How Organic Farmers Have Shown the Way For Breaking Away From the Mandi, MSP System – News18

Posted: December 30, 2020 at 10:53 pm

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The stalemate between the Centre and the protesting farmers over the three farm reform laws -- Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm services Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act -- is going on for over a month now, with no agreement in sight. The government has repeatedly assured farmers that the reforms will prove to be beneficial for them. However, the farmers fear that the new bills will erode the existing MSP (Minimum support price) system, make the government-controlled mandis (APMC) redundant, and more importantly, will allow private players to enter the market which will diminish their bargaining powers.

Under such circumstances, to end the impasse, the government will have to think of 'creative solutions', suggested Gauri Sarin, a social entrepreneur, and the Founder Director of Bhumijaa, a platform for organic agripreneur. In an interview with News18, Sarin said, "...the solutions will have to be more creative, reach more farmers, differentiate the poorer and richer farmers, and build MSP as a tool for real change. The corporatisation of Agri-sector is a double-edged sword. Investment in Agri diversity cold chains is equally essential. Government has to balance the need for supporting localisation and for scale to make agri-sector both competitive and remunerative for farmers at the same time keeping the consumer centrestage. "

Sarin added that just because private players will be entering the market doesn't always mean that it would affect all farmers adversely. "There are examples where private players have helped too. In Bihar and Odisha farmers have managed to organise buyers for them and created a demand-based system successfully," she said.

Pointing out that even before the farm reform bills, there were farmers who ran successful businesses outside the mandi frame-work and MSP system, Sarin said, "If you ask me from an organic farming point of view, then I would say that most organic players don't use the existing system at all. They neither avail the MSP nor do they sell in mandis. They have always used their private networksmany organic farmers sell directly. So, organic farmers have already shown the way of breaking away from the mandi system."

However, she warned that in a free economy, big private players are likely to hold the bargaining chip. Therefore, the responsibility falls on the government to take care of the 'poorer farmers' and level the playing fields.

"... a free economy model will always affect some people negatively, and my personal view is that the real farmers -- who have less land, and not many other ways to earn a livelihood except farming-- will need the government to take care of them because they will face poverty. They need to be brought up to scale," she said.

"At this point, the farmers don't know what the future entails for them. Different types of competitive parameters are likely to come in. Farmers are neither skilled to handle that kind of competition nor are they capable of negotiations. Therefore, for any change in the agriculture sector to work, farmers need to be a part of the process of change - from education to linkage." she added.

Sarin, who has been training organic farmers, and women agripreneurs through her platform Bhumijaa said that another crucial aspect of the agriculture sector that calls for urgent attention is the need to acknowledge and enhance the role that women play in it, be it as farmers, food processors, or livestock caretakers. A push to women in agri-entrepreneurship will not only give a boost to the sector but will also improve rural livelihood, and create many micro-enterprises.

Sarin claimed that it is time that India set a goal to go organic for the sake of its environment and the collective health of the populace. "If India plans that in the next 15 years it will go organic and/or natural, it will not only help us mitigate climate change and introduce food diversity but also help the country in terms of wealth," she explained.

She prescribed that India needs food forests, and at least 10 per cent of farmers in every state should start creating food forests now. Food forests allow multi-layer farming in which fruit trees (which give fruits year after year) and other layers of vegetables, grains and pulses production can happen simultaneously. If we start creating food forests in our eco-system, then we will automatically create a very high-quality carbon sink, which will have far-reaching impact in terms of mitigating climate change." said Sarin.

"Every state should plan certain districts to go organic and places like Uttarakhand, and Himachal, which already have a propensity towards organic methods, should embrace them wholeheartedly. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana have done a fabulous job when it comes to organic farming, so has Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Haryana is also likely to follow suit soon. In Punjab, there is Kheti Virasat Mission, but it is still in a very nascent state. The kind of changes that Andhra Pradesh has brought about is inspiring because if a state of that size can transform, so can others," she added.

While the agricultural lands in India are huge (more than 60 per cent), organic farms do not make-up even a minuscule portion of it. "The agricultural landmass is huge in India and if we start organic farming, and regenerating that agricultural landmass into biomass, with rich microbes, and maintaining soil moisture, it will make a substantial difference for the environment. Unfortunately, this doesn't hit people in the urban centres who are making decisions, simply because in the urban centres, there is no landmass to talk about, " pointed out Sarin.

Apart from the environment, another reason people have begun to choose organic food is because of health concerns. In urban sectors, many individuals, who have faced life-threatening diseases, have switched to organic food. While hunger was once a major problem for India, with an advanced PDS scheme, and a yield-based economy, we have been able to overcome that concern. However, malnourishment still plagues our country, and Sarin propounds that a big reason for it is the fact that food is grown with the help of chemicals, and therefore, lack nutritional value. "The nourishment problem, in fact, is high in urban centers too, because people are used to eating processed and junk food. We will have to move from a yield-based economy, to a nutrition-based economy, if we want to eradicate malnutrition successfully, pointed out Sarin, who has also started a platform called Living Without Medicine, which helps people make healthy food choices.

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How Organic Farmers Have Shown the Way For Breaking Away From the Mandi, MSP System - News18

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December 30th, 2020 at 10:53 pm

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