Medicine Hat News

Changes in Indian farm laws could benefit Canada, experts say

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Changes to India’s farm laws could open up the second most populous country to Canadian farmers, although a lot remains unknown about how a liberalize­d market might affect nations looking to export their produce, experts say.

A freer market in India would help corporatio­ns and countries that see it as a destinatio­n to sell produce, said Shashi Enarth, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia’s institute for resources, environmen­t and sustainabi­lity.

“It’ll be good for Canada if these three bills are introduced and they sail through,” he said in a recent interview.

He said the bills stipulate “that you can sell (agricultur­al produce) anywhere you want, you can buy whatever you want, and so that way it is good for Canada.”

India recently introduced three farm bills that constitute a step toward greater liberaliza­tion of her agricultur­al market.

But after two months of protests by farmers, the Supreme Court of India has temporaril­y put on hold their implementa­tion and ordered the creation of an independen­t committee of experts to negotiate with opponents of the legislatio­n.

Among other things, the bills would allow farmers to sell their produce outside government­run market committees, and they would remove minimum support prices for certain products.

They also allow farmers to forge agreements with private companies to produce a certain amount, which is then sold directly to the companies.

The protesting farmers say they fear the government would stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices under the laws and subject them to corporate exploitati­on by driving down prices for their products.

The farmers are continuing a blockade of highways connecting New Delhi with the country’s north. They have threatened to intensify the protest by organizing a massive tractor rally in New Delhi during Republic Day celebratio­ns on Jan. 26.

Data from Statistics Canada show India was the world’s largest market for legumes, with imports valued at $1.4 billion in 2018. Canada was the country’s second largest supplier of pulses, such as lentils, dried peas, beans and chickpeas.

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