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TRADE IN AGRICULTURE:THE URUGUAY ROUND AND AFTER Edited by B Bhattacharyya and A K Sengupta Indian Institute of Foreign Trade Rs 400
The 20 papers included in this book examine 3 issues -- market access commitments, plant breeders' rights and reduction of export subsidies on agro-exports.
It has been argued that the existing subsidies for the farm sector should continue to encourage this sector. Further, the reduction in farm subsidies by the developed countries will encourage developing countries like India to produce more agricultural produce for export. The developing countries should take this advantage and compete in the global agricultural trade. With this, the terms of trade will improve and India is likely to benefit to the tune of US $3-4 billion.
Regarding the market access commitments, removing trade barriers across the regions and countries will stimulate the export performance, and a rocketing increase in foreign earnings. As India has a wide range of biodiversity, there is a greater potential to increase the farm production for export. The authors, however, warn that unless proper marketing, packaging, transport, housing and storage facilities are provided, the net result would be dissatisfactory, to say the least.
The research and development in agriculture has to be linked with breeding technology for producing improved and high breed seed varieties. Most of the papers state that the Intellectual Property Rights will not prevent the local farmers to preserve and use the seeds unless it is given a trade mark.
The book gives an impression that the NEP*** will eventually help the agriculture sector and thereby increase its export. Export-import performance index on the India's agricultural trade indicates as 87.01 per cent in 1961 and it has increased four fold (375.51 per cent) in 1991. But there was a spurt in it in 1992 (190.79 per cent) This indicates the fact that, the NEP did not positively influence the agricultural trade in India. Also, the likely implications of such market oriented approach for increasing the agricultural production on the environment and employment aspects have not been touched. Micro level studies conducted by the research organisations like ISEC indicate that market oriented commercial farming systems like prawn farms and horticulture not only affected the local environment but also considerably affected the employment potential.
Already protests have been organised in prawn farms in the east and west coasts as the concentrated areas of prawn farms have resulted in increasing the salinity and waterlogging, besides reducing the availability of local employment. Large scale horticultural farms require high dose of external farms inputs like fertiliser and pesticides. Excessive use of water has also been reported. Given the present employment and water crisis there is an urgent need to formulate such policies which are environmentally sound and economically viable. Unfortunately, none of the contributors deals with these issues. More often the Indian agricultural goods like tea and fruits have been rejected by the western countries on the ground of health and pesticides residues.
The policymakers and the planners in consultation with the scientists and the farmers have to formulate suitable location specific strategies. Besides, the ecological implications and the economic viabilities have to be kept in mind. All these have to go hand in hand with good storage system, proper marketing and post harvest technologies. Yet, majority of these issues are again ignored by the authors.