Brazil’s President Bolsonaro, is the chief guest at India’s  Republic Day Parade on January 26 this year.  But  sugarcane farmers around the country are not  happy with his visit and protesting around the country for the last  three days.

Brazil, largest producer of sugarcane and sugar  exporter in the world  complained to WTO (World Trade Organization) questioning the support of Indian government to the sugarcane farmers and alleges that WTO  domestic subsidies and support  rules are violated. Also other  top sugar producing nations- Australia and Guatemala have also  complained to WTO with similar  allegations. The major  complaint lodged by them  against India  is  Along with Brazil, Australia and Guatemala have also lodged complaints against India. These countries allege that subsidy given by Indian government to farmers is excessive ie.. many times crosses WTO  permitted 10 percent support  of  production value and  causes  enormous  losses to other sugar producers in the global sugar market.  In short they  demand  withdrawal of all  crop support prices to farmers and other incentives given to domestic  sugar industry. By inviting  and rolling  red carpet  to president Bolsanaro  present NDA government  wants to please major  multinational corporations in world sugar trade on the expense of  five crores of  small marginal and tenant  sugarcane farmers and to destroy their livelihoods. President Bolsanaros, a known destroyer of Amazon’s natural environment, rights of  indigenous people is now collaborating with another right wing Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi to destroy the livelihoods of 50  million poor Indian sugarcane farmers.

They  want Indian government  to  withdraw all Minimum Support Prices (MSP) given to sugarcane farmers presently. Brazil’s complaint includes India’s FRP (Fair Remunerative prices)  announced by  Union government and the SAP (Special assistance Prices, announced by some state governments) have been challenged in addition to export subsidy  concessions extended to sugar mills to clear  over burdened sugar stocks. According to the WTO rule book MSP or MPS & ERP (market support price and External Reference prices respectively) are calculated based  in reference to 1986-88 cost of crop cultivation. The  Support price  announced by government in 1986 was Rs 156.16 per ton.  After several  militant struggles waged by various Kisan organizations in the country  citing sky rocketing  cost of inputs and cost of cultivation  the government was forced to  revise periodically MSPs. Current  MSP for sugarcane stands at Rs 2,750 per ton. Even this price is not adequate and Kisan organizations demand the government to follow  DR. Swaminathan Farmers commission’s recommendations i.e.  Rs 5,000 per ton  as  MSP keeping in view of  inflation, increased cost of production and fmily expenditure. Organizations. While   Brazil and other  nations  cite the Price gap between Rs 156.16 (from 1986) and current price Rs 2,750/ton as  excessive increase and a  market trade distoration dolled on to Indian sugarcane farmers liberally. And  this price difference  exceeds the alleged  10 % WTO  permitted support price levels.

In fact  the state  does not  pay  guaranteed support price to cane farmers but  asks  sugar mills to pay them instead.  The sugar mills  chronically default  payment of sums towards the cane supplied by farmers. The unpaid aerials  to farmers by  sugar mills often runs in to  thousands of crore rupees, thus impoverishing  crores of  small and  tenant farmers leaving no money for  next season crop expenses and  family expenditure. Again after  pressure from farmers for payment of unpaid  dues, government has recently paid  thousands of  crores of rupees, bank soft loans and  various other export and transport incentives. The  Sugar mills  receive  huge sums of money from government and never clear  the  unpaid  dues to farmers. Thus  the alleged (by  Brazil  and Australia in their complaint) excessive crop support  given to Indian farmers never reaches them.  Even the level of support calculated  keeping the inflation in view  amounts  nearly 2.6 % but not the  alleged 10%as alleged in WTO complaint.

Of late India’ s  sugar production is gradually rising and  in 2019 it touched 31.0 milliion tonnes. This has been achieved  due to  red rot disease  resistant high yielding sugarcane varieties developed by breeders in ICAR and  hard work of small farmers. Today  India is the  second  major producer of sugar after Brazil. During 2018-19 we exported nearly 3.68 million tons to clear excessive domestic stocks. While  Brazil  exports  nearly 42.0 % of its  sugar production and dominates world sugar markets. Australia too  exports 90 % of it’s production. Sugar  is  a big business in the world running in to more than 100 billion US dollars in world commodity trade  with  links  to brewarage & biscuit industry. The world  trade is  precisely controlled by major  wesrern multinationals such as Sudzucker (Germany), Cosan Cmmercio (Brazil) and others.  The multinationals want to destroy  Indian self sufficiency in Sugar by ruining livelihoods of  5 crore sugar cane farmers so that they can enter and dominate the huge 130 crore  Indian market.

Present NDA government as part of it’s anti people neoliberal economic agenda wants please multinationals from Brazil  and other western nations  by destroying the livelihoods of Indian sugarcane farmers.  Similar to  recent farmers resistance to  avert  RCEP diary import agreement with Newzeland & Australia, our  farming community  should continue present united  struggle  and  force Union government  to  convince Brazil and other nations to withdraw their complaints to protect  interests of Indian sugarcane farmers.

Dr Soma Marla, Principal Scientist (Biotechnology), New Delhi, India


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