Srinagar: The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) on Thursday called for unity in the apple belt region through a peasant movement against what they called the ‘corporatization of agriculture’ and the fight against the large-scale exploitation of apple growers across the country.
Following a two-day “national apple growers’ workshop” in Srinagar, members of the farmers’ rights group took note of what they saw as the “large-scale exploitation” of apple growers and agricultural labor by corporations and intermediaries with the active support of the Indian government through its “neoliberal policies”.
Speaking after the event, Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI (M)] Leader MY Tarigami said, “Corporations are making huge profits through multinational business manipulation.
He said the Controlled Atmosphere Storage (CAS) facility leased to large business groups was another example of how public money was diverted to help businesses ‘profit’.
Such commercial “manipulation” by the companies was authorized by the Union government to drive down the selling price for farmers, he alleged.
During the workshop, farmer groups said that “no effective government mechanism” for purchasing, transporting and storing apples was accessible to the majority of apple growers in the difficult terrain. The state administration’s highly acclaimed programs for high-density farming and market interventions were “non-starters”, they said.
For this, a resolution on the challenges and demands of apple growers was adopted following the workshop, which proposed that effective alternatives, such as cooperatives, be developed.
The organizers said they would contact apple growers, spread across 20 districts across the country, within a stipulated time and form an Indian Apple Growers Federation to rally apple growers and agricultural workers under its banner. They will submit a charter of demands to the central government and undertake struggles until the demands are realised.
AIKS General Secretary Hannan Mollah said: “Worker-peasant unity must progress towards greater unity of the people to resolve the still unresolved agrarian question in the apple belt region, which functions as fertile ground for aggressively confrontational and communal politics and agitation. which prevails today. »
The national apple growers’ workshop in India, Mollah added, was a first step towards building a farmers’ movement on crop-specific issues in this sector.
The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir contributes 77% of the total apple production in India, which is considered the sixth largest apple producer in the world. The apple sector, according to AIKS, provides livelihoods to about nine lakh households in India, mostly from Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The apple industry in Jammu and Kashmir contributes 8% to the Gross Domestic Product or GDP of the region.
“The main problem facing farmers in the apple industry today is the denial of remunerative prices. About 30% of the production is wasted or wasted at different stages due to non-availability of storage facilities among small and medium farmers,” Mollah said.
The average value recovered by an apple grower in different grades is estimated at Rs 45 per kilogram for Grade A, Rs. 20/kg for Grade B and Rs. 8/kg for Grade C. On average, farmers receive Rs. 24/ a kg and since 18 lakh tons are the tradable produce, the income received by the farmers is around Rs 4,300 crore., he said.
“Against this, the consumer price of apples depending on the grade ranges from Rs. 30 to Rs. 300. If we consider Rs. 80 as the average commodity price in the retail market, then around Rs. 400 crore is the value in the consumer market Farmers who have to bear the cost of production including labor costs get less than 30% of this value chain,” Mollah said.
AIKS Finance Secretary P Krishnaprasad said, “The remaining 70% of the value i.e. Rs 10,000 crore per annum is shared by various stakeholders including corporates, intermediaries and brokers, owners of cold chains, transporters, wholesalers. merchants, retailers, lending institutions and as a tax to governments.
According to the resolution adopted during the workshop, agricultural workers are also not paid enough to live with dignity and face precarious employment, so they are forced to migrate to other sectors in search of better jobs and income.
The workshop noted that the Union government had allowed the import of apples to facilitate corporate control in the wholesale and retail market, at the cost of harming the interests of growers.