MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, RAJYA SABHA
National Spokesperson and Head of IT Cell, BJD
The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020
Sir, we all know so far there have been several revolutions in the field of agriculture in this country. The first was the Green Revolution. It was on the farm and we had self-sufficiency in foodgrains because of the Green Revolution. Then there was the White Revolution and that was in the dairy sector. We had Amul and in the entire sector we were self-sufficient, not only self-sufficient, we were able to get into processing. That was a big change. That was a big benefit to the milk producers and people who are involved in this. So, what was required and long overdue was a revolution in the markets, in the agricultural markets. So, these two Bills which the Government says will change the ecosystem of the agricultural marketing, that is, on the fields, I would say they are largely good on intent but completely or probably largely again ignore the implementation aspects. Why did it have to be this way? We have to evaluate the agricultural sector or the agricultural marketing sector where these Bills have been brought in from a point of view as to who are the stakeholders. The stakeholders are the farmers, the traders, the buyers, including Government agencies and the intermediaries. We can think about the reduction in the cost of the intermediation. But can we completely change them? Can you completely remove them from the system? What we are bringing in is whether it is an indirect method of getting intermediaries into the system as a part of the contract-sponsor or as a part of the trader. We have to think about that. We have to think whether a farmer, a small and marginal farmer is in a position to speak about or know about grading, gradinginproduce, so as to be in a position to signa contract. There are structural issues in the Indian agriculture where about 63 per cent farmers are small and marginal; 86 per of the landholdings are with small and marginal farmers. That is why we had the KALIA scheme in Odisha and the Prime Minister Kisan Nidhi. So, it is an established fact that Indian agriculture cannot be thought of without thinking about the small and the marginal farmers. We cannot think about Indian agriculture or the marketing sector without thinking about the sharecroppers and tenure farmers. Who will take care of them? We had a scheme of Balaram recently in Odisha where we gave joint liability partnership agreements to take care of these people. Now, these are structural issues. There is a structural issue of distress sale. Often small and marginal farmers are facing distress sale. So, when we design a scheme, we have to think whether the playing field is level, whether there is unequal kind of power centres or power asymmetries between the buyers and sellers in which case no market can function. There will be a market capture. The buyers are key to the agricultural market. We have to get the buyers. I always say that when we ring up over telephone to Khan Market to get butter chicken, you are not using any market place. You are using the telephone. That is the infrastructure, and you are creating a transaction. So, we need to have buyers and currently, I am not sure if the Bill is going to bring buyers into the market which anyway is not happening and therefore, there is a possibility of cartelisation. It is very important to remove information asymmetry which is again currently inadequate and the Bill fortunately talks about a price information system which is a good thing about the Bill. But the most important thing, which I said because of all these aspects of the small and marginal farmers, remunerative prices cannot be solely guaranteed by the market. There is going to be market failure, in which case, who is going to take care of it? There is going to be market capture as it probably happens now. So, we have the minimum support price. There is a misconception or even if it is conjured up, I do not know. The communication with the farmers is not there at all. There is a feeling that the minimum support price is set to go and the distress might set in once again. It is very important that the M. S. Swamination Report of the C2 costs and 50 per cent more than that has to be implemented. Without thinking about these things, just to get into the contract between contract farming or the trade or freeing the trade may not give the desired results. We have to think about the farmer's insurance scheme. It is an income support scheme. We have to go away from the weather-based system or a crop cutting experiment system to an assurance system. Only then the farmers will be in a position to bargain with the big corporate players. The pre-harvest and post-harvest issues are two different things and unfortunately, they have been conflated in these two Bills. The post-harvest infrastructure at the farm gate level requires to be augmented. There has to be investment in that by these two Bills. Is it going to happen? Will the contract sponsor be investing in this or as we have seen in Bihar where APMC Act was repealed, there was no investment in the existing market. It was leading to the deterioration of even the existing structures. Sir, I am not getting into the details of the Bill, but I can only say that there are things like apiary, the bees, the niger, the maize etc. which are not included as agricultural produce, where contract farming is possible and we have seen in Odisha that it is possible. In the entire two Bills, when the levy of fees has been removed, I really do not understand, how is the market development going to take place in the post-harvest infrastructure scenario? How is the intermediation, aggregation and storage going to improve? You had a Warehousing Receipt Scheme. The entire marketing structure fails if the Warehousing Receipt Scheme doesn't work properly. Has it been evaluated? We have a situation in which The small and marginal farmers do not even have the opportunity to get a minimum support price. So, is the Bill only for the big traders? It is a commerce and trade oriented Bill? Is it moving towards the dilution of the Minimum Support Price? There is a huge miscommunication in the field, particularly in the farmer's procurement areas. So, I would strongly urge the Government and the hon. Minister to consider sending these two Bills to the Select Committee for further examination and clarification and fine tuning some of these provisions to take care of the structural issues in Indian agriculture, particularly the small and marginal farmers. Thank you very much.