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Threat of global hunger demands major reform of the Indian farm sector

Food inflation eases in India

Indian farmers are planning a massive rally in New Delhi later during the year to press for bringing in reforms in the agriculture sector. About a lakh farmers from across the country are likely to join the rally in the capital. Sources said that the Centre must initiate a dialogue with the relevant stakeholders to carry on with the reform process in the agriculture sector.

“We are planning a mega rally on October 2..we need to modernise and reform the agriculture sector at the earliest. We want to press this point,” Anil J Ghanwat, president, Shetkari Sanghatana, a Maharashtra based farmers’ union, told India Narrative. “Challenges have risen due to climate change conditions as well and we need to take up the issue of agriculture reforms in a manner that they can be implemented,” Ghanwat, who was also in the Supreme Court appointed panel, added.

The current heat wave in several parts of the country has affected the farm sector denting agriculture production.  India has the second largest arable land in the world but if such climatic conditions prevail in the coming years, farm sector output could be affected.

Even as the Centre repealed all the three farm reform bills — the Farmers’ Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, a report by the SC led panel on the issue revealed that more than three crore farmers in the country representing 86 per cent of the organisations were in support of the bills.

Amid concerns over food security, India’s exports of grains including rice and wheat have increased significantly.  Spices, sugar and cotton besides marine products and meats are also among the key exporting agro items.

Amul’s managing director RS Sodhi earlier told India Narrative that while the farm sector reforms are the need of the hour, the government needs to communicate better.

“The government’s intention is good but there are apprehensions among a sector, which need to be removed,” Sodhi said.

Nirupama Soundararajan, chief executive officer, Pahle India Foundation echoed the same sentiment.

“Continuation of dialogue with all stakeholders is critical and the government must work to bring them on board on all issues that need change. Building consensus on such issues will be critical and once that is done, the government must take the necessary steps to modernise the farm sector,” Soundararajan said.

The Indian Express in an opinion column pointed out that “the withdrawal of the farm laws was certainly a major victory for the protesting farmers, but it does push back reforms that could have helped in commercialising this sector.”

The India Brand Equity Foundation said that demand for agricultural inputs such as hybrid seeds and fertilizers and allied services like warehousing and cold storages is increasing in India at a fast pace.

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