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11 May 2024 : Indian Express Editorial Analysis

1. FLIP FLOP FLIP

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors

GS3 – Agriculture

 

Context:
  • Corporates seek stability and predictability in government policy to facilitate investment and business planning.
  • However, this stability is often lacking in policies affecting farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs, leading to uncertainty and economic repercussions.
  • The recent example of fluctuating policies on wheat and onion exports underscores the challenges faced by agricultural sectors due to government interventions.

Inconsistent Policies and Their Impact on Farmers:

  • The government’s decision to ban wheat exports shortly after expressing readiness to explore new markets contradicts its earlier stance, highlighting policy inconsistencies.
  • Similarly, abrupt changes in onion export regulations, including setting floor prices and outright bans, create uncertainty for farmers and disrupt their livelihoods.
  • These policy flip-flops not only hinder investment climate but also contribute to government-created uncertainty, detrimental to the agricultural sector.

Consumer Protection vs. Producer Interests:

  • The government defends export curbs as measures to control food inflation and protect consumers.
  • However, these measures overlook the interests of producers, primarily farmers, who bear the brunt of such policies.
  • While a slight increase in onion prices may affect consumers’ monthly budgets, it translates into significant revenue losses for farmers.
  • The disparity between consumer concerns and farmer livelihoods underscores the need for policies that balance both interests.

Impact on Agricultural Exports and Market Dynamics:

  • The imposition of export bans and restrictions has led to a decline in India’s agricultural exports, impacting the overall economy.
  • The country requires a new export-import policy that considers the interests of both consumers and producers, along with short- and long-term agricultural imperatives.
  • Temporary and rules-based controls, such as tariffs instead of outright bans, can provide stability while enabling market intervention to curb price volatility.

Addressing Policy Challenges and Long-Term Solutions:

  • The government must recognize that building export markets takes time and effort, while policy reversals can undo progress swiftly.
  • Moreover, prioritizing consumer interests over producer welfare may have adverse long-term consequences.
  • Therefore, a balanced approach that supports farmers’ livelihoods while addressing consumer concerns is essential for sustainable agricultural growth.

Conclusion:

  • The case of fluctuating agricultural export policies highlights the need for greater policy stability and coherence in the agricultural sector.
  • By balancing the interests of consumers and producers and adopting rules-based measures, the government can foster a conducive environment for agricultural growth.
  • Ultimately, policies that support farmers’ livelihoods while ensuring food security and price stability are vital for the long-term sustainability of India’s agricultural sector.
What are the Steps Ahead for a Stable Agri-Export Policy in India?
  • Farmer’s Welfare: Prioritize the welfare of farmers and ensure that they receive fair prices for their produce. The success of agricultural exports should directly benefit the farming community.
  • Support for Domestic Consumers: To ensure food security, policy support is needed for domestic consumers, it should be through a domestic income policy targeted specifically at vulnerable sections of society.
  • Productivity Enhancement: Increasing agricultural productivity is essential for competitiveness. It will require investments in R&D, seeds, irrigation, fertilizers, and better farming practices.
  • Diversify Export Basket: Diversify the basket of agricultural exports, emphasize value-added products, lessen reliance on a select few commodities, and target a wide array of international markets.
  • Quality Assurance: Implement strict quality standards and certification mechanisms to ensure that exported agricultural products meet international norms. There is a need to establish uniform quality and standardization protocols to ensure consistency in the quality of agricultural products, particularly for horticultural items.
  • Infrastructure Development: Invest in modern infrastructure, including cold storage, processing facilities, transportation, and logistics to reduce post-harvest losses and enhance export competitiveness. Offer financial incentives, subsidies, and credit facilities to encourage investments in agriculture, infrastructure, and processing facilities.
  • Technology Adoption: Promote the use of advanced agricultural technologies, precision farming, and efficient irrigation techniques to enhance productivity. Encourage the growth of agri-startups and innovative solutions to enhance agricultural production and export efficiency.
  • Environmentally Sustainable Practices: Encourage sustainable farming practices, including organic farming, to ensure environmental sustainability in agriculture
  •  International Best Practices: Learn from successful agricultural export policies and best practices in other countries. Strengthen diplomatic efforts to negotiate favorable trade agreements and reduce trade barriers to gain better access to international markets.

 

PYQ: What is/are the advantage/advantages of implementing the ‘National Agriculture Market’ scheme? (2017)

1) It is a pan-India electronic trading portal for agricultural commodities.

2) It provides the farmers access to nationwide market, with prices commensurate with the quality of their produce.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither1 nor 2

Ans: C

Practice Question:  How do fluctuating government policies on agricultural exports impact farmers’ livelihoods and India’s agricultural sector, and what measures can be implemented to achieve policy stability while balancing the interests of consumers and producers? (250 words/15 m)

2. APE FOR OIL

Topic: GS2 – International Relations

GS3 – Environment

 

Context:
  • Animals have long played a role in diplomatic relations, symbolizing values and fostering connections between nations.
  • While historically used to convey royal qualities, in the modern era, animals are employed by countries to signal commitment to certain values or to improve diplomatic ties.
  • Malaysia’s recent decision to gift orangutans to trade partners purchasing its palm oil mirrors China’s successful “panda diplomacy,” highlighting the evolving use of animals in international relations.

Panda Diplomacy and Malaysia’s Orangutan Initiative:

  • China’s use of giant pandas for diplomatic purposes has been well-documented, with the cuddly bears serving as effective tools to improve relations with other nations.
  • Inspired by this success, Malaysia aims to utilize orangutans as diplomatic gifts to counter accusations of unsustainability against its palm oil plantations.
  • However, while animals can serve as goodwill gestures, their effectiveness in addressing complex diplomatic issues remains uncertain.

About Orangutans:

  • Orangutans are great apes that are native to the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

Conservation Status:

  • These animals are classified as critically endangered, according to the WWF.

Threat:

  • Habitat loss “due to logging, agricultural expansion, particularly palm oil plantations, and infrastructure development” posing the greatest threat.
  • They are highly intelligent animals that are known for their tool-using abilities.
  • One of the most common tools that orangutans use is a stick, which they use for a variety of purposes, including scraping insects from holes in trees.
  • Orangutans will often break off a small branch from a tree and use it to probe into holes in the bark.
  • Once they have located an insect, they will use the stick to scrape it out and eat it.
  • Orangutans have also been observed using sticks to dig for grubs in the ground and to pry open fruits.
  • In addition to using sticks, orangutans have also been observed using leaves to wipe their faces and to fan themselves on hot days.
  • They have also been known to use stones to crack open nuts and to use branches to build nests.

Historical Precedents: Lessons from the Past:

  • History provides examples of the limitations of using animals for diplomatic purposes.
  • In instances such as the reported poor health of pandas in American zoos amid US-China tensions or the strain caused by the presence of Soliman the elephant in Archduke Maximilian of Austria’s marriage, animals have sometimes complicated rather than improved diplomatic relations.
  • These examples caution against relying solely on animals to navigate diplomatic challenges.

The Irony of Orangutan Diplomacy for Malaysia:

  • The orangutan, as an endangered species found only in certain regions of Malaysia and Indonesia, carries symbolic weight as a diplomatic gift.
  • However, Malaysia’s use of orangutans to counter accusations of deforestation caused by palm oil plantations may backfire, as it underscores the environmental concerns associated with such industries.
  • Thus, the diplomatic gesture may inadvertently highlight the very issues it seeks to address.

Conclusion:

  • While animals can serve as powerful symbols in diplomacy, their effectiveness is contingent upon various factors, including the context of the diplomatic relationship and the broader socio-political landscape.
  • Malaysia’s orangutan initiative exemplifies the complexities of using animals in diplomatic gestures, highlighting the need for nuanced approaches to address underlying issues effectively.
  • Ultimately, while animals may capture public attention, sustainable and comprehensive diplomatic strategies are essential for fostering positive international relations.
How important is palm oil to global supply chains?
  • Palm oil is the world’s most widely used vegetable oil with its global production in crop year 2020 exceeding 73 million tonnes (MT), according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • Output is estimated to be 77 MT for the current year.
  • Made from the African oil palm, it is used as cooking oil, and in everything from cosmetics to processed food to cleaning products.
  • Indonesia and Malaysia together account for almost 90% of the global palm oil production, with Indonesia producing the largest quantity at over 43 MT in the 2021 crop year.
  •  According to Reuters, palm oil makes up 40% of the global supply of the four most widely used edible oils: palm, soybean, rapeseed (canola), and sunflower oil.
  • Indonesia is responsible for 60% of the global supply of palm oil.

Criticism of Oil palm industry:

  • Unsustainable production practices leading to deforestation,
  • Exploitative labour practices carried forward from the colonial era.

Advantages:

  • Palm oil is preferred by many as it is inexpensive
  • Oil palms produce more oil per hectare than other vegetable oil plants.

 

PYQ: Which one of the following makes a tool with a stick to scrape insects from a hole in a tree or a log of wood?

a) Fishing cat

b) Orangutan

c) Otter

d) Sloth bear

Correct Answer: Option (b)

Practice Question:  What are the implications of Malaysia’s orangutan gifting program on international relations and environmental conservation efforts? (250 words/15 m)

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