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

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

From left: Councillor Lucy Taylor, Councillor Barry Banford, Councillor Bill Haring, Mayor Merlin Blackwell, Councillor Lynne Frizzle, Councillor Lyle Mckenzie and Councillor Shelley Sim. (District of Clearwater photo)
Council to consider raising taxes in 2021

The District of Clearwater council is considering a tax increase this year… Continue reading

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Most Read