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 welcome sign is the first thing new employees moving to Prince Rupert will see as they drive the road into the city. The ‘Prince Rupert - Make it Home’ employment campaign to draw people to the region was launched on Feb. 16. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Stakeholders respond to employee recruitment campaign housing ‘disconnect’

‘Prince Rupert -Make it Home’ is 5-year recruitment and retention campaign

More than 35 families received renoviction notices on Feb. 26, 2020 at Pinecrest Townhomes in Prince Rupert. (K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Renovictions will be tightened in proposed changes to renters laws

Rent freeze, and changes to procedures will benefit Prince Rupert tenants and landlords

Chloe and Koy are two participants in the talent show format of the 2021 annual Children's Fest to be broadcast on community television March 5th and 6th. ()Photo: supplied by Prince Rupert Special Event Society)
30th Annual Children’s Fest takes on a new format

2021 Prince Rupert Children’s Fest will feature a show of local talent

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Families on the North Coast will benefit from 70 new childcare spaces Ministry of Children and Family Development announced on March 1. Seen here are children from Growing Together Child Care Centre in Surrey. (Photo supplied by Jennifer Rice, MLA for Northcoast)
Northcoast families to benefit from new childcare spaces

62 Childcare spaces in Lax Kw’alaams and 8 in Haida Gwaii are part of Childcare BC New Spaces Fund

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforcement, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Most Read