THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Centre should mandatorily consult states before inking international agricultural trade and free trade agreements, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Tuesday. A ratification by the Parliament should be made compulsory before such agreements are enforced, he said.
‘’Agriculture is a state subject. The Centre should consult states that are affected by international agreements and arrive at a decision. Only then should such treaties be signed,’’ he said, inaugurating a national workshop on International Agricultural Trade and Free Trade Agreements’ organised by the Agriculture Department, State Agriculture Prices Board and the WTO Cell.
States face the brunt of international agreements due to the Centre’s reluctance to consult them even in matters that directly affect them.“This attitude must change if we are to ensure the livelihood security of farmers,” he said. He expressed concern over the Centre’s agricultural export policy, saying farmers will be hit if all controls on imports are lifted in the name of promoting exports.‘’If this happens, ordinary farmers will be adversely affected, especially small-scale farmers. Big farmers and corporate farming concerns will benefit. Such a discrimination should not occur. The government has conveyed Kerala’s stand on the agri export policy to the Centre,” he said.
Union Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu, in a video message, said the Centre had decided to promote agriculture exports. The draft agriculture export policy is available online, Prabhu said. Suresh Pal, director, National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research-ICAR, New Delhi, underlined the need to leverage technology and institutional innovation to spur agricultural growth. He said the time has come to give serious thought to enhancing the income of farmers.
Development of the agri-business sector also should be given sufficient focus, he said. On the potential of agricultural exports, he said the value of agri exports in 2016 stood at Rs 2,15,400 crore at the national level. Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar presided over the function. K Krishnan Kutty MLA, Chief Secretary Paul Antony, Planning Board vice-chairman V K Ramachandran and Haritha Keralam Mission vice-chairperson T N Seema spoke.