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‘Not Just Farmers, 3 Farm Laws Affect Small Agri Traders Too’

A joint group of traders, workers and farmers said that the farm laws enable unregulated corporatisation of agriculture value chains, affecting the livelihoods dependent on agriculture.
‘Not Just Farmers, 3 Farm Laws Affect Small Agri Traders Too’

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Counterview

In an open letter to the government, the Joint Action Committee Against Foreign Retail and E-commerce (JACAFRE) has appealed it to urgently address the issues raised by the farmers asking for the repeal of three recent farm laws to be repealed. Extending support to the nationwide farmers’ agitation, JACAFRE urged the government to at least hold the new farm laws in abeyance and fully reconsider them.

The letter, addressed to Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar and Union Minister of Commerce & Industry Piyush Goyal, opposed the “ill-intentioned efforts” of mega-corporations like Reliance, in partnership with global tech corporations like Facebook and Google, to exploit small traders and other small economic actors.

JACAFRE, a joint platform of organisations of traders, distributors, hawkers, farmers and workers, said in its letter that the farm laws enable unregulated corporatisation of agriculture value chains, which will affect the livelihoods of those dependent on agriculture. “In this process, farmers as well as small traders of agricultural produce become subservient to the interests of a few agri and e-commerce giants,” it said.

The letter further said, “It is not just those traders who directly participate in Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis which get adversely impacted. Removal of possibilities to cap stock limits in the Essential Commodities Act, for instance, seem aimed at allowing a few giant corporations to dominate the entire procurement and trading chain for agriculture produce at the expense of small and medium traders.”

The new farm laws, passed in the Parliament in September this year, are -- (i) The Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, (ii) The Farmer's (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and (iii) The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

Both the Centre and some state governments intent on pursuing a new economic model where a few big corporations closely control all ‘small economic actors’ in any value chain and drive them to a subsistence level, the letter claimed.

It further explained that employing data pertaining to the dependent ‘small economic actors’, the giant digital commerce corporations start exercising a “360 degree control” over them. “Such new models of 360 degree panoptic, digitally-enabled, control by a few corporations over all small and dependent economic actors – be it traders, farmers, MSMEs or small service providers – is unsustainable and must be urgently checked,” JACAFRE said.

It said the governments must step in to mitigate the effects of wholesale corporatisation of “erstwhile independent economic actions and actors” such as farmers and traders. The Joint Committee said the government need to provide – “(1) supporting institutions, like APMCs, and government supported e-commerce platforms like eNAM and ‘Open Network for Digital Commerce’; (2) protective regulations like banning e-commerce platforms from trading on themselves, and caps on hoarding agri produce; and, (3) direct interventions in pricing and value share mechanisms, like curtailing predatory pricing and forced discounts on e-commerce platforms, providing Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farm produce, and limiting the cut taken by transport platform companies.”

The government should use this opportunity to re-visit the overall economic model “where a few digitally-powered mega corporations are to have complete control over every economic sphere and sector,” the JACAFRE said while pointing out that the government, instead, seemed to be withdrawing from its role in active economic regulation and protection.

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