Globalization of the international food market

October 29, 2008
By Jing Peng, New Hope, MN

India is the home to over 1 billion of the 6.7 billion people in the world; India is the home to 57 million of the worlds’ 146 million malnourished children. India alone is the home to over 115 million farming families, the majority of them not experiencing the positive effects of the phenomenon called globalization, defined as “the development of an increasingly integrated global economy marked especially by free trade, free flow of capital, and the tapping of cheaper foreign labor markets” by Merriam-Webster. Everyone in the world is impacted by this issue; specifically the rural farmers of India, the general population of India, and the major corporations interested in exploiting natural resources by importations and exportations, and the nations that are receiving the goods are affected. According to Professor Khanna, the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School, since India’s independence in 1947, the government has been neglecting the rural people of India. They allow companies such as Wal-Mart that are seeking profit to establish centers in India while the rural people struggle daily to survive another week. (Khanna 2). The spreading control of the international food market by large corporations is causing the small town farmers of rural India to lose their identities as the main providers of food for their families and its population.
Big companies, both foreign and domestic, are seeking to collect harvests from local farmers to export throughout the world. India’s average gross national income (GNI) in the years 2004 to 2006 measured at an average US $906, 537. However, according to the country’s statistics, the agricultural sector has declined from a 3.8 percent growth to only 2.8 percent. So while India’s GNI is increasing from earlier years, the amount of money actually going to the farmers of the farming industry is declining. According to Anand Giridharadas who writes for the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times on the subjects of business, culture, globalization and India's expanding footprints on the world, Field Fresh Venture invested in by the Rothschild Group, a European private equity group, seeks profit from India’s markets. They export vegetables to Western retailers and are prospering, expected to reach $5 billion in profit by 2011. (Giridharadas 2). While other countries and their companies are benefiting from India’s agriculture by the billions, 850 million Indians have to live on less than $2 a day.
Furthermore, Giridharadas claims companies will most likely replace the local farmers with machinery, technology, and migrant workers and in doing so will displace the farmers from their own land and means of making a living. (Giridharadas 2). They will take over the land through leases leaving the farmers with nothing. The value of human labor will then be worth little if anything. History has proven this concept as a part of the spread of globalization and businesses.
Foreign competition is forcing the local farmers to try to increase output by means of hybrid and genetically modified seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides, but this is damaging the land. Industrial agriculture spurred by globalization has produced profits in the short term, but leads to the destruction of the land and its’ people in the long run according to Mira Kamdar, author of the article “Planet India: The Turbulent Rise of the Largest Democracy and the Future of Our World”. (Kamdar 2). She argues that pesticides have poisoned the soil, plants, and animal life, not to mention humans themselves, increasing the cancer rate. There are water shortages from rivers that have to irrigate crops where the amount of rainfall is not large enough to be able to sufficiently support it. Then there is also the issue of soil salinity from the over irrigation of crops. Land that is not able to grow crops is of no use to farmers. There is only so much land; therefore the amount of land is not able to support the number of farmers in rural India.
The globalization of the international food market by means of importation is progressively taking away the only source of employment for over 115 million farming families in India. Not only are the companies seeking to export Indian crops, but also importing foods from other countries. The farmers have no way to compete with the artificially low prices of the crops imported from other countries. Stories are heard daily about farmers who have been crushed by debts and have lost their land. During the past decade, over 25,000 have taken their own lives. Once the importations are sufficient to support the people of India, the role the farmers of rural India once fulfilled will no longer be needed.
Why does this all matter? India is a land long stricken by major issues such as poverty, disease, and low life expectancy rates. Even in its early days of independence, India had difficulty providing enough food for its own. Then in the mid-1960s a famine came along forcing the nation to ask for aid. However, soon after, the Green Revolution came about, improving the agricultural yields of the nation. Still, there were those who were left behind. Globalization has seemingly benefitted every walk of life except that of the rural people of India who lie forgotten in the schemes of policy makers, exploitative companies, and the rest of the world.
If the effects of the globalization of the food market continue, many of the Indian people will lose their identities as the main providers of food for their people and their country. They will have nowhere else to turn and there are no other employment opportunities they will be able to fulfill. The majority of Indian farmers will no longer have purpose; a means to support themselves and others.
India is believed to have the capacity to greatly increase its’ agricultural production and support not only its own people, but other people in the world. Globalization seeks to make that belief a reality, but in doing so, it is displacing the identities of millions.

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