Deconstructing Doha


The press is agog with articles on the collapse of the Doha round. It is sad indeed that after 7 years of negotiations the agreement collapsed on a single issue. I have been reading the articles and trying to make sense of what exactly has happened. I thought i will share with you what i learnt on this important issue that confronts the world today. Hoping that the rest of the community also has some additional wisdom that can be shared, as always.


The WTO has been quite successful negotiating other popular agreements like the GATT and TRIPS and others. Negotiations around agriculture started in Doha in the year 2000 and hence the name Doha Round. The main negotations have been around creating a framework that opens up agriculture markets both in developed and developing countries which obviously will give a big boost to the world economy as it has done in other areas of global trade, not withstanding what the opponents of global trade have to say.
Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM)

The entire Doha round which reached consensus around 18 of the 20 topics at hand, could not reach agreement on the issue of “Special Safeguard Mechanism” – Issue no. 20 was around Cotton which the negotiators could not yet get around to due to the impasse on issue no. 19. Cotton, apparently, another big issue especially for the African and Latin American countries which wanted to extract some concessions from the US and EU, but that is a separate topic.

The SSM, in lay terms, is a mechanism which is there to help the developing countries raise tariffs on agricultural imports if they find that their internal market prices crash due to imports. The issue is India (with China giving support quietly) wanted to increase the provisions in the SSM for increasing the tariffs by a margin unacceptable to the developed nations (read US, EU).

There is the linked issue of the generous farm subsidies that the developed nations give to their farmers. US made a token concession on this but no where near what the developing nations wanted. Of course, no one wants to talk about this as a contributory factor, but instead choose to pin the blame on India (China has intelligently played the silent role but supported the Indian position).

Why is India Worried?

The point which probably is missed out in the discussion is that 70% 20% of India’s GDP comes from Agriculture with 200 million farmers dependent on it. By contrast the US has just 1 million farmers and the contribution to GDP is very low (< 2%). The average land holding of Indian farmers is less than 5 acres whereas the US farmer farms thousands of acres by using scale farming.

And given that the US and EU generously subsidize their farmers, cheap farm exports from the US and EU can swamp the markets of developing nations and put millions of poor farmers out of business. This is in essence the real threat that India wants to guard against.

The Mexican Example

I wanted to see if this is indeed a threat or is it simply the UPA government’s posturing to pander to the Indian farmer and secure the vote bank. My research turned up the devastation suffered by the Mexican corn farmers – under NAFTA, US farm exports to Mexico increased 18 fold and has put a third of the farmers out of business in 8 years since NAFTA was signed. In another 6 years, the Mexican corn farmer is expected to completely dissappear. Sadly, corn was first grown in Mexico 5000 years ago.

Similar to India, the Mexican farmer’s average landholding is just 5 acres.


I think this is a legitimate issue for developing nations which are still very dependent on farming. If the US & EU want to preach free market economics to others, they had better cut their farm subsidies to zero, or let India’s SSM proposal go through.

Additionally, i think India has to adopt scale farming techniques rapidly. The threat of cheap farm exports from the developed nations swamping India is very real, with or without Doha. That is the only way we can cut food prices down in India.

What do you all think?


  1. Quote

    Great post Sukumar.

    I’m disagree with India’s request of SSM. Even though, we have a good intention of saving our farmers, we are just killing global economy/open market concept here. If India wants to fight against foreign food/farming competition, why can’t we modernize our agriculture? What is the point of we moving very slow to adopting new technologies and concepts to help our farmers to cultivate food grain? US and EU will not agree this SSM because they control WTO and whole point of this is to sell their products in fast growing economy like India and China.


  2. Quote

    Thanks for the excellent post Sukumar.
    Subbu, what do you think are the options for India? I think every one has to safeguard their economies. At the onset of liberalization, we were in similar crossroads. But industrial economy survived because along with the threat came an opportunity for modernizing the Indian industry. But agriculture is very different I think.

    Anyway I am keen to hear other opinions including yours.

  3. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said August 4, 2008, 1:10 am:

    Thanks. I am no expert in this area, but it seems to me that SSM will be invoked only under special circumstances. India is not saying no to agri imports but merely wants a mechanism to protect its farmers if need be? I don’t think this is unreasonable, is it?

  4. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said August 4, 2008, 1:13 am:

    Thanks Vamsi. You are right, what else can India do? Industrial economy was slightly different – we didn’t have much to write home about when you look at contribution to GDP whereas agri is nearly 70percent of it. Putting that at risk with several thousand farmers committing suicide is unconscionable?

  5. Quote

    Sukumar – Good post. I’m looking forward to the discussion that this post will generate.

    Per my understanding, SSM covers only Special Products deemed critical. That too, as you said, only when there’s a violent surge in imports. As such, I think Kamal Nath did the right thing, all things considered. But, we shouldn’t stop with this. I personally believe that GMO is the way to go – we are needlessly dragging our heels here.

    Subba – I agree that India should march towards an Open Market in Agri Products. But at what cost? Should we let our farmers down – many of them living far below the poverty level – for the sake of the Open Market? We are not dealing with businesses here, we are dealing with people struggling with abject poverty.

  6. Quote

    Hi Sukumar,
    Thanks for explaining it clearly. I think accepting the agreement is the way forward. It will force our farmers to come together to form large tracts of farms, modernize the farming etc. If our farmers implement all these, there will be large farms owned or operated by small number of people and hence all the other farmers will be jobless and alternate employment should be provided to them.
    i.e they should be accommodated in services or manufacturing sector which requires different skills which should be taught to them.

    The farmers cannot do all of this alone, and support of the government is required in creating the ideal conditions and developing good laws and frameworks for it. This is the way our dependence on agriculture will be reduced and this is known to the government from a lot of time. But we havent seen anything on the implementation front. I feel India use the Doha agreement to provide the right environment for executing this far reaching changes. May be we could have negotiated that the SSM will be applicable for a period of say 5 years from now, and in the mean time, prepared the ground work for complete opening up of agriculture. As it has helped all the other industries I am sure, it will ultimately do good to our country and India instead of resisting change, should have taken this as an opportunity to provide a leap forward to our agriculture.

  7. Quote

    Informative post, Sukumar. It gave me a clear understanding of the issue. India too subsidies its farmers through load wavers and free electricity. The main reason our farmers are not competitive is because of poor infrastructure. There are still large areas of farm land which are solely dependent on rains. The farming technology has not caught up with the rest of the world. Still very antiquated techniques of farming are used.

    However there is some hope with corporate like reliance and ITC entering the fray.
    While I do agree that at this point in time we need to protect our farmers from cheap imports, it is not the long term solution to the problem. We should make sure they are provided with good irrigation and farming technology.

    In my father-in-law’s village, government has introduced a technology to store bananas and have provided mechanism for selling them in world markets. It has transformed the lives of farmers there. Previously they were at the mercy of whole salers. Once they transport the bananas they had to sell it at a price that the wholesaler offered, because bananas rot in a very short period. They cannot store it or transport it to other markets. This technology has given them a new lease of life. They are able to sell in far away markets like Philippines.

    In which ever areas we have opened up our economy, it has only benefited our industry. I am sure same will be the the case with farming, if we are prepared.

  8. Quote


    There are multiple angles to this very problem.. I have a lot to say on this, but let me list out a few as a start up..

    1. The food habits of India and US are entirely different. So as the agricultural mechanisms..

    2. The concept of bulk-farming/corporate farming has its own disadvantages (pretty serious.). In most of the cases, bulk farming requires, mono crops, which destabilises the ecological balance. Mono Crops and Bulk Farming, has pushed us to the need of applying fertilisers, pesticides, more and more, which again poses the threat of very extinct of Human Kind. (Pls read Rachel Carson’s “The Silent Spring”). How the pesticides affect humans is an entirely differnt topic for discussion.

    3. Corporate Farming is energy intensive. It adds to already existing greenhouse gases, and increases dependance on Fossil Fuel.

    4. Corporate Farming pushes people to be exclusive. ie, food is grown in some remote places, and transported to the towns and cities. This is a very inhuman and bad concept. (to my opinion).

    5. In most of the Eastern countries, South American and African Countries, Agriculture is largely interleaved with the culture of the people. So it cannot be treated in the same manner as other industries.

    Above All,

    I am dead against commercialising Agriculture. Can a hungriness be measured in terms of Money. One of the prime reason, why agriculture declined to such a low level is the commercialization of agriculture.
    Traditionally, a typical farmer’s family is self-sustaining. All the inputs for the agriculture comes from the very land, that we are doing agriculture. This concept of self-sustained farming is largely possible due to Integrated Farming. (I hope, i have already mentioned about this).

    In Integrated farming, all stake holders participate in this farming. Right from cat, to dog to the bulls, cows, goats, hens, .. everything contribute in their own ways. This is yet another large topic that would be pretty valuable to discuss.


    And, why should the people of india depend on food products produced in america or europe.. and suppose, we are opting for cheap imported food products from america, and thus opening up agriculture. And let’s assume, that america continues to supply food products in abundance and in cheap for some 5 or 10 years. What is the gaurantee, that one day, they would NOT stop the food supply.
    And in that case, do we have the necessary infrastructure, to produce foods locally?

    Or can we take a risk of mortgaging the very source of survival of our people to some third country? Or can any other nation risk doing that?

    So, whether its cheap of costly, the agriculture of a country is to be protected at any cost. The fertile lands should be conserved, and localised consumption of food should be encouraged. This is an ideal situation for a stable and peaceful society.

  9. Quote

    Recently, i had a chat with a person from my native place, now studying in sweden. He said the food products in sweden is little bit costly. For example, onion would cost more than 6or 7 kronors there. But at the same time, the cost of onion in the neighbouring countries would cost around 3 kronors. But still, the sweden government protects their farmers. There are two reasons that he stated for this.

    1. If that country could not protect their farmers, then who would?
    2. Even though the food products are costly, the economy is retained within the country. In the case of opening up imports, the economy would flow away from the country, and also, the local farmers would become extinct.

    This is an entirely valid statement.

    Let’s take any of the industries.. They have the freedom to fix the price they want for their products. A new mobile would cost 20K in the initial release, and would gradually come down to 5k within an year. similarly, for any other products.

    But its the farmers who dont have the freedom or rights to fix the price of the produce. If the food products increase a little, government intervenes and reduces the prices. How can the farmer survive.

    The amount of work they put on the fields, even with latest machinaries, like tractors, borwells, motors, and other accesseries, is far far higher than the amount of returns they are making. But, those who are at the top levels of the government can never going to realise this. Nor those who are living in cities.

  10. Quote

    Thanks for a very informative post Sukumar. While I do agree that the Indian farmer’s life would be at stake with US and EU entering the market, I also feel even otherwise with the entry of conglomerates like Reliance and ITC into the marker, we still are facing some tough competition internally. As many have suggested, this hopefully will waken up Indian government. For some reason, India is not able to have visionary planning and being a developing nation we have ironically only been able to think and correct past issues. We are not future oriented. India sure has all the potential and manpower, however is not futuristic in its thoughts. Hopefully this threat will allow Indian politicians and agriculturalist to adapt technology and enter the global market.

    Could this be a valid suggestion. There is a growing awareness in people for organic produces and India has been practicing this for centuries now. Tapping into this market would give our farmers a great opportunity and as Archana has rightly pointed out, involving technology will be a big help.

  11. Quote
    Subba Muthurangan said August 4, 2008, 9:39 am:

    India and agriculture are emotionally attached with each other. Because most of us, directly or indirectly connecting to an agriculture family. But my point is from global view without emotions.

    Who are Farmers?

    First we need to understand, who are the real farmers. Is the people who owns the land? Or the people who works? In our mind, the portrait of a farmer is very poor and living under poverty. But the reality is, a farmer is a rich people, they are getting all socialism support from British time to now but agri. workers are still living in poverty.

    1. Several agriculture loans were waived, latest one was 19,000 Cs. So it is an assumption that what ever loan that farmers are getting are free. Are they buying any real goods from loan money? Answer is big no and still most of them are using bulls and manual labor for work.
    2. Free electricity, free storage space, free place to sell their products. Everything is free.
    3. Free agriculture advice from professional, free tour to other state to learn new farming technique.
    4. Government sponsored soil lab test and free food grain and free pass to attend farmer’s meeting.

    What we need?
    All the above free stuffs are just to capture vote bank and politics. What we really need are?

    1. Regulate agriculture business like all other business. Provide pension, Government sponsored provident fund to agri. workers.
    2. There is no revolution other than we had one 30-40 years ago, green revolution.
    3. We have only 2-3 agri universities (at least in Tamil Nadu, need to validate current number). Increase agri. universities and sponsor research and development.
    4. Privatize agriculture land and encourage private companies and MNC to start farming and provide license to who ever wants to start agri. business.
    5. Discourage loan waived programs and strict about re-collect money. Nowadays agri loan means O.C.

    Why I disagree SSM

    1. India’s request something like “we know for sure that our farmers can’t compete with MNCs so we need some protection”.
    2. It is like before buying house, even before sign an agreement, somebody wants a clause that, I can burn my house if I there is a mosquito issue in future.
    3. Based on Indian history, our business and economy grows when there is a competition present from MNC. Why can’t we take a chance on Agri. also.
    4. Just see what happens to US steel tariff in 2003[] and this global economy, we can’t hide behind doors and play safely.
    5. SSM is a big protection plan, and preach all rules of global economy. Why we need MNC for IT, ban that, why we need MNC for soft drinks, ban that, why hotels, ban that, ban all MNC and create thick wall for India business and protect them from others.

    Disclaimer : I’m personally totally emotionally involved with agri. and most of my family are still based on agri. In fact, agri. is part of my blood. so I’m not against agri or farmers. but SSM has no logic behind that, and it is just to capture vote bank.

  12. Quote

    Shoba – If we want to increase the yield per hectare, would organic farming really help us? Our focus should be on feeding more mouths. Organic farming is just not the answer. Genetically Modified crops are the way to go. But, people shudder when GMO is mentioned. Instead, we should objectively evaluate GMO crops & see how we can boost yield.

  13. Quote


    Is using bulls and manual labour, so low grade work??

    I agree with you on farm owners being rich.. But, we cant deny the fact, that these land owners had supported the farm labourer well, till when communists entered and spoilt the situation.. What we are seeing is a completely changed situation that happened few decades before.

    As i said earlier, Agriculture is a way of life, and its a culture. Making it a business, will be detrimental..

    Allowing MNC’s like Reliance, ITC etc would be akin to making the entire population slave to a few corporates who may own large tracts of land..

    And finally, when we move people away from agriculture, the more the stress on Earth’s resources. Today, US is just one third of india’s population.. and they are sucking out majority of earth’s resources…

    China emulated US life style, and what happened.. Oil prices surged up.. More than a third of the world’s resources are now consumed by China.. And these are the effects of urbanisation of half of china’s population.. Its unimaginable, what will happen, if half of India’s population, embraced US consumerist life style..

    The only solution is Agriculture should be localised.. and the current mode of exclusive development should be avoided.. ie, cornering one tract of land exclusively for specific industry.. rather, both urban and rural areas should exist together, and nearer.

  14. Quote

    Senthil – Why blame only China for emulating the US, thereby increasing fuel prices? India did its part too!

    And let me ask you a simple question. What is more important? People getting food at affordable prices OR supporting local agriculture (whether the model is scalable or not & regardless of the price)? How logical is it to do the latter, when people go hungry?

    In every single country that isn’t a developed nation, people say that agriculture is inseparable from their culture. There’s nothing magically different about India.

    I agree with Archana. While Kamal Nath did the right thing now, bottomline is, we need to figure out how to boost productivity thru technology or other means. Food prices should come down & yield per hectare should increase.

  15. Quote

    Subba – There are many subsistence farmers in India, who have a few acres of land. Not all farmers are rich. If they were, why would there be mass suicides in Vidarbha? Why would farmers be forced to eat rats in Tamil Nadu?

    And its a misconception to think that farmers don’t repay loans. There was an article in India Today recently, that proved how 80% of the loans received by farmers have been paid back! This is better than the national average!

    I agree with you that we need to move towards corporate farming & that there hasn’t been any major changes since the green revolution. But the government has to protect its poorest people first, then help them modernize. Only then can we move towards removing SSM.

  16. Quote

    Priya.. I agree, india was also to be blamed.. I stressed china, because, it is consuming resources multiple times than india.. Almost of all of india’s iron ores are consumed by china.. and half of australia’s iron exports are to china.. as you said, india is also responsible, however, much of its resources are inbound..

    Regarding your question, i should say, we should be more practical.. i have already raised a question.. if we opt of US cheap foods over local agriculture, arent we becoming more dependant on a foreign nation.. what is the gaurantee, that US wont stop its export, or use this dependance for subjugating india.. self-reliance is much more important than anything else..

    Regarding poverty, we may easily get carried over by sentimental phrases like “People are hungry”.. In today’s scenario, we have enough foodstock available.. (around 15 crore tons).. so producing grains is not a problem here..

    And its a fact, that because of heavy subsidy by US, they are able to dump food stocks so cheaply.. If our government streamlines its subsidy, strengthen our agri infrastructure, we can very well produce foods much cheaper than US.. (on current dollar value, i bet, rice per kg is definitely lower than in US..)

    On technology, long back, i came across a statement.. “We need to first do advanced things using simple technology, rather simple things using advanced technology” .. and this exactly holds true for india..

    I will just let you know an example.. in traditonal ways, the weeding in a rice field is done by labourers manually .. now there is a simple machine available just for Rs.1500.. i havent used it.. but from my relative’s words, it would ease the work to a large extent..

    Then, for paddy, traditional method of water intensive agriculture is now replaced with a method that uses minimal water..

    For sugar cane, instead of traditional ways, now alternative method (where bunch of sugarcanes planted in rounded pit, at spacious intervals) are tried out, which yields more tonnes per acre..

    There are lot of simple techniques to increase yield at extremely cost effective way..

    my father was trying organic farming few years before.. and one of the problems faced is pests.. and there was simple solution.. to spray neem oil mixed with soap, at an appropriate time.. the neem oil will remove the surrounding smell of the rice plant, which may reduce pest attraction.. (it reduces cost of pesticide, and thus financial burden on farmers is considerably reduced..)

    Today, we moved entirely to horticulture.. and we do that by nothing.. we left the nature to take care of it.. and the result.. people from our village, book for the fruits in advance.. and it was so healthy, fresh for long time, and much sweeter, than my neighbours, who uses fertilizers..
    (if you want it, i would be glad to send you in parcel 🙂 )

  17. Quote

    Senthil, Rich farmers are taking care of serfs? Which century you are talking about. Even until recent times (1990s), in Telangana, when a Patel walks on the road, farm laborers (who are usually so called low caste people) have to remove the towel from the shoulder and stand aside until he passes by. There is a phrase ‘banchan dora’ which means ‘I am a slave my Lord’ used by them in every single sentence they talk with the landlords to constantly remind them of their social status.

    Communists contribution for land reforms is not a small contribution. I am not supporting their means, but their ends are really commendable.

    What we need is making the farm sector more organized. I echo Dr. JPs views which are very logical and politically achievable – Pl read this

    Priya, 80% repayment rate. It is an astonishing number. Particularly if we compare to the mortgage bond crisis, the smart and great Wallstreet people brought the US economy to.

    Any kneejerk reaction to this sensitive issue will cause serious issues to our society.

  18. Quote
    Subba Muthurangan said August 4, 2008, 11:33 am:

    I didn’t say bulls and manual labor are low grade work. We are not upgrading to latest technology and still using the old way. But spending money for else where.


    I have to read the India today article. My grandfather was big ‘pannaiyar’, he used to manage 10 acre of land, never re-paid loan. He was not alone, almost all ‘pannaiyars’ used to does that 😉 . If somebody try to repay, they call him/her “ele-cha-vayan”. 🙂

    I’m really sorry about mass suicides, But still I have a doubt that this all because of poverty or they couldn’t pay back high interest loan from private party(meter vatti). I don’t want to be emotionless here, but the truth is still hidden. I believe, I have to do more research on this. But I strongly believe that, these landlords are very very rich, we are unnecessarily providing socialism support.


  19. Quote

    Priya.. regarding rat eating, i guess, you are mentioning about the news from tanjore.. i just want to share my personal experience here, and how media either suppress truth or blow out of proportion..

    Normally, during paddy cultivation, rats problem is a big one.. there would be lot of furrows inside the fields, and after the harvesting, farmers used to hunt rats, both for “Curry” 🙂 and for a fact, that if these rats are left as it is, it will multiply rapidly and pose further problem..

    Before 1990’s, that during dry seasons, we used to hunt rats, rabbits, by training our dogs… i was a small boy at that time, but it would be a great fun..

    And it was the same that happened in tanjore..

  20. Quote


    I agree with you, this was a photographer’s mistake. He took the snap, when this “hunters” ate rats. There is a tribe in Tamil Nadu “Irula” they used to hunt rat and eat for long time like 1000 years. I have no idea, when this “irula” community become poor farmer. I guess now in India who ever are poor, are called farmers and who ever suicides are poor farmers. Where is real farmer then? They are just enjoying government support and watching cinema in town.


  21. Quote

    Senthil – I’m not disputing the fact that organic food is tastier, more nutritious etc. I’m simply questioning the yield. We need to use techniques that will exponentially increase the yield. Why are you so averse to new technology? Its an irony of life that you, who work in a high-tech industry, want farmers to use only low-tech methods!

    I agree that some simple methods are also good, but what we need is a sea-change in increasing yield.

    There was an article in Tughlaq recently, where they proved that food reserves have been coming down over the past few years. If as you say, everything is hunky-dory & we make plenty of food, why is there such a big rise in food prices everywhere?? We are not producing enough to cope with the increasing demand.

    The fact is, farming has collapsed in Tamil Nadu. For e.g. – So many of the car drivers in Chennai are from Tirunelveli or Trichi. They were forced to abandon farming because it isn’t viable anymore.

    Subba & Senthil – I lived in Thanjavur for 9 years. So, I know who Irulars (Snake Wranglers) are. I’ve met people who were forced to eat the barks of trees & vermin when their farms collapsed.

    Subba – I wonder what makes you think that all or most farmers are Zamindars. So, according to you, there are no small farmers at all?

    Yes, 1 of the main reasons for farmer suicide is the loans they get from loan sharks. 2nd is their crops failing completely – either the soil has depleted, there were pests or the rains failed. Or, in the case of Tamil Nadu, Cauvery water is no longer available, thanks to Karnataka.

  22. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said August 4, 2008, 11:00 pm:

    Interesting discussion folks. I am sure there are several farmers who are rich, but how many out of 200 MM is that? Even if we assume 10% are rich that still leaves 180 MM farmers who are in varying levels of poverty. As Priya says, we need to protect them first.

    Senthil, i have read a lot of sustainable farming stuff, but the question is, can it produce an order of magnitude increase in farm yield comparable to that produced by scale farming? If not, the discussion is futile.

    Sustainability has to be coupled with feasibility. When 180 MM farmers go hungry no point in preaching to them about “Green” ideas.

    As Priya says maybe GMO can help, but i wonder what impact it will have on the rest of the gene pool of our fauna. i don’t think anyone has any idea on what kind of long term impact these will create.

    Overall, we need to clean up our act on agriculture quickly.

    I agree with Archana, Subba, Shoba, that protectionism in the long run is counterproductive. As a free market zealot, i totally agree.

    However, we also need a mechanism to protect our farmers.

  23. Quote

    Sukumar – We’ll know the long-term impact of GMO crops only if we study them objectively. Right now, most people have a knee-jerk reaction to GMO technology. That’s certainly not going to help.

  24. Quote

    Priya, Anti-GMO stance again has cultural connection. The perception is GMOs produce sterile yield which cannot produce next gen crop. Any pro-farmer group will naturally oppose it because it will make the farmers dependent on the seed companies forever. Why cannot government which has much larger credibility buy such patents and experiment. They can start a new PSU for sure if it serves larger interests. We dont have problem with money making PSUs like ISRO. We naturally do not oppose any such progressive steps.

    IMO it is a best choice to see alternatives to GMO with proper planning. Already human interference with nature is ongoing and more aggressive than ever. See what happened to Everglades.

    Subba/ Senthil, media is monkey. Impartial reporting is not what happens everyday. Sales do matter. But that is side topic. It is a fact that Indian agriculture is in mess. There are no strategic plans (at least I am not aware) like Golden Quadrilateral etc which will streamline the sector, make it more relevant. I have met many people in IT who are first generation outside the farming. Not all of them are rich by any standard. I dont know about TN. But still in many places, large tracts of land are in few hands. They are rich farmers. But farm laborers and small farmers are very large in number. They are those with less than 15 acres of land. They are the soul of India.

    No guaranteed irrigation – Thanks to river projects by upper states like Maharashtra and Karnataka
    Irregular Monsoon Rains – Nature at it’s best
    Government Penetration is low
    Not the best market yards
    Dalari system (middlemen commission based who inturn fund next crop)
    Poor pesticides quality and no good awareness on ratio for mix and spraying techniques again illiteracy)
    No crop holidays and crop rotation based on global (global could be within the country)

    For so many problems the root cause is again illiteracy. We should educate the farmers until 8/9 years with farming and probably other economically viable vocational skill. It may help them use that technique during crop holidays.
    Ban free flow of liquor in rural areas.
    Avoid stupid schemes like NGREA or modify them to make people understand that there is guarantees in life.

    Then we will be prepared for any global agreement. Our people will be at least ready to take on the competition.

  25. Quote

    /** Subba – I wonder what makes you think that all or most farmers are Zamindars. So, according to you, there are no small farmers at all? **/

    This is my pragmatic view, I don’t have any statistics to prove that. I haven’t meet any poor farmer yet, who owns land and cultivate rice/or banana/or coconut/or rubber etc and making hefty profit. Yes, you are absolutely right that when nature turns against farmer, they all lost lot of money. But as per my memory, we had a bad drought back in late 1980s. I don’t know much about Tanjore fields, but there also now good water flow. I never heard drought from Haryana, Punjab, AP, thanks to river based irrigation. I think we have to distinguish farmer (Owner) and worker. The farm land itself priceless now, on top it, continuing raising food cost added more advantage to farmers. I even disagree we have 200 Million farmers in India, if you include workers then yes we have. A tea estate in Ooty span across 1000 acres, is it owned by one or all who works there also? We are using 50% of our land for agri., that is, approximately 150 Million Sq KM [Source:], our average field size is approximately 20 Sq KM subject to partitions [Source: Wiki], for argument sake i used 5 to divide 20 Sq KM, so we need 800 Million Sq KM space for 200 Million farmers, are we including Pakistan’s space also here?? Correct me if I’m wrong??


  26. Quote


    I am sorry to disagree. Farm workers are farmers. They are agricultural laborers and hence cannot become say call center employees overnight if farming sector is affected.

    AP has no drought!!! If you think of AP, please do not assume only Krishna Godavari delta. Even they have many consecutive bad years thanks to river water issues. Rayalaseema and Telangana regions, also districts like Prakasam (Ongole) have severe drought. In fact, farmer suicides is #1 reason why Chandrababu Naidu lost his elections. No urban dweller has any issue with him.

    If you talk about Tea plantation, I can refer you to commercial crops like Cotton, Sugarcane and Peanuts. My friend’s family (in Anantapur District) literally ate ‘only’ peanut based food for 1 year in 1997-1998. The reason is 3 bad crop years, private loans, naxallites (AP naxals are real gentlemen. They want to distribute 10 acres this poor BC (yadav) farmer has in his village).

  27. Quote

    Priya.. I am not averse to technologies.. My opinion is technology should enhance us.. not enslave us..

    Btw, i read the article in Thuglak that you have mentioned. That was written by Gurumurthy.. He mentioned, that during NDA, the food stocks rose to highest level , at the 4th year of their rule, they reduced the stock level.. it was a foolish decision any way..

    I agree with you on collapse of farming, car drivers etc.. You see.. most of the lorry drivers are from my place who are migrated farmers..

    The question is WHY farming Collapsed? The sole reason is because of government’s apathy.. right from nehru’s period.. its really a wonder, our agri had survived 50 years of misrule and apathy..

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    Cuba is a best example in implementing Organic and localised farming..

    Organic farming is entirely feasible, and in one way the right method.. the advantages are in long run..
    Let me explain..

    In farming, the soil health is very important.. there are more than 100 varieties of living organism that form the ecosystem.. the top most is the Earth worm.. in one way, it is regarded as the grinding machine of the earth, that works 24/7 .. All these constituents, are integral form of nature, which assists mutually, and dependant on one another..

    In organic farming, this core constituent is preserved and developed.. we are enhancing nature to strengthen itself so that the plants that we grow gets its essential nutrients for ever.. and all these without any costs..

    In Green revolution, the first criteria they advocate is to apply fertilizers.. and fertilizer is pure chemical, that alters the soil composition.. this leads to death of symbiotic bacterias and algae, earthworms, thus breaking the very ecological cycle..

    And over a period of time, as the farmers continuously apply fertilisers the soil loses its lively properties, and now the crop that we grow entirely depends on the fertilizers.. since soil ecology is affected, there is no natural control of pests, and hence driving us to apply pesticides.. This further poisons the soil, and any organism that might have survived, now becomes either dead or sterile..

    What is the end result.. We may boast of productivity, in terms of quantity (NOT quality) and time.. But, the cost that we are giving is destructive..

    My uncle started doing organic farming for paddy.. There was a difference of around 7 bags /acre if we do organic farming.. but this is at initial stage.. But, in the long run, as the soil health improves and the ecological balance is again created, the difference would get reduced to 2 or 3 bags per acre.. as per some reports, in fertile areas, organic farming produces more than green farming..

    In cost wise, we can consider the following factor.
    1. the cost of manufacturing fertiliser. This is dependant on fossil fuel.
    2. the cost of transporting and applying fertiliser..
    3. The estimated cost of soil degradation and the reduction in output.
    4. The cost of manufacturing/transporting and applying pesticides.. normally handheld mortars that runs on kerosene or petrol is used for spraying ..
    5. The increased manual intervention, due to various artificaial processes to be followed.
    6. The cost of people’s health, due to effect of pesticides.. It has been established, that cancers (mainly liver cancer) are largely occurs due to pesticides..

    Advantages of Organic Farming:

    1. Reduced manual intervention.. when nature takes care of itself, we can just sit and watch.. 🙂
    2. Increased quality of food..
    3. Soil health only improves..
    4. Cost savings in all other manual inputs, like fertilisers, pesticides etc.
    5. organic farming is done in integrated method.. Cow rearing is one important aspect.. so, additional income,.. since the food for cow is got from the manual/mechanised weeding, its an additional saving..

    There are lot other aspects..

    When we see the source of green revolution, we can trace back to Rockfeller foundation.. After WW-II, there were so much of explosives rendered useless.. There was a need to dispose them off.. they then devised this green revolution, so that they can sell of these explosives by converting it to fertilisers.. In the name of technology, they have fooled many countries, for their selfish motives.. (i am not exaggerating.. even C.S swaminathan, who introduced green revolution, is not advocating organic farming.. )

    What are the technologies that can assist us..

    1. Drip Irrigation..
    2. Solar energy..
    3. Technology to tap Cobar Gas more effectively.
    4. Improvement in agricultural practices that would enhance current one.. (NOT replace)

    More than technology, its the right to farmers to administer themselves, that’s most needed.. Why should some crooks sitting in the capital decide on what a farmer should do in his fields.. Let the farmer, be empowered.. Let them come together, and decide what they need.. For that, devolution and decentralisation of power is needed..

  29. Quote

    One of the main reason for farmer’s poverty is commercialisation..

    The cycle of survival is collapsed due to this.. and this can be traced back to the british period.. (NO.. i am not talking of nationalism here 🙂 )

    Prior to Britishers, agriculture is done mainly for Food.. people produced so much of food that they donated it leniently.. Infact, sale of food is a sin for some people.. (like brahmins)..

    Till 1990’s, selling “Vidai Nell”.. ie the seed grains, is considered as a topmost sin..

    During british period, this chain is broken.. Farmers were either forced or lured to plant commercial crops for industries in Britain.. Cotton was the mostly cultivated at that time.. in areas like Bengal, the farmers were forced to cultivate Opium, for sale in China..

    As a result, the very priority of agriculture was affected.. The major famines that occured in madras presidency and bengal region is mostly due to this..

    And after independance, unfortunately, the congress government decided that Village india is too backward and inferior, and hence, alienated and neglected them.. No one is against industrialisation.. But, what was practiced was industrialisation at the cost of agriculture..

    A new system were imposed on the farmers.. as long as the traditional system survived, farmers also survived… as they had the means of survival, and associated setup.. and this happened till 190’s.. But the 1990 liberalisation broke the last straw.. its an entirely different story..

    The following link gives a excellent account of historical perspective of indian farming, and how it got broke down..

  30. Quote

    Vamsi, you have all rights to disagree with my opinion, no sorry!!! 😉

    I meant we didn’t had any wide scale drought in AP, Punjab and Haryana. Most of them are localized one. I don’t know when it started but tamil nadu govt. provides some money to farmers who lost crops because of drought. I don’t know about AP and all.


  31. Quote

    it seems, my comment is in moderation..

  32. Quote

    Which comment of yours is in moderation? I don’t see any in the queue?

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  34. Quote


    A very interesting discussion. I just wanted to comment on the New York Times article that you linked to. As you say, it was important in forming your opinion on Doha. And that’s entirely understandable because it has a reputation as the US paper of record.

    I am not at all sure that I agree with the argument of the article that imports of corn from the United States are driving the small Mexican farmer out of business.

    1. The imports from the States are yellow corn for animal feed. The small Mexican farmer grows white corn, the only corn regarded as fit for human consumption. His major competitor therefore is the large Mexican farmer who also grows white corn. He has the same machinery, acreage etc as his counterpart in the States. Mexican white corn production has in fact grown greatly since NAFTA and Mexico is more or less self sufficient in white corn. Also the price of meat has come way down making it accessible to everyone.

    2. For a long time, the Mexican government subsidized tortillas, the maize flatbreads that are the basis of the Mexican diet. This chiefly benefited people in the cities. Farmers who grew their own simply found the prices of maize depressed (or so I believe). The price was allowed to rise with NAFTA but in the last year it has been capped again.

    3. Most small farmers have cooperative land that they received about seventy years ago with the break up of the huge haciendas (farms). Since then the population has soared. Until a few years ago the land could not be sold, so that more and more people were trying to eke out a living out of the same small plot. Moreover much of this land is marginal at best. In my state, for example, much of it is on land where the rains do not come 2 years out of seven. Not much incentive to plant. And much cannot be irrigated because it is on hills or mountain sides.

    Thus the small Mexican farmer was in deep trouble before NAFTA. You cannot make a living on 4 or 5 acres of marginal land. And most Mexicans are no longer content with subsistence. They want to send their children to school, have electricity, running water, a television, and so on.

    Well, that’s beside the point. The major point is that the problem of farmers with plots too small to support themselves is a serious one and so is the question of how they can somehow make better lives for themselves. But at least in the case of NAFTA, so far as I can see, that was so regardless of free trade.

  35. Quote

    Interesting analysis Rachel. Sometimes we need both sides of story to understand the facts.

  36. Quote
    BM Bharadwaj said September 1, 2008, 5:03 am:

    This is a very interesting discussion on a very critical and important aspect of our Indian economy.
    In the indian scenario; we need to replicate the best practices of the co-operative sector (like in Banks and Dairy) in agriculture as well.
    But the problem is nobody likes to give away the power they have got effortlessly and are also unaccountable; especially the government; located in far away cities who are controlling what happens in a distant rural village.
    Dr Kalams “PURA” (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) concept coupled with “true” powers to the village panchayats and allowing the farmers to sell at market prices shall help us overcome the current crisis which shall affect majority of the rural population and threatens to blow up into a full blown social crisis; if not solved in a war footing.
    Organic farming is a proven sustainable way in agriculture; just as we are looking for “Greener” technologies in all other industries.
    Organic farming is the “greenest technology” in the greenest of industry.
    It is defnitely somthing that should be promoted in the long term….
    Farmer’s suicides and subsidies have just become political debating points; with the main reasons being total neglect of agiricilture especially since the “green revolution”.

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