Squandering Rs 75,000-crore in the name of self-employment. Why not provide direct income support to farmers instead?
Why can't improved skills be imparted to farmers to make them gainfully self-employed, and eventually turn them into entrepreneurs.
I have always said that there is hardly any relation between common sense and economic sense. At a time when Prime Minister's Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), launched in 2008, has already established 2.21 lakh self-supporting business units, and has created 20.34 lakh person employment opportunities as per Govt claims, the UPA Govt is planning to launch Rs 75,000-crore action plan to provide self-employment opportunities to 7-crore households in rural India over the next 10 years.
Rs 75,000-crore for 70 million households. In other words, each year the UPA Govt plans to invest Rs 7,500-crore in helping self-help groups that will help people become self-employed across rural India. According to a news report in Economic Times (Nov 29, 2013) UPA's Rs 75,000 crore self-employment plan for 7cr rural homes (here is the link: http://bit.ly/1ijXznG):"Funds would be given to self-help groups (SHGs) to impart training to the rural poor to take up skilled and semi-skilled jobs. The idea is to scale up their skills so that they become eligible for concessional credit from financial institutions."
There is already a National Skill Development Agency, the Prime Minister's National Council on Skill Development and the National Skill Development Coordination Board.
Now, isn't this interesting. Under the new programme, being planned just before the 2014 elections, Rs 75,000-crore is to be spent over 10 years for 7- crore (or 70 million) households. For a year, it comes to Rs 7,500 crore. As per the plan, the Govt would spend Rs 15-crore per block in each village, comprising 10-12 rural households, over the next 10 years.
Wouldn't it make economic sense if the UPA Govt was to simply distribute Rs 1-crore to each of the rural family? I am sure every one in this country would be able to spend Rs 1-crore in a manner that it makes them gainfully self-employed for all times to come. It will be a dream project for a majority of rural India. And if we were to go by Rs 1-crore per family, imagine how many would be able to immediately join the Crorepati Club.
Knowing this is not going to happen, the UPA Govt's plan seems to be to allocate this huge amount primarily for collecting some more votes. Everyone knows that much of the amount would be siphoned-off, but then that is how the Govts operate -- turning a blind eye to rampant corruption.
Anyway, if the idea is to spend so much for enabling people to get gainfully self-employed. Then why not begin with farmers. As per Indian Census 2011, there are 119 million (11.9 crore) cultivators, which means farmers who own land, and there are more than 2,000 farmers who quit agriculture every day (See this report: India losing 2,000 farmer every single day. http://www.ibtimes.com/india-losing-2000-farmers-every-single-day-tale-rapidly-changing-society-1232913). These are also the people who are self-employed and need not only improved skills but also financial support to turn farming economically viable. These are also the people who produce food for the country and are primarily responsible for ensuring food security.
Admitting that farming has become an economically unviable profession, the Govt is making all efforts to see that those who quit agriculture are gainfully employed elsewhere. The continuing agrarian crisis is also leading to enhanced rural-urban migration. Why doesn't the Govt therefore provide Rs 75,000-crore to the farming community in a way that it becomes an assured monthly income for them? If the farmers become economically viable, the domino effect will be felt across various sectors of the economy. Why don't we therefore put the money where we need it most? Why let the money be squandered under a Govt programme as has been the experience over decades? But then, didn't I say in the very beginning: there is no convergence between common sense and economic sense !
Further reading: As in the West, Indian farmers too need direct income support. http://bit.ly/1agO4vk
At a time when food security in the developing countries is snowballing into a major trade conflict between the developed and developing countries, what in reality is at stake is the livelihood security of an estimated 1.5 billion small farmers in the majority world.
Food security is simply a smokescreen to provide a cover-up for the global efforts being made to dismantle the very foundations of Third World agriculture.
Numerous U.S. farm groups have written to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman as well as U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack objecting to linking food aid with price support programmes.
Not finding anything wrong in legitimate domestic food aid programmes, 30 farm commodity export groups have however expressed concern at the “price support programmes, which have more to do with boosting farm incomes and increasing production than feeding the poor.”
These U.S. farm commodity export groups, which ironically receive monumental federal support every year, have questioned the need to provide any relaxation in current discipline even on a temporary basis. Accordingly, such an exemption will result in more subsidy outgo and result in further damage to U.S. trade interests.
This response comes in the wake of a representation by 15 of the major farmer unions of India, including the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) and the Karnataka Rajya Ryota Sangha (KRRS), to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: “Forth-seven years after the green revolution was launched, India is being directed at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to dismantle its food procurement system built so assiduously over the past four decades.
“This ill-advised move is aimed not only at destroying the country’s hard-earned food security but also the livelihood security of over 600 million farmers, 80 percent of them being small and marginal.” India, a country which lived in the shadows of a ‘ship-to-mouth’ existence – when food would go directly from the ship to hungry mouths – has over the years emerged self-sufficient in food production.
This historic turnaround was possible only because India had adopted the two planks of what I call a remarkable ‘famine-avoidance’ strategy: providing farmers with an assured price support for their produce, and introducing a food procurement system that provided for a guaranteed market and at the same time helped get food to the poor in the deficit regions through a network of ration shops.
Withdrawing the price support for farmers or freezing it at the de-minimis level of 10 percent as applicable under the Agreement on Agriculture will make farmers vulnerable to the vagaries of the market.
Since Indian farmers do not receive any direct income support (as producers do in the U.S./EU), this move alone will destroy millions of livelihoods and force farmers to abandon agriculture and migrate to the cities. Already, with agriculture becoming economically unviable, close to 300,000 farmers have committed suicide in the past 15 years.
As per the de-minimis criteria, Article 6.4 (b) of the Agreement on Agriculture provides for total support not to exceed 10 percent of the total value of production for most developing members (except for China, where it is 8.5 percent as part of its accession commitments).
In India, as per WTO calculations, farmers are getting 24 percent more minimum support price for paddy crop since the base period of 1986-1988. Restricting the farm gate prices at a maximum of 10 percent will only push more and more farmers to take their own lives.
Nor does it make any economic sense. Considering that between 1986-1988 and 2013, the prices of rice and wheat have increased by more than 300 percent, and prices of inputs like fertilisers have risen by 480 percent in the same period -according to World Bank commodity price data - the base period of 1986-1988 certainly has become outdated.
Instead of asking India to accept the Peace Clause for a period of four years, WTO chief Roberto Azevêdo should in fact be asking the 159-member organisation to look for a permanent solution to the vexed issue.
The best solution would be to change the reference period from 1986-1988 to something more recent, especially after 2007, when the world witnessed a global food crisis that resulted in food riots in 37 countries.Or set up a Food Security box.
But that is not acceptable to the U.S./EU, which are pushing aggressively to do away with the commitments of ensuring food security to 67 percent of India’s hungry population under the newly enacted food security law. Still worse, the U.S./EU are openly continuing not only their domestic subsidies but also their export subsidies.
Not complying with the 20 percent reduction in Aggregate Measure of Support, they have very conveniently shifted these subsidies to the notorious Green Box to continue and even increase them without limits.
And as the Indian farmers’ unions said, “the U.S. has more than doubled its subsidy from 61 to 130 billion dollars between 1995 and 2010, while the EU’s subsidy of 90 billion euros in 1995 came down to 75 billion euros in 2002, but rose again to hover between 90-79 billion euros between 2006-2009.”
According to the U.S.-based Environmental Working Group, the U.S. had paid a quarter of a trillion dollars in subsidy support between 1995 and 2009. These subsidies have not been reduced in the 2013 Farm Bill.Moreover, the U.S. does not find its own 100 billion dollars in support for its various food aid programmes in 2012 as trade-distorting, but has problems with 20 billion dollars in support that India is expected to provide to feed its 830 million hungry people.
U.S. farm subsidies are therefore unquestionable. These are considered to be non-trade-distorting, and are not even on the negotiating table at the Dec. 3-6 WTO Ministerial at Bali, Indonesia.
Well, the writing is on the wall. What is at stake at Bali is not food security, but the very future of Third World agriculture. Feeding the hungry is possible by importing food, and that is what the U.S. farm commodity export groups have conveyed. Putting more income into the hands of Third World farmers is not acceptable, as it makes developing country agriculture economically viable and therefore deals a blow to U.S. agribusiness trade interests.
* Devinder Sharma is a renowned Indian food and trade policy analyst, an award winning journalist, author, writer and thinker, whose incisive analyses makes him a leading voice from the developing world.
Source: The very future of Third World Agriculture is at stakehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/future-third-world-agriculture-stake/
Kasaragod Dwarf breed of Kerala.
Ever heard of a cattle breed called Kasaragod Dwarf? No. Well, I am not surprised. I too hadn't heard of it till my colleague Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) in Hyderabad brought it to my notice. He talked about how an Andhra Pradesh farmer was rearing this endangered breed, which is among the smallest cattle breeds in the world.
Some more research and I found out the Kasaragod Dwarf breed is a little taller than the world's smallest breed -- Vechur, also native to Kerala. With an average height of 90 cms, it can survive on kitchen waste and jungle feeds. Requiring about 2 kg of feed per day it's milk yield on an average hovers around 1 litre. The milk is nutritious, rich in alpha-2 casein proteins which means it is particularly useful for diabetic and hypertension patients.
Kasaragod Dwarf has still not been included in the list of India's 37 native cattle breeds that have been documented by the National Bureau for Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) Karnal, in Haryana.
A report published in Times of India (July 4, 2012) Kasaragod Dwarf cattle may get native animal status (Link: http://bit.ly/1iheJ5l) says: "The species has not entered the endangered list in a strict sense as the non-descript category of dwarf cattle found in the district are generally included under this category. As per latest cattle census, there are 36,717 non-descript category of cattle in Kasaragod. But, tracing a pure Kasargod breed will be difficult because of the extensive cross-breeding, says professor Sosamma. There are 34 recognised native varieties of cattle in India and Vechur cow is the only one included in the native list from Kerala."
A positive development is that Bela Cattle Farm in Badiadukka panchayat in Kerala is now being developed as a research centre under the Central Veterinary University to study, research and popularise this rare breed.
Further reading: Acclaimed abroad, despised at home
WTO is trying to strike at developing country food security. Accepting Peace Clause will kill domestic agriculture
If India has to save its agriculture; if India has to protect the livelihood security its 600 million farmers, it cannot allow to trade hunger at the altar of international trade and development. The Peace Clause being offered to India (for a period of 4-years) at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is simply a temporary reprieve. It only defers for 4-years the dangerous fallout from an unjust and inequitable trade agreement.
India cannot behave like a pigeon which is known to close its eyes when it sees a cat thinking that the danger will go away. India too cannot close its eyes to a lurking danger ahead. Peace Clause will only postpone the harm by another 4-years. The cat is not going to go away.
In this video blog of mine, I have explained in detail what the food security issue would mean for India. I have also explained the double standards of the rich industrialised countries, which do not consider their own agricultural subsidies as trade distorting, but spare no chance at pointing fingers at the developing countries. Let us not be cowed down by the threat they try to convey. If the WTO has to be buried, let us not be afraid. It has already lapsed into irrelevance, and by accepting the Peace Clause India will only be trying to infuse some oxygen into an otherwise dying animal.
Further reading: http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2013/10/peace-clause-in-wto-negotiations-will.html
In 2008, the US National Institute of Health (NIH) estimated the total annual cost that cancer was causing to the economy at $ 201.5 billion, which included $ 77.4 billion of health expenditures and $ 124 billion as the indirect mortality costs. After all, in a country where more than half a million people are expected to die of cancer this year, and that works out to 1,600 every day, nearly 75 per cent of the health care costs revolve around the cancer epidemic.
This startling analysis is presented in a blog Inspired Bites written by Robyn O' Brian (Link: http://blogs.prevention.com/inspired-bites/2013/11/18/how-the-cost-of-cancer-is-eating-our-economy/) that I came across yesterday. Quoting a report of the President's Cancer Panel she writes: " (The Panel) is urging all of us to do our part to reduce the burden of this disease. Most notably, they encourage all Americans to reduce their exposures to contaminants like pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals now so pervasive in our food. Why? Because 41 per cent of us are expected to get cancer in our lifetimes, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women. It did not used to be this way. And can we really eat to beat this disease as the President’s Cancer Panel suggests? It’s tough to do with a food supply so dependent on synthetic chemicals. In the last fifteen years, new ingredients, synthetically engineered in laboratories to withstand increasing doses of toxic weedkillers, have quietly been inserted into our food. And while correlation is not causation, the soaring use of these chemicals corresponds so directly with the soaring rates of certain cancers that at the very least, it merits an investigation."
Although, as she says, while correlation is not causation, there is a definitely a growth pattern that is clearly visible. Food contamination is certainly linked to the growing incidence of cancer. And if the Panel itself is suggesting to people to be watchful of pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals in food, the indications are loud and clear. I would have however expected more serious efforts visible in America to curb the use of chemicals, including pesticides and insecticides, based on the recommendations of this report. The failure to take the report seriously is not only disappointing but if I may be allowed to say so it is reflective of a criminal neglect.
Especially at a time when US President Barack Obama has been trying to push for medicare, I thought the best way to prevent the disease from taking such a massive human toll in future would have been to go in for safe food. When Michelle Obama launch organic gardening in the White House complex, she obviously conveyed a powerful statement, but her husband failed to get the message right. As Charles Benbrook has conclusively shown that between 1996 and 2011, an era when GM crops proliferated in the US, the application of pesticides has risen by 404 million pounds. This data alone should have forced the US Department of Agriculture to come down heavily on the industrial farming systems.
While the USDA continues to push for more of the same, the US President has been trying his best to push the harmful technologies to the developing world. His global food security initiative promotes the faulty and harmful technological approach as the mankind's saviour. This is where the US President fails, and fails miserably. In his desperation to find ways and means (even if these are harmful in the long run) to jack up the economy, he is trying to create conditions for the US health care industry to profit. He is aggressively using the g-20 to push his flawed economic approach. And that makes me wonder when will the world get a political leader who looks beyond the financial capital; who goes all out to build on the human capital.
Till then, I can only pray for the well-being of Americans. If 1 in 2 men, and 1 in 3 women is expected to live with cancer in the years to come, God save America. But please don't pass on this deadly killer to the developing world. We already have enough problems at hand.
If only these children were to be given A2 milk to drink
Sale of healthy A2 milk in Britain and Ireland has reached £ 1 million in just one year after its launch. A2 milk is now available in 1000 stores across UK and Ireland, including big retailers like Tesco, Morrison and Co-op. In Australia and New Zealand, A2 milk is now the fastest growing with a share of 8 per cent of the milk market, the sales increasing by 57 per cent in a year. This is not a promotion for yet another brand of milk. A2 is actually a beta-casein protein in the milk – A2 allele gene – that makes milk healthy and nutritious. What makes it more significant and relevant for us is that all domestic cow and buffalo breeds – often labeled as desi – contain A2 allele gene. In other words, 100 per cent of milk of desi cattle breeds contains the A2 allele making it richer in nutrients and much healthier than the milk of exotic cattle breeds. If you are not drinking A2 milk, the chances are that in the long term you are likely to suffer from allergies, diabetes, obesity and cardio-vascular diseases. While the exotic cattle breeds may be producing higher milk but because of the concentration of A1 allele gene in their bodies, the milk they produce is much inferior in quality. As per a report in The Telegraph, London, the commonly consumed milk contains A1 allele leading to allergies, causing bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea and constipation. Accordingly, a study published last month in the scientific journal Infant has linked A1 milk with increased risk of type 1 diabetes in some infants, adverse immune responses, digestive disorders and respiratory dysfunction. It is primarily for the health advantages that A2 milk offers that singer Dannii Minogue, who was faced with digestive disorders, has now become a brand ambassador for the A2 milk. In Australia and New Zealand, the sale of A2 milk has zipped beyond expectations, raising the share market for Freedom Foods, one of the best performing dairy companies. Pepsi Foods too has been on the forefront, and now plans to take A2 milk to the European market outside Britain. Meanwhile, China too has emerged as a strong market for A2 milk after the scandal surrounding the sale of spurious baby milk powder some years back. It is expected, China’s intake of A2 milk in the rapidly growing infant food market will double by 2020. Meanwhile, studies by the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR), Karnal, have established the superiority of A2 milk in Indian breeds. In a detailed study scanning 22 desi breeds recently, it found A2 allele to be 100 per cent available in the five high-yielding milk breeds – Red Sindhi, Gir, Rathi, Shahiwal and Tharparkar. In the remaining breeds, the availability of A2 allele gene was 94 per cent. Comparatively, in the exotic breeds Jersey and Holstein Friesian, the availability of A2 allele gene was only 60 per cent. Although a lot of excitement was expressed some months back, when Pakistan gifted a high-yielding Nili-Ravibuffalo to the visiting deputy chief minister of Punjab, Sukhbir Singh Badal, it is high time Punjab takes a lead in promoting and making available A2 milk. With an average consumption of about 944 grams per day, Punjab does top the chart as far as milk intake in concerned. But it is the quality of the milk that should now be the hallmark of every dairy development expansion plan. The economic cost of promoting desi breeds, even if the Indian domestic breeds are relatively low producing compared to some of the exotic breeds, is relatively much higher given the health advantages, especially in a population where diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases, allergies, digestive disorders are on an upswing. Since A2 milk builds up immunity, it certainly offers a big advantage over the commonly sold milk. Punjabis would be willing to pay a premium if the Milkfed begins to sell A2 milk in pouches. At the same time, promotion for A2 milk will help farmers shift to traditional breeds which very well integrate with natural farming systems. Promotion of A2 milk will also make hundreds of gaushalas spread across the State turn economically viable. #
Spare a thought for a million cashew workers. They live in penury, work in appalling conditions, while the supermarkets rake in millions.
No, they are not in a metal pelting unit. Believe me, these women are processing cashews -- Guardian photo
Diwali -- the festival of lights has just passed by. I am sure hundreds of thousands of people must have distributed or received cashew nuts (and other dry fruits) as part of the gift exchange culture that prevails and predominates the festivities. More so, at a time when adulteration is becoming rampant in the production of sweets, the focus has not shifted to dry fruits. There is nothing wrong in this. My preference too is for dry fruits.
I am sure business worth several millions of rupees, just from the sale of cashews, must have transacted during this Diwali season. But how many of us even know the plight of roughly 10 lakh (1 million) cashew workers and another 200,000 cashew growers in the country? Roughly 60% of the global cashew processing takes place in India, and that according to what I have learnt is value addition. Every time I am listening to speakers at a seminar/conference I hear the world value addition. Unless Indians try to add value to the raw material they produce, the economics will not change for the better, we are repeatedly told. Isn't cashew processing also a part of the value addition chain that is tossed on to us every now and then?
The Guardian report Cashew nut workers suffer 'appalling' conditions as global slump dents profits (Nov 2, 2013. Link here: http://bit.ly/1e2cJLp) came as a shocker. I had thought that since India imports bulk of the cashews for processing (about 60% of the global output) it must be a good business for the people engaged in processing. But the report tells me, how wrong I was. Of course, I had known about the plight of people who suffered from the indiscriminate sprays of the deadly Endosulfan chemicals. My colleagues at the voluntary organisation Thanal had been on the forefront along with the villagers of Kasaragod that spearheaded the movement against Endosulfan. But somehow had remained oblivious to the crisis the cashew workers were faced with year after year, some for over 30 years now.
I must admit I have been to Kollam (in Kerala) a number of times to visit Mata Amrita but never used the opportunity to visit cashew growers and workers nearby. The next time I am there, you will get a first hand field report.
Spare a thought at the plight of the cashew works, and of course the cashew growers. The Guardian picture above is more than a thousand words.
A Farmers' Market in India. Most Farmers' Market are unhygienic, dusty and filthy.
In the midst of the food inflation period, especially during the time onion prices had shot through the roof, I had been often asked as to what is the way vegetable prices can be maintained at a reasonable level all through the year. This question assumes importance in the light of the exploitation of farmers as well as the consumers at the hand of the middlemen.
When onion prices had touched Rs 70/kg in August, a study by NABARD had shown that while farmers were paid Rs 8/kg in the month of April-May, the traders had collected the onions and stored it at several paces, only to make a killing by creating an artificial scarcity. The consumers paid as high as Rs 70/kg for onions in August, and two months later in October the prices had crossed Rs 100/kg at several places. A newspaper report has computed that the wholesale and retail trade had profiteered by at least Rs 8,000-crore by keeping the prices high in the past 4 months.
Not only onions, prices of all vegetables had remained on an upswing. No vegetable, except for potatoes, were available for less than Rs 40/kg. Even in case of leafy vegetables, prices had jumped by close to 200 per cent. Interestingly, even in the organized retail chains – like Reliance Fresh, Easy Day, Metro, Big Bazaar – the prices had remained almost at the same level as the open market. These organized retail chains were supposed to remove the array of middlemen and thereby provide vegetables and fruits much cheaper to the consumers.
Even at the time when open market price of onions was around Rs 100/kg in the open market, prices in the wholesale were around Rs 55/Kg, which means the retail traders had also been making a fast buck. While it is known that the unorganized retail chain too had exploited the situation to sell onions at Rs 100/kg, I don’t understand why didn’t the organized retail chains sell it at Rs 60/kg or so. If Reliance Fresh, Big Bazaar and the likes had made available onions at Rs 60/kg we would have seen an uncontrollable rush before these shops. There would have been long queues of buyers.
It is therefore very clear that organized retail is not the answer to food mismanagement. Neither the farmers nor the consumers stand to benefit. The only beneficiaries are the organized retail chains, which have replaced the arhtiyas and the hawkers. They certainly have made huge profits. This shows that the big fish is no different from the smaller fish. Nor do I see much hope in corporate giants like Mahindra & Mahindra who have announced with much fanfare a proposal to diversify from its manufacturing activities. The auto-to-airspace giant now proposes to become a middleman. It plans to kickoff with branded apples – sourced from Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh – and sell them at its proposed 15 outlets in Hyderabad for a premium of about 10 per cent or so.
This may be suitable for the upwardly mobile section of the population who do not want to buy from the traditional vegetable markets. But for the aam aadmi there seems to be no respite from the rising vegetable prices.
Expecting the agri-business industry to provide good quality fruits and vegetables at affordable prices will remain a fake dream. Nowhere in the world has the agri-business industry succeeded in doing so. But there is a new renaissance in food delivery, quality of produce and economics that is I find is slowly but steadily taking roots. From Australia to United States, from Japan to Argentina, the local food systems are changing. Enhancing the livelihoods of local producers, and meeting the consumers’ aspiration, food markets are now becoming popular.
Even in America, where Wal-Mart dominates the retail market, the growth in farmers’ markets has been phenomenal. From just 370 farmers’ markets that existed in 1970, there were more than 7,000 in 2010. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that in 2007, more than 136,000 farmers were selling food directly to consumers. In Australia, farmer markets too have grown rapidly. From none in 1999, there are 150 farmers markets in Australia today. The Australian Farmers’ Markets Association claims that as per a survey the Farmers Markets in the province of Victoria alone have registered sales of over $ 2 million every week.
Farmers Markets provides farmers and consumers a suitable environment to interact, and that enables farmers to meet the specific needs of the consumers. It enables greater consumption of fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables, and in the bargain reduces the carbon footprint. Since consumers are now becoming increasingly aware of the damage chemical pesticides and fertilizers do to health and immunity systems, the demand for organic food is growing by approximately 20 per cent every year. Moreover, since farmers come and sell directly to consumers on a regular basis, farmer’ markets eliminate middlemen thereby providing stable prices.
The concept is certainly not new. It was launched in Punjab as Apni Mandi a few decades back, but has never received the impetus and investments required. In Andhra Pradesh the farmers’ markets are called Ryatu Bazaars, again suffering from lack of support. In metros like New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata the weekly bazaars that have been operating for years now stem from the same idea. But because these weekly bazaars have not been provided any permanent space, with adequate infrastructure and sanitation, they have failed to emerge as an alternate marketing hub. These bazaars are being held in open spaces wherever available. These spaces are unhygienic, dusty and filthy.
Over the years, I find that less number of farmers and more commission agents are now operating in these markets. This is contrary to the underlying objective of farmers’ markets. Some mechanism therefore has to be evolved that makes farmers’ markets only accessible for genuine farmers. To begin with, farmers could be encouraged to form cooperatives for marketing purposes. Each cooperative could then participate in farmers markets. This would leave farmers to undertake other farming operations.
In UK the community food sector has grown to 150 million pound sterlings in just a five-year period between 2007and 2012. The potential in India therefore is enormous. All it needs is a shift in thinking, and proper policy support. It will be the beginning of a new food culture in India, supporting farmers, consumers and reducing much of the environmental damage as well as health costs. #
Further reading: An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald: Open Farmers Markets, Oct 30, 2013. http://www.deccanherald.com/content/366044/open-farmers039-markets.html
Chopping onions, and dehydrating them is not the answer to the price spiral India witnessed recently
Not only far-fetched, it's a stupid idea. I am referring to Ashok Gulati (who happens to be the chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices) article: Onions at Rs 20/Kg? Not so far-fetched (Times of India, Oct 27, 2013,http:// bit.ly/HmuTtG ). The article begins by saying: "If I say that I am ready to supply onions, in an improvised form, at Rs 20 Kg home delivered, and round the year, people may think I have gone crazy or I am dipping into the general exchequer to pull off a massive subsidy scheme for onions. Wrong. I will make a cool profit of 15-20 per cent in this deal, do a great service to consumers and farmers of this country, and perhaps also help our policy makers under tremendous pressure following public outrage sparked by the rising onion prices."
I know there would many takers among policy makers for this idiotic idea. Anything that is linked to industry, and in this case it is agribusiness industry, is something that the policy makers keenly fall for. I will therefore not be surprised if Ashok Gulati's stupid idea finds favour. Moreover, it does just the opposite of what he is trying to tell us in the beginning. At the end of the article he is seeking appropriate public policy to incentivize the setting up of such plants to create a win win situation. Incentivize means providing land and subsidy support.
Onion prices were at Rs 15/Kg before the recent spike. We all know it wasn't because of any shortfall in production, but because of manipulation and hoarding. After all, this year the production was higher than the total consumption by approximately 27 lakh tonnes. And as Business Standard (Hindi) has estimated, the traders have profiteered by at least Rs 8,000-crore in the past four months. So the challenge is to discipline the trade.
There is nothing wrong in Jain Irrigation dehydrating onions and exporting it to Japan. That may be what the Japanese prefer, and so Jain Irrigation is meeting their requirement. But the food habits of Indian's is quite different from that of the Japanese. Indians love fresh onions, which as we all know are cooked into various dishes and are also consumed fresh. Moreover, if Jain Irrigation is purchasing 1.5 lakh tonnes of onions, and after dehydrating, exporting it to Japan, I wonder what stops them to supply in the domestic market? If Jain Irrigation can set up a dehydrating plant for export purposes, why cant it do the same for the domestic market?
But if you have followed the reports/analysis of the Commission for Costs and Prices (CACP) what is very clear is that it has always lobbied for subsidy support for the industry (calling it incentives) while decrying subsidies being given to farmers. I am not in any way surprised at this suggestion.
Some years back, when Pepsi Foods made a backdoor entry into India, it had come up with the proposal to import tomato varieties suitable for processing. The policy makers were swayed by this idea, technology introduction sells very well in this country. Eventually, Pepsi Foods relied on a tomato variety developed by Indo-American Hybrids, a Bangalore-based firm. No one ever questioned Pepsi as to what happened with their promise of importing improved tomato varieties. Nevertheless, just like the idiotic suggestion of Ashok Gulati, even at that time the company had maintained that by setting up a processing plant to make tomato puree, Pepsi will help provide tomato to the Indian consumers at a cheaper price.
Well, tomato puree has been in Indian market for quite sometime now. But has it in any way reduced the demand for fresh tomatoes? The answer is: No. So will dehydrated onions, that Ashok Gulati is advocating primarily to seek State subsidies for the industry, reduce the demand for fresh onions? Well, you know the answer.
Onions can be made available cheaper throughout the year provided the government chops the onion cartels.
By the way, what happened to the claims that organised retail can provide competition to the fruit and vegetable trade that exists in the country? Weren't Reliance Fresh, Big Bazaar, Easy Day, Metro and the likes supposed to eliminate middlemen and thereby provide cheaper vegetables to the consumers? If these retail chains had marketed cheaper onions, I am sure we would have seen long queues before the stored. We didn't see any such rush outside these stores. I remember the CACP has been a strong votary of the organised retail, including FDI in retail. So why did it fail to deliver? Shouldn't CACP be questioning that now, and shouldn't CACP itself be questioned to know whose interests it is working for.
Moreover, how will the processing of onions that provides onions at Rs 20/Kg help the farmers? Who are you misleading, Mr Ashok Gulati?
US farm subsidies are unquestionable, while India’s hungry are being conveniently traded at the WTO.
In India, the Food Bill is expected to cost $20 billion and will feed an estimated 850 million people. Against an average supply of 358kg/person of subsidised food aid (including cereals) in the US every year, India promises to make available 60 kg/person in food entitlement. And yet, while the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is quiet on the subsidy being doled out in America for feeding its poor, the US has launched an attack on India for “creating a massive new loophole for potentially unlimited trade-distorting subsidies.”
India’s subsidies for feeding its hungry are being blamed for distorting trade in agriculture while the US, which provides six times more subsidies than India for feeding its hungry, is seen as doing humanitarian service. The US subsidies are unquestionable, while India’s hungry are being conveniently traded at the WTO. Public posturing notwithstanding, India is believed to have given in to US pressure. Commerce minister Anand Sharma is believed to have assured the WTO director-general that India is committed to take the multilateral trading regime to its logical conclusion. That India is not willing to contest the unfair provisions, and has agreed to a compromise, becomes evident from what the WTO chief said: “What we have agreed in Geneva is we are going to be working on a Peace Clause.”The US/EU is pushing for a Peace Clause lasting two-three years. India is willing to accept it since it allows the food security programme to continue without any hiccup till 2014. The Peace Clause is a temporary reprieve. Although it expired in 2003, it is being reinvented now to allow India to continue with its food subsidies for the specified period during which its subsidies cannot be challenged before the WTO dispute panel.The main issue here is the increasing amount being spent on public stockholding of foodgrains and thereby the rise in administered prices for wheat and rice that is procured from small farmers. According to the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, the administered price cannot exceed the ‘de-minimis’ level of 10% of the total volume of production. This exemption is allowed under the Aggregate Measure of Support. India has already exceeded the limit in the case of rice where the procurement price has shot up to 24% from the base year 1986-88 that was agreed upon.It is, therefore, not the food subsidy Bill that is under the radar, but the procurement price system in India which is now on the chopping block. If India is forced to limit the rice procurement price at 10% of the total production, and refrain from increasing the wheat procurement price in future, it will sound the death knell for agriculture. Agreeing to a Peace Clause only shows how India is trying to skirt the contentious issue and is ready to sacrifice the livelihood security of its 600 million farmers.
According to the US-based Environment Working Group, America had paid a quarter of a trillion dollars in subsidy support between 1995 and 2009. In the 2013 Farm Bill, these subsidies have been further increased. This results in the dumping of foodgrains, thereby dampening farm gate prices, and pushing farmers out of agriculture. In India, wheat and rice growers have merely received $9.4 billion as procurement price in 2012. Forcing India to freeze procurement prices means that the WTO is being used to destroy Indian agriculture.Source: The WTO is destroying Indian farming. Hindustan Times, Oct 21, 2013.http://bit.ly/18ATWCS
India to allow China to acquire land within the country. Why then deploy army to protect the Indian border?
Manning the hostile Chinese border -- Hindu photo.
At a time when lakhs of Indian soldiers are deployed on the Chinese borders to protect the Indian soil, and thousands (my uncle was one of them) have already laid down their life fighting over the years to protect any Chinese intrusion into India, Prime MinisterManmohan Singh is inviting China to set up Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and industrial parks within the country. He is expecting Chinese Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to boost industrial activity (Chinese FDI to set up SEZs likely post-2014, reports Times of India Oct 23, 2013 http://bit.ly/16uhNjX)
This raises a question in my mind. If Chinese are being offered land within the country to set up shop then why should we sacrifice human life at the Indo-China border to protect even an inch of land going into Chinese hands? What national sovereignty are we protecting if Chinese are allowed to acquire more and more land within the country? Why should we sacrifice a soldier's life in protecting even an inch of soil when we ourselves are offering huge chunks of land to China? Also, with more and more Chinese investment coming into India (and also their labour force, eventually) what will happen whenever (God forbid) India goes to war with China?
This reminds me of what my journalist friend Zingisha from South Africa had said some years back when I was a Press Fellow at the University of Cambridge. In one of our discussions about globalisation, I vividly recall her words: "They follow the Triple M Approach. First they sent the missionaries, it didn't work; then they sent military, it didn't work; now they are sending money, it will work."
Oh ! my God !! Isn't that true? #
More reading: Famine as Commerce by Devinder Sharma
Women protest land grab in Cambodia.
While you were sleeping, there has been a spurt in land grabbing.
"Of the 848 deals concluded since 2008, 80 involve Indian companies that have invested in 65 deals to grow foodgrains, sugarcane, oilseeds, tea and flowers," report Hindustan Times (India buys land 9 times Delhi size abroad. http://bit.ly/1b3fsPp).
While Indian Companies are buying land abroad, foreign companies are buying land in India. As per this news report, in 39 deals Indian Companies have bought abroad an area equal to 9 times the size of Delhi. And foreign Companies from UK, US, Austria and Thailand have concluded 36 deals to buy farm land in India in the States of Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Seven of these deals have already been completed allowing 13,105 hectares to be acquired. This is based on an excellent detailed insight provided on the web site Land Matrix. You can Google and find out more details. Total deals it has details about till date are 23729439, and the total area acquired for agricultural purposes is 23,729,439 hectares. Mind boggling, isn't it?
As I said somewhere, every second an area equivalent to that of a football ground (0.72 hectares) is being acquired in the majority world. Among those who are investing in such land deals are not only MNCs, big business, hedge funds, venture capitalists, but even universities.
At this rate the day is not far off when most people will become landless in their own country. Call it neo-colonisation or economic growth (as some may perceive this development to be), the fact remains that land grab has become a major investment over the past few years. As we continue to sleep over, and perhaps think it will not mean uprooting us at least, the land sharks are scanning each and every nook of the world to lay hands upon whatever piece of land they can. To me this is simply frightening. It has grave human rights implications, and would impact global food security to say the least. In other words, it has all the makings of a tremendous people's revolt in the years to come.
Imagine, wherever you are living you being surrounded by fenced land purchased by foreign companies. Imagine the flag of the country from which the company hails from is fluttering in your neighbourhood. maybe more than one flag. Gradually most of us will find ourselves living in no man's land surrounded by international borders on all sides. As said earlier, the land sharks are now eyeing India. The country seems to be up for grabs. No wonder, soon after passing the new land aquisition law that makes it easier for companies to acquire land, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh had said: 'We will not need land acquisition law after 20 years'. So true. Isn't it? After all, there would be no land left to be acquired by then !
I wonder what national anthem would we sing then?
French farmers throng Paris in an unprecedented protest in 2010 -- Guardian picture
Some weeks back, I met Genevieve Savigny from France at the UN Inter-Governmental Working Group on rights of peasants and other working in rural areas. She told me that not only in India, even in France 500 farmers had committed suicide. She sent me later a synopsis of a study conducted by the French organisation InVS-MSA. I had subsequently tweeted this study.
The French daily Le Monde has carried a news report today (Oct 10, 2013) under the title: Five hundred suicides reported among farmers in three years (See the link here: bit.ly/1acgA1D ). This news report is based on the same study. The report is self explanatory. I am pasting the full news report below.
"Nearly five hundred suicides were recorded in three years - 2007, 2008 and 2009 - in French farmers, according to the Institute of Health Surveillance (INVS), which publishes, Thursday, October 10, the first official study on the subject. Suicide is thus the third cause of death in the agricultural world, after cancer and cardiovascular disease, says INVS.
Eagerly awaited by the industry, since it is the first state official places on this sensitive issue, the study "is in terms of suicide prevention in the agricultural sector announced by the Ministry of Agriculture in March 2011 " , said the institute.
In total , 417 men and 68 women committed suicide during the period, with a particularly strong among farmers mortality (cattle, milk and beef cattle) aged 45 to 64 years. According to the institute, "the suicide mortality was 28% in 2008 and 22% in 2009" men in the agricultural world.
"These findings coincide with the temporality of financial problems in these sectors over the period of study," says INVS, thereby establishing a direct correlation between suicide and economic difficulties.The population considered for this first report includes farm managers and employees of these farms in business, so "it is indeed an exhaustive study" say the authors".
In 2010, I had written a blog on the crisis afflicting French farmers. Captioned: France and India: The beautiful farms are all but dying. It actually listed the similarities that farmers in the two countries faced despite being separated by a huge distance. Do have a look at it (http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2010/07/france-and-india-beautiful-farms-are.html) and I am sure you will be able to fathom the distress that prevails across the globe when it comes to farming. #
Read also Le Monde's survey : "French Farmers: the malaise suicide"
Peace Clause in WTO negotiations will only sacrifice millions of hungry Indians for an unjust trading regime. Let the WTO die a peaceful death instead.
WTO Chief Roberto Azevedo (right) with the Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma in New Delhi on Oct 7, 2013
Knowing that India's defiance of the WTO rules on food stocking can derail the outcome of the forthcoming WTO Ministerial to be held at Bali in the first week of December, the visiting WTO Chief Roberto Azevedo asked India to consider 'Peace Clause' as an option to protect subsidies under the proposed National Food Security Act. "Food Security is a squarable circle. The line between price support and food security is very flimsy and not easily drawn. It is going to be a complex task," he said in New Delhi on Oct 7.
Now it is the next sentence that is more worrisome: "What we have agreed in Geneva is we are going to be working on a Peace Clause .. which allows negotiators to find a more permanent solution for the long term. He was addressing the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The Indian Express (Oct 8, 2013) says: Negotiations for a deal at the Bali meet are struck over the tenure of an interim resolution on the demand by G-33 developing countries on food security. While the G-33 is demanding the tenure of the peace clause to be 10 years, developed countries such as US are ready to accept only a 2-3 year period. (See this report: WTO Chief seeks support for Bali ministerial meet. http://www.indianexpress.com/news/wto-chief-seeks-support-for-bali-ministerial-meet/1179692/).
The Peace Clause provided exemption for those countries who used export subsidies for agriculture beyond the permissible limit. These countries could not be challenged before the dispute panel during the 'Peace Clause' period. It expired in 2003.
The compromise that India is therefore willing to exercise to ensure that the Bali negotiations proceeds ahead without any hiccup will now bring millions of hungry on the chopping block. It also threatens the livelihood security of millions of small farmers who receive an assured minimum support price for their crop produce. Already, as per WTO calculations, growers in India are getting 24 per cent more minimum support price for paddy crop since the base period of 1986-88. As per the de-minimis criteria, Article 6.4 (b) of the Agreement on Agriculture provides for total support not to exceed 10 per cent of the total value of production for most developing members (except for China, where it is 8.5 per cent as part of its accession commitments).
There was a proposal to increase this to 15 per cent (In Rev 1 of the draft modalities as mentioned in TN/AG/W/4/Rev.1) but somehow this got removed in the next revision of the draft modalities. Indian negotiators are saying that an increase in de-minimis criteria from 10 to 15 per cent could be the possible solution. But India is under tremendous pressure from US/EU to either do away with the commitments of ensuring food security to 67 per cent of the population or agree to a Peace Clause that allows the issue to be deferred by another 2-3 years. By that time, US would have managed to push through an agreement on trade facilitation that primarily benefits its own industry.
The best solution would be to change the reference year from 1986-88 to somewhere more closer, especially after 2007 when the world witnessed a global food crisis that resulted in food riots in 37 countries. Considering that between 1986-88 and 2013, the price of rice and wheat have increased by more than 300 per cent, and prices of inputs like fertilisers has risen by 480 per cent in the same period (World Bank commodity price data), the base period of 1986088 certainly has become outdated. Now this is where India needs to exert pressure rather than accepting the Peace Clause as a solution simply because it gives the ruling UPA Government an easy walkover before the 2014 elections.
Deferring the contentious issue is not a solution. India must stand up and resist developed countries pressure. After all, it is India's responsibility to feed its hungry population as well as the ensure livelihood security for its 600 million farmers. Even if Bali Ministerial fails, India cannot compromise the fate of 2/3rd of its population. The hungry in India cannot be traded at the altar of development.
Meanwhile, agricultural subsidies in the developed countries have risen from $ 350 billion in 1996 to $ 406 billion in 2011 (Read Martin Khor at http://www.globalissues.org/news/2013/10/01/17558). No body is talking of reducing these monumental agricultural subsidies in the Western world. In fact, developed country farm subsidies are not even listed to be a topic of discussion in the negotiations at the Bali Ministerial.
India therefore need not worry about the future of WTO. Even economist Jagdish Bhagwati who has been a staunch supporter of a flawed trading regime, has finally acknowledged that "multilateral trading system is dead." He was speaking at New York on Sept 27. "The Doha Lite deal being attempted in Bali, is like a decaf and light coffee and we are trying to save the Doha Round, which is similar to the steps taken to save the Cancun Round on climate change issues."
Why should India therefore be making an effort to revive the dead horse by sacrificing its millions of hungry, including farmers and fishermen? Why can't it make instead an effort to find a better burial ground for what I have always called as the Wrong Trade Organisation??
Anupam Paul talking about the traditional crop seeds at the Bangalore Seed Festival
Everywhere in India, traditional seeds are being reclaimed and brought back. Anupam Paul is a scientist from West Bengal who has been on the traditional seed trail for several years now. I met him at the Bangalore Seed Festival. West Bengal is among the few States where traditional varieties are not only being collected and conserved, but are also being tested under different agro-climatic conditions. He tells me that his research centre at Fulia has collected a few hundred traditional paddy varieties and also a large number of varieties of other crops. Interestingly, he showed me a traditional paddy cultivar called Kerala Sundari which under trails has given a yield of 4.5 to 5 tons/hectare with organic inputs compared with a yield of 4.5 tons/hectare of the high yielding MTU 7029 with application of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. This variety even fares better compared with 5.5 tons reaped by the hybrid KRH-2 (it uses a heavy dose of chemical fertiliser/pesticides).
Kerala Sundari is not the only variety performing well. He listed Bahurupi, Kabirajsal, Asit Kalma, Jhuli, lakalam, Radhatilak (scented) and Dudheswar as other high-yielding but traditional varieties. Some of them are also tolerant to saline and drought conditions, and some perform better under deep water conditions. In essence, the immense wealth that India has by way of traditional crop varieties is almost lost in the noise and din created in the name of improved crop varieties that cropped up in the post-Green Revolution period. It is however a high time to re-discover the strength of the lost germplasm, and bring it back into cultivation. This may perhaps be our only answer at times of changing climate, declining water table, poisoned soils and the widespread destruction of the natural resource base.
Well, the purpose of this blog is not to detail out the extent and potential of indigenous crop varieties but to focus on the global efforts being made to outlaw the cultivation of these farm-saved seeds. In August, after a three week seize of the national capital in Colombia by thousands of farmers, miners, truckers, workers, students and others, the Colombian Government finally promised to withdraw the controversial Resolution 970 that was enacted in 2010 under the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The resolution outlawed cultivation of farm-saved seed, and to ensure its implementation police had moved into the countryside grabbing, collecting and disposing off farm saved seed. According to a documentary made (Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkQ8U2kHAbI) close to 70 tonnes of seed collected from a community was eventually destroyed.
The outrage against destruction of seed was among the factors that prompted Colombian people to protest.
The process to seek control over seed had actually started several decades back when UPOV 1961 (International Union for the Protection of New Plant varieties) was crafted. Various version of the UPOV treaty had actually turned seeds gradually into a private property of seed companies. The UPOV 1991 agreement, which is now being enforced in Europe, gives seed companies almost control over which seeds are used, stored and processed. At the same time, seed companies will have the right to collect royalties not only on seed, but also when they sell their crop harvests. But under Free Trade Agreements, the US/EU are pushing for still more stringent conditions that outlaws farm-saved seed, like what happened in Colombia.
In Indonesia, a law introduced in 1992 made it obligatory for farmers to use only certified seeds. Since then, 9 farmers have gone to jail in 2007 for growing un-certified seeds, and another 3 were taken into custody in 2009. In Chile, fruit growers have to pay royalties, and if they can't then the trees are uprooted. In many African countries, pressure is building up for accession to the UPOV 1991 law. In 2011, France became the first country to approve UPOV 1991, and by a legislation prohibited the cultivation of farm-saved seed. An 'exemption' to this rule is allowed for 21 crops through a system of payment of royalties. The European Union has also proposed a "Plant Reproductive Material Law" which basically regulates the commercialisation of seeds that are registered and approved.
Under such difficult conditions, when small farmers are being criminalized for cultivating the indigenous crop varieties, the only way to fight the monopolistic power of the seed companies (along with governments that back the industry claims) is to build up strong alliances and link the struggles across the continents. If WTO could be defeated by a unique collaborative effort of the civil society across the countries, I see no reason why farmers and others cannot join hand to resist the takeover of the original seeds. Let us not forget, taking control over seed actually means taking control over the entire food chain, and thereby assuming control over life.
Time for a Seed Satyagrah? #
For more reading: Read the La Via Campesina document: Our Seeds, Our Future.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released its Fifth Assessment Report on the Physical Science Basis for Climate Change. It summarizes what scientists now know about the causes and extent of climate change.
It concludes that it is “extremely likely” that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century, and that the observed changes “ are unprecedented over decades to millennia.”
“Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is projected to be likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 in all but the lowest scenario considered, and likely to exceed 2°C for the two high scenarios,” said Co-Chair Thomas Stocker. “Heat waves are very likely to occur more frequently and last longer. As the Earth warms, we expect to see currently wet regions receiving more rainfall, and dry regions receiving less, although there will be exceptions.”
The report finds with high confidence that ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010.
Headline messages in the IPCC report:
- Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.
- Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years.
- Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence). It is virtually certain that the upper ocean (0-700 m) warmed from 1971 to 2010, and it likely warmed between the 1870s and 1971.
- Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent (high confidence).
- The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia (high confidence). Over the period 1901–2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.19 [0.17 to 0.21] m.
- The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. CO2 concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions. The ocean has absorbed about 30% of the emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide, causing ocean acidification.
- Total radiative forcing is positive, and has led to an uptake of energy by the climate system. The largest contribution to total radiative forcing is caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750.
- Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.
- Climate models have improved since the AR4. Models reproduce observed continental-scale surface temperature patterns and trends over many decades, including the more rapid warming since the mid-20th century and the cooling immediately following large volcanic eruptions (very high confidence).
- Observational and model studies of temperature change, climate feedbacks and changes in the Earth’s energy budget together provide confidence in the magnitude of global warming in response to past and future forcing.
- Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
- Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 for all RCP scenarios except RCP2.6. It is likely to exceed 2°C for RCP6.0 and RCP8.5, and more likely than not to exceed 2°C for RCP4.5. Warming will continue beyond 2100 under all RCP scenarios except RCP2.6. Warming will continue to exhibit interannual-to-decadal variability and will not be regionally uniform.
- Changes in the global water cycle in response to the warming over the 21st century will not be uniform. The contrast in precipitation between wet and dry regions and between wet and dry seasons will increase, although there may be regional exceptions.
- The global ocean will continue to warm during the 21st century. Heat will penetrate from the surface to the deep ocean and affect ocean circulation.
- It is very likely that the Arctic sea ice cover will continue to shrink and thin and that Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover will decrease during the 21st century as global mean surface temperature rises. Global glacier volume will further decrease.
- Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century. Under all RCP scenarios the rate of sea level rise will very likely exceed that observed during 1971–2010 due to increased ocean warming and increased loss of mass from glaciers and ice sheets.
- Climate change will affect carbon cycle processes in a way that will exacerbate the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere (high confidence). Further uptake of carbon by the ocean will increase ocean acidification.
- Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped. This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2.
Harvesting in progress in Punjab
You can feel the anguish when Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal talks about the plight of farmers. Recently at a New Delhi conference (See the link here: http://bit.ly/1848rxW) , he spoke about the conspiracy to ‘destabilize Indian agriculture’ and warned policy makers to be doubly cautious of the “advocates of the tyranny of the free market economy.” They will end up destroying India's food self-sufficiency, he warned.
Food security is no less important than national security, and therefore he wants agriculture to be treated at par with defence services.
A few days before the New Delhi conference, he was speaking at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Agriculture Summit that Narendra Modi had organized in Ahmedabad. Deviating from the written text, Mr Badal had lashed out at the votaries of the free market economy saying that if agriculture is lost, everything is lost. Amidst a loud applause, he said that many experts are being planted in India to undo the remarkable achievements of the Green Revolution, and once again make the country stand with a begging bowl.
Several decades back, I remember Mr Badal’s loud warning against the continuous neglect of agriculture and the apathy towards farming. He was addressing a national conference. “This is a sleeping elephant,” I recall his words: “You ignore them at your own risk. Once the elephant wakes up, it will make you all run for cover.” And during the NDA regime when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wanted to decentralize foodgrain procurement, Prakash singh Badal led the group of chief ministers who opposed the move vehemently. Mr Vajpayee had to drop the proposal considering the strong opposition from chief ministers of the frontline agricultural states.
The Punjab’s agriculture story is well known. As a student of agriculture, and then as an agricultural journalist, and finally as a policy researcher and analyst, I have had a ring side view of the remarkable strides taken in agriculture. Once the pride of the country, Punjab’s farmers have now turned into a national burden. So much so that the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) leads a campaign to dismantle the food procurement system that has sustained Punjab’s agriculture ever since the days of the Green Revolution. Under the premise of making agriculture market-friendly, CACP chairman Mr Ashok Gulati, is actually finding fault with the higher and assured procurement prices Punjab farmers get every season.
In its Kharifreport, CACP has even listed States according to its market-friendliness. These are Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal among others where paddy farmers for instance get a price of not more than Rs 900 per quintal. Punjab is at the bottom of the chart since farmers get an assured procurement price which is relatively high. CACP’s argument is that in a market economy, the assured procurement prices should be withdrawn. This is what has irked Mr Badal, and he has made it clear that any effort to dismantle the procurement system will destroy the very foundations of food self-sufficiency.
Interestingly, while Dr Ashok Gulati has been opposing wheat and paddy procurement prices, he has been advocating introduction of a procurement price for maize so as to shift the acreage from paddy under the recently launched crop diversification programme in Punjab. Intriguing, isn’t it? What is not good for wheat and paddy is being projected as savior for maize farmers.
At a time when it is generally believed that the era of price policy is over, the policy thrust is to move farmers away from the assured income through procurement prices to building entrepreneurship and linking farmers to the markets. This is where Mr Badal has time and again expressed his concerns. And, rightly so. But what I still don’t understand is that despite chief minister’s warning, the State’s agricultural policy is still designed on the same market economy pattern that he finds fault with. The ‘sharks’ in the free market economy will therefore continue to prevail.
I am often asked as to what a land-locked state like Punjab can do to prop up its economy if it does not shift farmers out of agriculture? Farming cannot sustain the economy, nor can the average household incomes go up. Land acquisition for the sake of industry and real estate therefore is being aggressively pursued. Perhaps this is what Mr Badal has been time and again told. But what is not being told is that if a tiny European country like Holland can emerge as the second biggest agricultural exporter in the world, and where average farm household incomes are 265 per cent higher than the national average, why can’t Punjab do the same? I am not advocating the industrial farming model that Holland had once adopted (but is now moving to LEISA -- Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture practices) but certainly Punjab can make suitable modifications to ensure that it doesn't repeat the same mistakes.
Switzerland too is a small country. It hasn’t adopted the industrial pathway to development. It hasn’t therefore done any irreparable damage to its nature and natural resources. So Punjab certainly can carve a niche for itself by ushering in a sustainable model of development linking environment-friendly agriculture with rural-based industry.
Unfortunately, while the Chief Minister is concerned, the kind of farm experts the State has are coming from the same school of thought that brought in the crisis in the first instance. Punjab therefore needs experts/leaders/advisors with vision and wisdom rather than free market ideologues. A little more imagination in planning, and a determination to build an agriculture-based economy which does not suck the groundwater dry, does not pollute with chemical pesticides, and which does not lead to farmer suicides is what is desperately needed. #
Russia’s Federal Security Service has announced that they’ve seized the Arctic Sunrise and its crew following a protest against oil drilling in Arctic waters. The Greenpeace ship has now been towed to port in Murmansk where an investigation will be conducted. A Russian official have said that the Greenpeace activists, totaling 27 or 30 depending on source, could face piracy charges.
Greenpeace are strongly rejecting these allegations and describes them as a desperate attempt to justify the illegal boarding of their ship in international waters.
“The suggestion that Greenpeace engaged in piracy this week smacks of real desperation,” said Greenpeace International’s General Counsel Jasper Teulings. “The activists climbed Gazprom’s Arctic oil platform for a completely safe and peaceful protest against dangerous drilling, carrying only banners and rope. Piracy laws do not apply to safe and peaceful protests.”
“Over a day after our protest the Russian Coast guard boarded our ship outside of territorial waters, where there is right of free passage, with no legal justification whatsoever,” Teulings added. “This looks like a retrospective attempt to create that justification and avoid embarrassment.”
Greenpeace organized protests outside Russian embassies on 20 locations around the world today following the boarding. They have also called on people to contact Russian embassies and demand the immediate release of the ship and its crew. So far about 400 000 letters have been sent.
“We will contest these allegations strongly and we continue to demand the release of our activists and the ship,” Teulings said.
So where did the action take place on the Arctic Sunrise? Check out this interactive picture below:
The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is in the process of finalizing its next report, due to be released in four volumes between Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. These reports, which have come out every seven years over the past several decades, represent the combined consensus views of thousands of climate scientists.
Draft copies of some of the reports are now being leaked. While the IPCC correctly responds to criticism of these as premature, since they are by no means finalized yet, there are some things we can already be certain of.
1. The certainty on the part of the vast majority of climate scientists that global warming is real and is at the very least primarily caused by human action has been growing with each new IPCC report. That trend will continue in the upcoming report. All the criteria for such certainty have long ago passed 90 percent, and just keep getting confirmed by new scientific study, by extreme weather events in the real world, by unprecedented droughts in many parts of the world, by the increasing acidity of the world’s oceans, and much more.
2. Because the IPCC works on the basis of summarizing thousands of other scientific studies, it tends to be both wide-ranging in outlook and also somewhat conservative in its predictions. In each report, seven years apart, the “worst-case” predictions of the previous report have become the “most likely” predictions. This too will continue, as new studies confirm and deepen our collective knowledge about the world’s climate system, how it works, how it is interconnected to all other natural systems (water, oceans, soil, plant life, etc.), and how changes in each of these systems affect all the others.
3. It appears that this latest report will include consideration for the first time of the impact on sea levels from the melting of ice in Greenland, predicting even higher sea level increases than in previous reports. However, it still will not include consideration of the impact on climate change of the melting of the permafrost across the top of the Northern Hemisphere. This is important because this melting releases massive amounts of previously frozen methane and carbon dioxide. This can exacerbate global warming caused by direct human interference in the climate, creating a feedback loop that will make greenhouse gas emissions much worse, and from a source that humans do not have any control over.
4. As each year passes, it becomes more difficult and more expensive to institute measures to reduce global warming. This creates a political paradox – the more we need such measures, the more proof there is of the reality of climate change, the more time passes, then the measures we need to take become more expensive and more massive, and the political will to do the right thing becomes more difficult. With each step toward certainty, the right-wing cries against reality become more shrill – another trend with no end in sight.
5. We can be certain that at least some of the press coverage of the final report will focus on anything that can be used to downplay the significance of the problem. This report will likely discuss the phenomenon that increases in average air temperatures have slowed over the past few years, and deniers will seize on this to undercut the need for change. But since all the world’s natural systems are integrated at every level, average air temperatures, which are still increasing, are only one part of a very complex equation. If you take into account the rapidly increasing acidity of the ocean, which results from the ocean absorbing carbon dioxide, there has been no slowing of the impacts climate change is making on the real world. But some press coverage will focus on any piece which, taken out of context, can be used to make people feel that the situation is not as bad as it really is.
6. Similarly, right-wing efforts to discredit climate change science, in addition to becoming increasingly shrill, also rely on overly simplified nonsense. Every year, when there is still a winter it will be used to claim that “global warming isn’t real – we still have winter!” But this ignores how climate change works. It doesn’t eliminate seasons, it makes the high temperatures greater. Just because we still have beaches in Florida doesn’t mean that sea levels aren’t increasing, and that increase will speed up over the coming decades. Right-wingers also focus on what is happening this year or next, to the exclusion of looking at the real long-term trends in the climate. This year may be about the same as last year in terms of the number and intensity of forest fires, for example, but the more than five decade long trend is for more forest fires burning at greater intensities. This winter may or may not be warmer than last year’s, but the long-term trend is for Autumn to last longer and Spring to arrive earlier.
7. As many have pointed out, the right-wing attacks on climate science have little or nothing to do with the science itself; they are based on a rejection of what will be required to combat global warming. Government action on a large scale is required, as are restrictions on what businesses can do especially regarding greenhouse gas emissions. When right-wingers sneer at the science, they are really fearful of what will happen to their financial supporters in the fossil fuel industries.
We can predict, with 100 percent certainty, that the upcoming IPCC report will confirm that global climate change is real, it is getting worse, it is caused mostly or entirely by human activity, and that we need to act to combat it – to reduce emissions, to adapt to the coming crises a warming world will bring on top of the huge impacts we have already seen.
This article was first published in People’s World by Marc Brodine.
It’s been more than 48 hours since armed Russian security officers boarded the Arctic Sunrise and arrested around 30 Greenpeace activists following a protest against oil drilling in Arctic waters. Details are still sketchy but the Greenpeace ship is apparently now being towed by the Russian coastguard to the nearest harbor with the ship’s crew being held onboard at gunpoint.
“They used violence against some of us, they were hitting people, kicking people down, pushing people,” said Faiza Oulahsen in a phone call from the ship before communications were cut.
Russian officials have accused Greenpeace of “aggressive and provocative” behavior during the oil drilling protest earlier this week. Liliya Moroz, a representative of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the Murmansk region, has said to local media that the activists could now face terrorism or piracy charges. If charged with terrorism the activists could face a minimum of 10 years in prison. Greenpeace have been unable to make contact with their activists onboard the Arctic Sunrise and they have not yet received no official confirmation from Russian security services.
“This is the clear detention of people against their will,” said Vladimir Chuprov, head of the energy department at Greenpeace Russia. “Terrorism is a very serious crime.”
FSB has said that they’ve been co-ordinating actions with the Russian foreign ministry and energy giant Gazprom “to protect the safety of the crew on the platform and defend the interests of the Russian Federation in the Arctic region.”
“The regional press office of the FSB in Murmansk told Russian agencies that it had received information from representatives of the Prirazlomnaya platform earlier in the week that they feared a terrorist act was about to be carried out, and said that activists were approaching the rig with an “unidentified object that looks like an explosive device”,” the Guardian writes.
But Greenpeace says these accusations are dishonest because the “unidentified object” was their safety pod, and it was brightly coloured and branded with the environmental organization’s famous logo. Greenpeace have also said that the boarding was illegal because their ship was on international waters and outside the jurisdiction of Russian authorities.
Jasper Teulings, a Greenpeace lawyer told Reuters that “the only reason the ship can be boarded inside the EEZ, (exclusive economic zone) is when there is suspected breach of fisheries regulation or suspected substantial discharge in violation of environmental regulation. Neither is the case. Other grounds could be piracy or slavery, so it’s clear that none of these apply.”
Teulings also stressed that “the situation at the moment is actually unclear,” and that we don’t know yet whether the Greenpeace ship have been seized. “We would be surprised if it had been [seized], because that would have been illegal,” Teulings said. “We do know that the ship is being held by the coastguard, and we are taking every step in our power at this moment, including international diplomacy, to ensure the swift release of the activists and we are in touch with their families.”