2. FARM FRONT Colum : Global Civil Society Groups Call For Justice in WORLD TRADE
3. Draft Seed Bill Runs Into Rough Weather - Farmers Oppose The Draft
4. New Changes in Foreign Trade Policy
5. Food Processing Vision Strategy-2015
6. Industry-friendly Food Laws on The Anvil, Many Existing Laws To Be scrapped - Group of Ministers Clears The Draft
On Chinese Primier, Wen Jiabao's India visit - What happens if India sign's FTA with China
Nothing to fear on agricultural front
China’s farm sector is in crisis only processed food sector better
ASHOK B SHARMA
Posted online: Monday, April 11, 2005 at 0000 hours IST
Should India fear a surge in import of agriculture products from China if a new trade agreement is signed with that country? No, say experts.
As far as foodgrain is concerned, China’s grain output is on a decline and it is resorting to imports to meet its own needs. India’s imports of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and fisheries and of processed foods could, however, increase as China’s production of these commodities has increased substantially.
With a crisis of sorts in the Chinese farm sector and India planning a series of reforms in its own, experts feel that possible areas of co-operation here would be related to technology transfer, sharing of experiences and trans-boundary water management.
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar visited China recently at the invitation of his counterpart Du Qinglin. Plans are on the anvil for a new era of co-operation in the farm sector.
“Chinese agriculture is passing through a crisis with shrinkage of farmland, falling share of agriculture in GDP and in employment generation, falling farm income, rising imports of agricultural products and widening of the gap between the urban and rural areas”, said Dr Cheng Guoqiang of the Development Research Centre of the State Council of China, on a recent visit to India as part a Chinese expert team.
He said, “China is trying to bridge this gap by boosting its rural enterprises. Chinese rural enterprises clocked a growth of 13% in output value in 2003. This is an area in which India can benefit from the Chinese experience”.
Dr Funing Zhong of the College of Economics & Management, Nanjing Agricultural University holds cheap imports of products produced by highly subsidised farms responsible for adversely affecting small farmers in China. He said: “China and India are both members of G-20 and we need to resolve this issue in the WTO.”
“An area where India can learn from Chinese experience is plant biotechnology. China has made some rapid strides in plant biotechnology and is on the verge of releasing its genetically modified rice”, said Prof Hu Ruifa of the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Beijing.
FARM FRONT Column
Civil societies call for justice in global trade
ASHOK B SHARMA
Posted online: Monday, April 11, 2005 at 0000 hours IST
Negotiations in Geneva has entered a stalemate. The differences over the conversion of specific duty into ad valorem equivalents remain unresolved. There are other issues in agriculture which need to be settled before a draft “approximation” can be prepared in July.
The developing countries have demanded that the issue of conversion of specific duty into ad valorem equivalents should be addressed first before moving to other pillars of negotiations. Deadline of March 31 for amending the TRIPS agreement for allowing export of generic drugs to countries in need has already been missed.
The Geneva negotiations, however, had a quick start, much before the Hong Kong ministerial which is slated in December, this year. There are several factors for this quick start. The Bush administration was under pressure from the Congress to review the benefits and losses under the multilateral trading system. Some representatives even wanted US to withdraw from WTO. This made President George Bush to announce that he want to see the success of WTO negotiation in his tenure. Second reason for the quick start in the negotiation process was to ally fears of the WTO members about the fragility of the institution and the possible failure of Hong Kong ministerial. The multilateral trade negotiations had earlier witnessed failure in Seattle and Cancun. Another failure in Hong Kong will put the future negotiations in doubt and may finally remove faith in the multilateral trading system. The third reason for a quick start in Geneva, this year was that members wanted contentious issues to be resolved before the Hong Kong ministerial.
Coupled with the current stalemate in Geneva talks, a new fear is emerging. The civil society network across the globe has begun ‘Global Week of Action on Trade’ from April 10. The main focus of this campaign is to highlight the unjust rules of trade. This worldwide campaign has given the message : “Free trade is not working. Rich-country governments and international institutions they control must stop forcing economic liberalisation on the world’s poor. We need trade justice on free trade.”
The message is clear. It calls upon the developed countries to address the concerns of developing countries in the multilateral trading system. This year the civil society network has geared up much in advance. Civil society group played a definite role to build up a hardline for negotiations in the interest of developing countries at Seattle and Cancun. The failure of these two ministerials was largely due to developed countries not agreeing to address the concerns of developing countries. This is a lessons for the developed countries negotiators. If they want a success in the Hong Kong ministerial they have to yield to the the demands of the Third World.
In India, countrywide awareness campaign has been launched expressing concerns over the fallout of unjust trade practices and hasty liberalisation process, like concerns over industrial aquaculture at the cost of coastal ecology and small fishermen, increasing corporate control over food sovereignty, labour issues, inequitable trade agreements and forests, introduction of transgenics in agriculture, privatisation of education, child rights and child labour. The Global Week of Action (GWA) campaign has demanded restoration of tariff protection for solving the problems of cheap imports, land reforms in favour of poor peasantry and right to decent work and employment.
GWA campaign has said ‘No’ to privatisation of water, health and education, corporatisation of agriculture, genetic engineering and patents on life forms.
GWA campaign has viewed with concern the recent changes made in the Foreign Trade Policy in India to foster industrial aquaculture. The new changes in the foreign trade policy has proposed a package deal for “bailing out the Tsunami-affected marine sector. The package includes duty free import of specified specialised inputs/chemicals and flavouring oils (as per defined list) to the extent of 1% of FoB value of the preceding financial years export. The new policy also proposed import of monofilament long line system for tuna fishing against concessional duty. The new policy has proposed a self-removal procedure for disposal of seafood and wastes after rejection by custom officials.
The civil society groups, in this context, said : “The fishing community in India faces a number of problems. These have their origin basically in the process of globalisation. Import of foreign fishing vessels are done by Indian companies in the guise of joint ventures. Extensive industrial aquaculture has already damaged the coastal ecology and as a result it could withstand the onslaught of the recent Tsunami. Further encouragement to industrial aquaculture will only weaken the coastal ecology and would be detrimental to the interests of small and traditional fishermen.”
The worldwide buildup of civil society campaign signals the message - if the negotiations at Geneva are to proceed and the Hong Kong ministerial is to be a success, the developed countries should first address the concerns of the Third World.
Draft Seed Bill runs into rough weather, process may be delayed
ASHOK B SHARMA
Posted online: Monday, April 11, 2005 at 0000 hours IST
NEW DELHI, APRIL 10: The Union agriculture ministry’s attempt to rush the draft National Seed Bill may be delayed. Acting on a representation made by an apex farmers’ organisation, the chairperson of the National Advisory Council, Sonia Gandhi, directed the ministry to reconsider certain clauses in the proposed draft that are likely to hamper the interests of farmers.
Incidentally, such an opposition comes from the farmers’ outfit of the ruling Congress party, Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS). Though the BKS executive chairman, Dr Krishna Bir Chaudhary had addressed the representation to Ms Gandhi as chairperson of the UPA coalition and president of the Congress party, she chose to act on this issue as the chairperson of the National Advisory Council to the government.
The BKS leader, in his letter to Ms Gandhi, had said: “The bill is a clear trap to curb the traditional and indigenous rights of our peasantry to grow, breed, multiply, preserve and exchange seeds. The seed bill is wholly incongruous. Sinister as it is, it will demolish the time tested agrarian culture and the socio-economic fabric of the rural India that has for centuries worked faultlessly and sustained our small and marginal farmers, having even less than two acres of land. 83% farmers use their own farm-saved seeds. In one stroke, the National Seed Bill on enactment will reduce 36 crore farming families into pathetic non-entity and make them captive at the mercy of seed multinationals, aided and abetted by the unabashed and insensitive state machinery.”
The draft bill makes registration of seeds mandatory and in this context, Dr Chaudhary in his letter said: “The National Seed Bill treats farmers as traders. They will be hounded to run about for registration if they grow and exchange seeds.”
The previous week’s the 53rd All India Farmers’ Council Meeting of BKS held in Hubli in Karnataka had authorised Dr Chaudhary to take up the issue with the Centre. The Hubli meeting, not only opposed the draft bill but also the introduction of transgenic seeds.
The resolution said : “Seed is the most vital factor in enhancing agricultural production. The National Seed Bill should not put any infringement on the indigenous and traditional rights of the farmers to grow, breed, multiply, exchange and store seeds and be prevented to carry on the age old and time-tested barter system for mutual benefits of the fellow farmers. Farmers should not be treated as traders in the proposed bill. The Centre should bar the access of transgenic seeds and terminator technology in our agro-system for all times to come.”
The resolution also called for remunerative minimum support prices for crops and cautioned the Centre not to dismantle the state-sponsored procurement of grains, encouragement of organic farming and post-harvest management.
Cess on farm exports to be scrapped - Changes in Foriegn Trade Policy
ASHOK B SHARMA
Posted online : Saturday, April 9, 2005 at 0000 hours IST
NEW DELHI, APRIL 8: The new changes in the foreign trade policy have proposed abolition of cess on exports of all agricultural and plantation commodities presently levied by various commodity boards.
The exports of poultry and dairy products will now reap the benefits of Vishesh Krishi Upaj Yojana (Special Agricultural produce Scheme), which was hitherto enjoyed by exporters of flowers, fruits, vegetables, minor forest produce and their value-added products.
Procedural guidelines for the scheme have been notified and the exporter has been given the flexibility to obtain duty credit certificates in split form that will make utilisation of the licence easier.
Shellac Export Promotion Council has been designated as the nodal agency for promoting exports of minor forest produces. It will open a separate cell to involve and encourage youth and women entrepreneurs in the export effort.
The period for fulfillment of export obligations by those ago processing units which import plant and machinery under export promotion capital goods (EPCG) scheme has been extended with a reduced export obligation i.e., six times the duty saved over a 12-year period instead of the normal window of eight times the duty saved in eight years.
With a view to maintain quality and maintain the brand equity of Indian teas, norms have been prescribed under a new Tea (Distribution and Export) Control Order, 2005. All teas, whether imported or exported, are required to adhere to these norms. Tea has been classified for the purpose of non-preferential Certificate of Orgin into three categories.
According to this classification, tea wholly produced in the country will be categorised as “India tea”. Export consignments which have not less than 90% by weight of tea produced in the country will also be categorised as “India tea”.
New Farm Front
• Poultry and dairy products to enjoy benefits of Vishesh Krishi Upaj Yojana
• Shellac Export Promotion Council is the nodal agency for promoting exports of minor forest produces
• New norms for tea . All teas whether imported or exported are required to adhere to these norms
• New package for marine sector which is hit by the recent tsunami
• Units importing plans and machinery under EPCG scheme to gain as the period for fulfillment of obligations extended
In case of tea not wholly produced in India and where the content of Indian tea is less than 90% by weight, it will be classified as “Blended tea of different origin and packed in India.”
The new Order also prescribes a minimum value addition norm of 50% on export of all imported tea and stipulates a time period of six months from the date of import for export of imported tea. With a view to bail out the marine sector seriously affected by the recent tsunami, the new policy has proposed a package deal.
The package includes duty free import of specified specialised inputs/chemicals and flavouring oils (as per defined list) to the extent of 1% of FoB value of the preceding financial years export.
The new policy also proposed import of monofilament long line system for tuna fishing against concessional duty.
The new policy has proposed a self-removal procedure for disposal of seafood and wastes after rejection by custom officials.
Mega food parks in Delhi, 4 other states
ASHOK B SHARMA
OUR ECONOMY BUREAU
Posted online : Friday, April 8, 2005 at 0000 hours IST
NEW DELHI, APRIL 7: The government has decided to set up five mega food parks in Assam, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Delhi and Karnataka. These parks would coordinate the activities of 43 food parks already set up.
Releasing the vision, strategy and action plan for food processing industries till 2015, minister Subodh Kant Sahai, however, admitted that the progress of 43 food parks is “not satisfactory”.
Mr Sahai said that food parks are working at convergence with other related schemes of the government like agri export zones.
The vision document envisages increasing the market size for processed foods from Rs 4,60,000 crore in 2003-04 to Rs 8,20,000 crore in 2009-10 and to Rs 13,50,000 crore in 2014-15. It estimated that this process of expansion of the market size will generate additional employment of approximately 82 lakh (50 lakh by 2010 and 32 lakh in 2010-15. This includes direct employment of 18 lakh and indirect employment of 64 lakh.
The investment required in building the processing capacity, infrastructure and market development is estimated at Rs 99,700 crore (Rs 59,700 crore by 2010 and Rs 40,000 crore in 2010-15). This assumption in the investment estimation is based on the 10% projected annual growth of the consumption of processed foods and that the consumption will triple in 2005-15. The sources of the investment will be a combination of equity from processing industries, loans from financial institutions, foregn direct investment and government funding.
The vision document envisages a nine-point strategy to boost investments in the sector.
GoM approves draft integrated food Bill
ASHOK B SHARMA/INDU BHAN
OUR ECONOMY, LEGAL BUREAX
Posted online : Wednesday, April 6, 2005 at 0000 hours IST
NEW DELHI, APRIL 5: The group of ministers (GoM) cleared the draft Integrated Food Bill with some cosmetic modifications and seeks to do away with the nine existing laws and modifications in seven others. It aims to make "a shift from a regulatory regime to self-compliance by the industry." The draft integrated food law is based on the principle of one law and one regulator down the line. Cabinet will decide the administrative ministry for the new law.
Food Authority of India will be the apex regulatory entity and will be a single reference point. The enforcement will be done by commissioners of food safety. The food inspectors will be renamed as food safety officers. "This will give them a respectable name besides improving their mentality," joint secretary in the Union food processing ministry AP Sinha said.
The regulations which are likely to be repealed after the enactment of the new law are: Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954; Fruit Products Order, 1955; Milk and Milk Products Order, 1992; Meat Food Products Order, 1973; Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order, 1947; Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order, 1998; Solvent Extracted Oil, De-oiled Meal and Edible Flour (Control) Order, 1967; Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1992 and any other orders issued under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 relating to food.
The proposed new law seeks to modify seven other existing laws to make them more industry-friendly. These are: Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976; including the Packaged Commodity Rules, 1977; Export (Quality Control and Inspection) Act, 1963; Environment Protection Act, 1986 and the Environment Protection Rules, 1989; Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986; Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marketing) Act, 1937; Customs Act, 1962; Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992 and several other Acts and orders of the state governments and Union territories.
"The draft Bill fixes responsibility on food business operators to ensure that food imported, produced, processed, manufactured or distributed is in compliance with the domestic food laws. The new Bill has provisions for civil penalties for minor offences and criminal actions for serious violations," said the joint secretary in the food processing ministry, ANP Sinha.
He said that there have been certain modifications in the orginal draft with regard to offences and penalty. He said "the differences over the issue of offences and penalty are no longer there and the same have been resolved".