Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)
Maharashtra First Outreach Meeting
Nasik district, Maharashtra, September 25, 2005
Samarthan, GRANITE project partner for Maharastra in association with Daily Gavkari, a leading local newspaper, organised its first Outreach Meeting at Nasik city on September 25, 2005.
Nasik is one of the leading districts in the state in the export of horticultural products. It has more potential of exporting than what its actual exports to date. Daily Gavkari has formed a forum of farmers in the Nasik district and frequently organises meetings of farmers on issues concerning them.
In the Outreach Meeting, 72 farmers from various parts of the district participated including the potential exporters.
- to share the challenges and opportunities that the farmers in the district face in the era of globalisation including expected outcome of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference in December 2005;
- To facilitate interaction between the farmers and various experts in the field of agriculture, so that the farmers can face the challenges and exploit the opportunities offered by international market; and
- To know the concerns of growers-exporters and how these concerns can be taken up to the policy makers.
Inaugurating the Outreach Meeting, Yogesh Patil of Daily Gavkari welcomed the participants. Vivek Pandit, Chairperson, Samarthan outlined the objectives of the meeting assuring that Samarthan would take up the concerns of the farmers to the policy makers with all its strength.
Milind Murugkar (Research Coordinator) spoke on Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), the opportunities for India, trends in trade, subsidy and tariff structure, current status of negotiations, expected outcome from WTO Ministerial conference. He also expressed that anti-WTO lobbies will get active as the Ministerial conference approaches and this would weaken the negotiating capacity of the Indian negotiators at WTO level.
Following were the salient features of Murugkar’s presentation:
- Poverty eradication is strongly linked with the growth of agriculture sector. Fair international trade regime in agriculture has potential to trigger growth, so the farmers need to look at the process of globalisation with optimism.
- The propaganda that large-scale imports of agricultural goods are harming the interest of the farmers is utterly false. It is not true that WTO’s agreement has curtailed the capacity of the Indian government to protect the farmers by raising the tariffs. India’s average level of bound duties is one of the highest in the world. There is not a single commodity whose import has increased in the post WTO period due to the signing of AoA;
- Declining public investment in agriculture, not cheap import is a matter of concern.
It was observed that few farmers were aware of these issues and they expressed and argued their viewpoints.
Rajaram Sangle and Piyush Agarwal, both grower and exporter of horticultural products shared their experiences in the field.
Rajaram Sangle informed about:
- the huge opportunities for the farmers and how can they exploit these opportunities;
- the new techniques and the practices which the farmers need to adopt;
- various services that are available to farmers to help them export their products;
- the need to share the information with the farmers without being secretive about it; and
- the positive attitude and commitment of farmers to be in the export business.
Piyush Agarwal concentrated more on the policy relevant issues.
- Citing the well-known case of rejection of exported grapes by the European authorities a couple of years ago on the ground that higher pesticide residue contents were present, he said that lack of information about the post harvest interval (PHI) among the farmers was responsible for the rejection. He opined that providing information about the PHI should be made mandatory for the pesticide producers.
- He also questioned the capacity of the National Research Centers to provide such information. However, he sought GRANITE’s support in dealing with these issues at the policy level.
- He also shared an interesting observation about the positive impact of import. This, according to him, stimulates the desire to produce quality products, thus building up the capacity to face the international market.
Gorakh Pawar, expert in organic farming and its marketing, stated:
- Adopting organic farming is not just replacing the fertilizers but is a package of practice. Along with the awareness among farmers on organic fertilizers there is also a need for consumer awareness.
- While complying with the certification standards for exporting, sometimes the farmers have experienced difficulties in finding alternatives to chemicals.
- The government schemes/subsidies available for organic farming need to reach to the farmers. Advocacy on these issues is required.
Anil Chavan of Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (ECGC) made a presentation on the services offered by ECGC. It is a government corporation and provides exporters the information on genuineness and credit worthiness of the export-seeking merchants abroad. The ECGC also provides insurance facility for the exporters and publish a monthly newsletter for farmers.
Abhilash Gorhe, an expert in Eurepgap certification informed that from next year onwards no horticulture or vegetable product could be exported to the European market without Eurepgap certification. He explained
- the process and criteria for this certification;
- various records to be maintained as part of acquiring certificate. He displayed some of the formats of record keeping; and
- processes leading towards Eurepgap certification and assurance given to the farmers that though the process apparently looks complicated, it can easily comply with the norms.
The contact numbers of these experts were shared with the participants. During lunch, the participants got the opportunity to interact with these experts.
Outcome of the Outreach Meeting
- It gave GRANITE an opportunity to get insight into the issues concerning the production and exports of horticulture products and helped in identifying areas where intervention is needed at the policy level.
- It gave opportunity to potential exporters to interact with various experts, which will certainly help them in future.
- It helped farmers to know about the happenings at the broader level and how is it relevant for them.