Under this trade agreement, EU is demanding that India must reduce import tariff to zero on 92 percent of tariff lines in agricultural and industrial goods. This will have seriously detrimental effect on India’s rural livelihoods, on agricultural production and consequently on our food security. It has been projected that the India-EU BTIA may lead to increased imports of dairy products, coffee, tea, cereals, fruits and vegetable, meat and poultry products and other value-added agriculture products. EU has an unfair export advantage in all of these products. The cheaper imports of dairy products from the EU's heavily subsidised and protected dairy sector could result in a significant dislocation of local producers of milk and dairy products in India and women farmers will be worse affected as dairy employ a large population of women. It will have serious and long-lasting impact as the bulk of our rural population is dependent on them for employment and livelihood. Indian farmers and farming are already under great distress due to the trade liberalization under the WTO regime and since 1995 when India signed WTO, more than 250,000 farmers have been reported to have committed suicides, making this the largest wave of suicides in the world. The drastic reduction of agricultural tariff under BTIA will flood the Indian market with heavily subsidized and ‘surplus’ agricultural produce from 27 European countries and it will lead to another spate of farmers’ suicide in the country.
Several reports and studies have confirmed that India’s gain in agricultural exports to EU will hardly increase under the BTIA, as compared to EU’s exports which is poised to gain substantially (CEPII-CIREM 2007). Since EU agricultural subsidies are off the trade negotiations under BTIA, they would continue to pose hurdles for Indian agricultural exports to EU. The strict food standards in EU (uneven across 27 EU member countries) pose another great challenge for our exports to EU. That’s why India gains much lower (83 million USD in agro processed food and 33 million USD in primary products) or negligible (USD 7, 2 and 1 million USD respectively in cereals, other crops and products of animal origin) amounts.