Over the past two decades, Indian companies like Reliance have made significant investments in contract farming, storage facilities, and retail grocery chains. With the new farm bills now in place, these companies are well positioned to create a seamless supply chain across state lines: buying low, selling high, and exporting crops to locations where prices offer the greatest profit.
Like most other industries in India, only a handful of corporations control the processing and distribution of food to the public. Benefiting from limited competition and no longer hindered by regulatory hurdles, these corporations can now push down prices paid to farmers and increase prices in the grocery aisle to the consumer.
In contrast to these massive but few buyers of produce, the farming sector is significantly fragmented with small farmers. Seventy percent of farmers have less than 2.5 acres of land. Despite 70% of India’s population relying on an income from agriculture, the industry has suffered from years of poor government policies and political corruption. As a result, these overlooked farmers have been crippled by debt and suicide.
Farmers in Punjab have been protesting the farm bills for months, eventually marching on New Delhi on November 26 in an effort to open a dialogue with the union government. Farmers from Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Utter Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat have joined the protest site in New Delhi, which has now swelled into the hundreds of thousands.
The farmers dissidence of the farm bills remains the last hurdle in the corporate takeover of the food supply.
Image and blog post by Ekta Punjab. For more, follow @ektapunjab on Instagram.