Lok Satta Junction

For better governance in India.

Loksatta on collective farming

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The Andhra Pradesh Government proposed the idea of collective farming to address low productivities and unsustainable incomes:

Cooperative farming envisages giving farmers the option to pool up their land into a cooperative, a company or a society. They have to transfer their land along with their rights to the new body in return for a share capital. The farmers will have the option to exit any time by selling their share to the members or to the government. The society/company will carry on agricultural operations, have its own godowns and work with minimum intervention and maximum support of the Government. “If this experiment succeeds, it will speak for itself. If it fails, it will be the responsibility of the government to restore the status quo ante”.

An excellent twopart video of an earlier discussion on the crisis in agriculture among other issues and how the lack of incorporation of technology in agriculture has affected the state of farmers in the country. JP has further warned the co-operative farming envisaged by the AP Government will end up in a disaster. The main arguments of LSP against the Congress Govt proposed collective farming:

  • Farming in Andhra Pradesh suffered from a host of ailments all of which had little to do with the size of farms.
  • Productivity and production in the farm sector have been low because farmers do not have access to technology.
  • The real problem lay in the absence of breakthroughs in technologies after the Green Revolution of the 1960s.
  • The Government’s advocacy of large, consolidated holdings in the name of cooperative or collective farming for precision farming is untenable. Precision farming involves control of temperature, moisture etc in green houses as in the raising of tulips in the Netherlands. The holdings involved are all small and not at all large.
  • All over the country productivity in small farms is higher than in large farms.
  • If cooperative farming is introduced, the small farmer becomes a wage earner and loses his dignity.
  • Nowhere in the world large-scale farming has been a success. In India itself, we have 14 Central State Farms spread over tens of thousands of acres. But all the farms run by the Government of India are bankrupt. The erstwhile Soviet Union paid a very high price for promoting collective farming.

“In India, cooperatives have succeeded where they are engaged in processing and marketing and not in primary production. Milk cooperatives are a good example. Even in dairy cooperatives whenever the Government controlled them as in Kadapa and Chittoor, the dairies went bankrupt whereas farmer-controlled processing cooperatives are doing well.”

Loksatta has suggested the following alternatives to tackle the crisis in agriculture:

  • Enact a law as in Punjab to promote consolidation of fragmented holdings.
  • Liberalize  the present monstrous tenancy law. Although two-thirds of land holdings in the State are in the hands of tenants, owners do not register them for fear of losing ownership. Once tenancy is brought on record, the tenant can access bank credit and other inputs.
  • A liberalized tenancy law will also facilitate contract farming which is in the interest of the farmer as also the country. For instance, sugarcane and oil palm are raised as a contract between processing mills and farmers. In a similar fashion, paper producers enter into an understanding with farmers for supply of softwood in Andhra Pradesh, and vegetable producers for supply of raw material to processing industry.
  • The Government should focus on value addition, warehousing and marketing. The marketing societies should be under the control of farmers, and all restrictions on marketing should be removed.

Note that the contract farming as suggested by Loksatta is not the same as the failed “contract/corporate farming” Kuppam experiment by the Babu’s TDP Government in 1997. Actually it’s quite the opposite, the Kuppam project is an experiment in Corporate farming where the farmers’ cooperative contracts all the farm work (all stages from initial planning to development and management) to a corporate body. This failed experiment is in fact eerily similar to the co-operative farming idea currently proposed by the YSR Government. The activists in the article further claim:

It is probable that only the Government of A. P. signed the contract with the Israeli company and the formation of Mutually Aided Joint Farming Society was only to legitimate the dealings of the government/company with the farmers, whose lands have been taken over for the demonstration. The members of the Joint Farming Society were never consulted by the corporate body on any decision relating to the operation of the demonstration fields. Thus, no element of cooperation, not even symbolic, was involved either in the formation of the Mutually Aided Joint Farming Co-operative Society or in signing the contract or while dealing with the corporate body.

This further shows the pitfalls and the scope for massive corruption when the Govt gets to take over the lands of small farmers and turning them over to cooperatives/corporates controlled by big landlords/Govt. This completely marginalizes the small farmers pushing them into giving up their lands with little control over the returns.

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Written by jujung

July 26, 2009 at 10:26 AM

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