Toronto: India’s agriculture reforms will yield results in the long run and meet its stated objectives, Scott Moe, Premier of Saskatchewan, emphasized at a virtual webinar organized by the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) last Thursday. Ajay Bisaria, High Commissioner of India to Canada was the other speaker at the webinar that Vijay Thomas, President, ICCC, moderated.
Indian agriculture reforms introduced in 2020 have generated passion and controversy in parts of India and a section of Indians abroad.
The ICCC webinar aimed to provide a Canadian perspective, focussing on the economic aspects of reforms.
In Canada, the then Stephen Harper government abolished the Canadian Wheat Board In 2012. The Wheat Board had a monopoly over the marketing of agriculture produce in Western Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and to a lesser extent in British Columbia).
This reform subsequently led to a revolutionary transformation of the agriculture sector in these provinces and especially in Saskatchewan, leading to an exponential rise in production and exports.
Scott Moe, who witnessed this transformation firsthand, and who is observing India’s attempt to reform its agriculture laws, has compared India’s journey with Saskatchewan’s in 2012 when the reforms were introduced.
He finds many parallels between India and Saskatchewan’s experience in 2012. Premier Moe said Saskatchewan reforms brought challenges, but the province’s farmers adapted quickly – they innovated, and today they are “far better off with the new opportunities.
“Our grain exports nearly touched $17 billion and are rising exponentially.”
“Growth comes only with change, and change is not always easy. Growth brings great opportunity,” Premier Moe said.
The Canadian Wheat Board set the price that the farmers had to accept, and as markets evolved around the world, the system became “archaic and unworkable. It stifled growth, innovation and opportunity.”
Following the abolition of the Wheat Board, the agriculture sector flourished. It has given farmers the freedom to market their produce, tchoose who to sell their grains to. The contracts are based on price and quality of the grain, the delivery date and the delivery location, and other mutually agreed contractual terms between the farmer and the buyer.
Ajay Bisaria, High Commissioner of India to Canada, congratulated the ICCC for organizing the webinar on a subject that is crucial to the Indian economy and Canada–India bilateral economic ties. Bisaria said the stated objective of the Indian agriculture reforms is to double the farmers’ incomes, especially of small and marginal farmers.
“There is a broad consensus in India that in the agriculture sector, change is imperative. There is consensus on the direction and nature of the reforms..”
The three laws India has introduced are about markets, contracts, transportation, and storage. They aim to create designated markets, to give farmers the opportunity to go to different markets, and not face a monopoly of purchase of produce.
“The idea is to create a pan-India market, get in additional investment and credit and value-added investment in research and innovation. To get newer technologies. India needs one nation, one market.”
Bisaria also said the reforms are an integral part of reforms in various sectors – land, labour, capital, liquidity, education that aim to turbo charge the economy and realize India’s aspiration to raise its GDP to $5 trillion by 2025 and $10 trillion by 2035.
About the controversy over the legislations, Bisaria said India’s resilience in handling diversity in public opinion is well established.
“The government held around 11 rounds of discussions with various unions of farmers. The government remains open to have these conversations. There has even been a moratorium of the implementation of these reform laws to give more time to everyone to have a more informed, fact-based, evidencebased conversation.”
On being asked by Vijay Thomas, President, ICCC, on what lessons India could learn from Canadian agricultural reforms and how the farmers signed even without a minimum support price, Moe explained that the provision of forward contracts was a crucial factor.
With private companies signing contracts to buy agricultural produce for multiple years into the future at higher prices than those prevailing at that moment definitely went a long way in assuaging the apprehensions the farmers may have had about the reforms. This could be something that farmers in India could also expect once reforms and the free market kicked in.
Vijay Thomas said the Chamber was focused on enhancing economic ties between Canada and India. He said the ICCC maintains its non-partisan status by supporting both the Canadian and the Indian governments at all levels to continue focusing on trade and investments.