Several farmer unions under the banner of the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movement, on Wednesday, submitted a memorandum to the Union Minister of State of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, demanding to keep agriculture and dairy out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement.
The submission of memorandum came ahead of the 27th round of RCEP negotiations that is going to be held at Zhengzhou in China on August 2-3.
RCEP is a trade and investment agreement that is being negotiated among 16 countries – 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and six regional partners, one of which is India.
The unions fear massive dumping of dairy products from milk-producing countries like New Zealand and Australia, which according to the unions, are aiming to exploit the huge Indian dairy market through their surplus, though at the cost of the local livestock farmers.
“Going by the numbers that the NITI Aayog has projected, India is in no need to import milk or milk products till 2030s as the supply will be more than the demand,” Yudhvir Singh, general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union told NewsClick indicating that the demand to keep dairy out of RCEP talks is even economically legitimate.
It was reported earlier that India’s milk production will touch 330 mt by 2033 with a demand projection to be around 292mt.
In addition to it, the memorandum also pointed towards the provisions of RCEP, which are meant to dilute the seed rights of Indian farmers, which include criminalisation of seed saving and seed exchange – a method which provides more diversity to the farmers, significant especially under the pressures of climate change – giving more power to corporations over the seeds.
Pressure from the seed companies must be viewed in light of the attempt to monopolise the seed industry and then using the patent laws to kowtow the local farmers in purchasing the seeds that will then require certain type of fertilisers and pesticides. Such measures only restrict the independence of a farmer in deciding what to grow and how to grow. A textbook example being the recent PepsiCo’s lawsuit against the potato farmers in Gujarat, though the company withdrew later in response to the media outcry and protests.
Now with RCEP, the objective is to strengthen the patent laws which will allow the seed companies to tame the local farmers in a bid to appropriate more profits.
NewsClick has earlier reported on the secretive negotiations and oppositions from various civil organizations from ASEAN member countries against the provisions of the RCEP, one of them to allow the foreign companies to sue governments for pursuing policies which will reduce their profits.
Since 2012, when the formal negotiations began, representatives of various unions of farmers, trade unions, and civil society groups have been voicing their serious criticism against the RCEP, which according to them, is even worse than WTO.