Protesting farmers and their families gather around a bonfire to mark the harvest festival, which is called Lohri, on a blocked highway in protest against new farm laws on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Changes in India’s farm laws could potentially open up one of the world’s most populous markets and are being closely watched by Canada’s agricultural and economic sectors, say experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Altaf Qadri

Protesting farmers and their families gather around a bonfire to mark the harvest festival, which is called Lohri, on a blocked highway in protest against new farm laws on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Changes in India’s farm laws could potentially open up one of the world’s most populous markets and are being closely watched by Canada’s agricultural and economic sectors, say experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Altaf Qadri

Changes in Indian farm laws could benefit Canada, experts say

Laws have sparked large-scale protests from farmers

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 government-run 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.

Raji Jayaraman, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Munk school of global affairs and public policy, said Canadian exporters may benefit in the medium to long term, especially if there are further steps toward liberalizing agricultural markets in India.

“The farm bills don’t directly affect tariffs on agricultural imports to India, so any effect is going to be indirect,” she said.

How Canadian agricultural exports fare will depend on how the changes affect the prices of agricultural commodities, she added. If Indian agricultural corporations exert their market power, then the new laws might result in lower prices received by farmers and higher prices paid by consumers for agricultural commodities, she said.

“Ironically, this may help Canadian farmers who are able to sell their products to the Indian market more cheaply.”

READ MORE: Indian farmers rally moves as organizers say Surrey RCMP told them they couldn’t gather

Greg Northey, Pulse Canada’s vice-president of corporate affairs, said the organization is watching the developments in India closely and considering how they might affect farmers here.

“It’s an important market for sure, one that we care about and one that we’ve had a long-standing relationship with, and one we want to continue to export to,” said Northey, whose organization represents growers, traders and processors.

Most pulses in Canada are grown in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, with bean production concentrated in southern Ontario and Quebec, its website says.

The organization is analyzing how the new laws in India would impact Canadian farmers, he said. But they don’t have a good understanding yet and haven’t come across an analysis of how changes in India’s laws will affect imports and exports, Northey said.

Jayaraman said a lot of people are fearful about the liberalization of agricultural markets in India because it is a large employer. The majority of farmers in India own less than one hectare of farmland and operate on a subsistence basis.

“And so, anything that touches and reforms agricultural markets is going to have ramifications for subsistence livelihood for hundreds of millions of people,” she added.

Jayaraman also cautioned that the future of the Indian farm market is still unknown under the proposed laws.

“I mean people are still scratching their heads trying to figure out what the ramifications of these reforms are,” she said.

“I’m going to say the jury is out. It’s really going to depend on how the market evolves as a result of these reforms.”

— With files from The Associated Press

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

FarmingIndia

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The platanthera dilatata is the fragrant white bog orchid whose perfume on a hot August day is one of the unforgettable delights of a summer hike in Strathcona Park. Photo supplied
Strathcona Wilderness Institute AGM upcoming

The Strathcona Wilderness Institute (SWI) will hold its 2021 annual general meeting… Continue reading

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

Cumberland council is backing the business association again. File photo
Cumberland backs homeless veteran count

Briefs: Council continues support for business association

Courtenay Nissan’s Matthew Bourassa, Geoff Piper and Sean LaFleur join YANA’s Ashley Smith, Kelly Rusk and Lisa Wilcox for the 4x4x48 event to raise funds. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Courtenay Nissan eats and runs for YANA

Dealership realized non-profit groups need new ways to raise funds during COVID

Rev. Sulin Milne at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Comox is part of those helping distribute food to those in need within the town. Photo by Jim Peacock
Comox church serving the community with food through COVID-19

“We knew there were so many people who were facing economic challenges …”

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Most Read