Monday, February 21, 2011

Will food come from Africa?


A farmer’s leader told me few days ago that the hand full of landed farmers should stop cultivation, so that food price will go up and farmers will get price. He is a vice president in a farmers association in Tamil Nadu. Sometimes back his president also told me the same thing. I told them in reply that if there is a gap between production and supply, then the government would import food grain from other countries. They asked me, how long the import would solve the food security. This is how a landlord mind is thinking. Probably they might not know that MNCs (Multi National Companies) already bought millions of acres of lands in Africa to produce food.
Farmers who have big land holdings in Tamil Nadu are planting different trees. They dream to become millionaires after 15 or 20 years by harvesting these trees. Some of the farmers are cultivating trees with tie up arrangement with paper mills. Such farmers are converting fertile agriculture lands in to tree cultivation.         
Turmeric gets good price in the market, it went up to Rs.18000/ per quintal last year. Thousands of farmers in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka cultivated turmeric. The price has come down to Rs.13, 000/ per quintal, but still it is a good price. Some of the farmers from the irrigation belt of Erode district have booked their brand new cars in the Maruthi Suzuki show room. By the time onion price was sky racketing two months back government banned export and allowed imports. But, now the purchase price of onion from farmers came down to Rs.4/ kg and the government stepped in after a lot of protest by farmers.
        Until 20 years ago , government and the country were talking about self-sufficiency in food production. India became a food-importing country after the GATT agreement (Uruguay round) was signed and WTO came into existence. We import pulses, edible oil, sugar, milk powder etc. in a big way every year. There is no talk or debate to produce these important food items locally. The cheap imports of food items have killed local production and forced farmers to shift their crops.
Farmers’ movements have not linked up the bad impacts to the policy. Thousands of farmers in Tamil Nadu came to streets recently with their cows and demanded reasonable price for the milk production. These farmers’ leaders never spoke a word against the cheap milk powder (30 thousand tones) and butter oil (15 thousand tones) that was imported at a rate, which was less than that of Indian dairy cooperatives.
Landlord farmers think that they will get good prices for their food production if they stop food production and converting their lands into tree plantations. Small and marginal farmers who still produce food grains do not get remunerative price due to the government policy. But, the government instead of improving the nation’s food production opened imports.
More than 80 Indian MNCs (Multi National Companies) have bought millions of hectares of lands in African countries to produce food, not for Africa but for India. Karuthuri Global, a Bangalore based company has leased out more than 300 thousand hectares of fertile lands in Ethiopia and started cultivation.
Farmer’s leaders need to update their knowledge and connect the issues of the ground reality to the larger policy frameworks of the neoliberal world.
Don’t we need to worry for food security? Will food come from Africa?


NV.Subbarow said...

Congratulation. KANNAIYAN. It was really good article. Its time for the Tamil Nadu farmers to sit & think. otherwise not only their land will go but they do suffer including their children. subbarow from Malaysia

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this excellent and informative article about something that affects us all and raises important questions. Beware of neoliberal food production. North Americans are well fed but completely unhealthy because MNCs produce all our food now and destroy it with chemical additives, hydrogenated oils, etc. The small farm doesn't exist very much here in Canada anymore and our food quality sufferred dramatically.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this important update! I didn't know that the Indian MNCs were also in the landgrab race. I had only heard of the Koreans, Chinese, Saudi Arabia, etc. And of course the North Americans and Europeans, but they have been at it for centuries!
But I think that there is more to this than just current price and "free trade" thinking. These are often very long term leases (99 years for ex.). I think that the imperialists (and would be imperialists powerful in India, China, etc.) are thinking strategically about climate change, particularly about the extreme water shortages which are bound to hit India and China soon. (Saudi Arabia is just having its last wheat crop. They have pumped all the fossil water out of their land...)
Instead of starting a crash program to strengthen and save water ressources, its easier to plan on starving the africans. Have you read the latest report on water of World Watch? They have.
el viejo anonymous said...

A culture of permaculture is needed. One by one everyone must become self sufficient.

Science - the search for truth - must prevail over consensus. The hypothesis that HIV cause AIDS is consensus - the hypothesis of Man Made Global Climate Change is consensus. Misery will be the norm until people seek the truth - those who do shall be set free.


Anonymous said...

Many thanks for first hand grass roots information on what is happening there. Luckily the future 'Vision 2020' will hopefully not reach the south of India but a super highway is being built from London thru Delhi-Calcutta & southern china to japan & then to Siberia where a bridge/tunnel will link across the Bering straight to Alaska USA. Another superhighway will be built north of the Himalayas (old silk/bandit road). Fresh water will be worth its weight in gold by 2050 and so bewt these roads super dams will be built (three gorges/narmada etc) And China has announced that it will link 9 cities forming a super city of 42 million people all on wifi ! In 2017 Beijing will build a super fast railway 5080k in just 48 hours-Beijing to London (welcome for a visit!). To 'create' all this the Chinese will need steel, iron/minerals & wood to build & Brazil will cut back the southern half of the Amazon to plant fast growing trees for china.

Anonymous said...

google > TREC< to see what is planned for N.Africa (Trans Mediterranean Renewable Consortium). The world bank just gave Prince hasan bin Talal (ex chair of Club of Rome) 10 million to kickstart the project.
And then ask why 'democracy'/free trade/capitalism is arriving along the Med. !

Shailly said...

Your article is really portrays a true picture of the plight of our farmers. It is really sad to see that our government is not doing anything to increase the agricultural production. Our so called strength of the economy- agrarian sector- is now in a bad situation. It is ironical that our PM and the government is only interested in further strengthening the service sector and really not bothered about the agriculture sec which still constitutes 60% of our economy. And so they are merrily signing more and more bilaterals with the developed world.

Ram said...

Dear Kannaiyan,

thank you for the important update. with dictators across northern african countries and arab nations being thrown out through people's upraising, I wonder how long will it take for those countries to throw out our companies and freeze their land grab. if that doesn't happen, there would be a global regulation in one of the climate change conferences that will seek india-china to reduce their carbon foot prints on securing their basic needs or some old man more than half a century ago said, "there isin't enough resource in the world if India went the way the west has gone", and he was right. we import pulses today, but, there isn't enough for us to buy in the international market. security isin't a function of production alone, we talk of access and affordability too.

you have written quite well, when we look at the global food scene, we need not limit with the markets, need to look beyond them to the politics that control the same, it is this controlling agency that imposes its decision through regulation on one level, through technological choices at another and through market management at another level, the political fight is all about who controls the life of the majority, to eat, to live, to peace and exercise freedom of choice, solutions often need to look at the aspect of control...again to quote the old man,"...will it put the control of his life back in his hands"


Nadia van Ee said...

It is good to know what is going on with agricultural policies in a resource rich place like South India. We need to be very conscious as humanity as a whole how we use our resources. Thank you Kannaiyan!

நண்டு @நொரண்டு -ஈரோடு said...

good article.

Girikumar S said...

The article was informative. Two things should be borne in mind. The political situation at a later date may see all the MNCs wriggling their hands at a later date.One should not forget to the Gujarati cultivators of Uganda when Idi Amin came to power.Next the prices of agri-produce are not going to come down when the operations are carried out by MNC.Agriculturists should think out of the box to come out of this situation &that can be achieved only by discussions,

Anonymous said...

So the idea I planted in the minds of some farm movement leaders between 2001 through 2006 is finally starting to bloom. I had given up on the idea that farm movement leaders will ever understand long term supply demand macro economics. Good to see that they are finally seeing the light. There will come a stage 20 to 30 years from now, where small and marginal farmers will sell out due to persistent lack of remunerative prices leading to land consolidation across India. It is then you will see market prices can no longer be controlled by cheap imports.