The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (ICCFM), a federation of farmer organisations, has raised concerns over a probable Indo-US trade deal detrimental to Indian farmers ahead of President Donald Trump’s India visit.
India recently quit the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free-trade agreement (FTA) with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or Asean over defending its farmers’ interests.
President Trump will reach Ahmedabad on February 24. He will fly down to New Delhi the next day.
Farmer organisations fear India might sign agreements to open its markets to American agricultural products like dairy, wheat, corn and soy. Besides, India may be forced to reduce duty on cotton, chicken, apples, walnuts and almonds from the United States.
Most US agricultural produce is transgenic and farmers are concerned about biosafety.
“The much-publicised visit of President Trump this month would be precursor to an FTA, which is concern for Indian agriculture as well as the environment due to the entry of transgenic agri-produce,” Yudhvir Singh, ICCFM’s national convener, said.
He pointed out that such a trade deal offered no level playing field to Indian farmers, many of whom committed suicides every hour.
“For instance, it is cotton farmers who are mostly committing suicides in India, and any threat from subsidised cheaper cotton imports from the US should be thwarted,” Singh said.
American farmers are highly subsidised compared to their Indian counterparts. The US farm bill 2019 allotted $867 billion as subsidy for American farmers whereas Indian farmers get relatively meagre support, according to a letter sent by ICCFM to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The ratio of investment on agricultural infrastructure in India and the US is of the order of 1:100,000.
“With such large investment in agricultural infrastructure, the production cost of agri-produce is quite low and higher on competitiveness in terms of trade,” Singh said.
Moreover, the US’ actions in the World Trade Organization have been against Indian farmers, according to farmer organisations. The US has been consistently objecting to the Indian government’s public procurement of farmers’ produce.
Farmer organisations have threatened to intensify protests if any unfair trade deals are signed.