Onderstaand artikel is gepubliceerd in/published in: Business Standard, 17-11-2005

Ch. Prashanth Reddy
MNC seed cos chalk out action plan for child labour

Multinational seed companies, Emergent Genetics and Proagro, which have their operations across Andhra Pradesh, have chalked out an action plan in collaboration with non-government organisations to address the problem of employment of child labour in hybrid cottonseed production in the state.

The plan includes a scheme of incentives and disincentives to their contract farmers. Under the scheme, Proagro and Emergent Genetics (EG) pay the farmers a bonus of 5 per cent on the procurement price if they discontinue the use of child labour. If the farmers use child labour, the bonus is cancelled and the procurement price is cut by 10 per cent.

If the farmer continues to violate the no-child-labour norm, the company will completely reject the seed from the farmers and no future production contract will be entered with them.

If seed farmers in a particular village come forward to totally eliminate child labour on their farms, these companies will reward the village by extending financial support for building educational infrastructure like schools and supply educational material.

This apart, the two companies also launched an awareness campaign for withdrawal of child labour from farming activities.

“We are hopeful that the scheme will yield the desired results. If not, it will be fine-tuned further at its annual review meeting next month,” Emergent Genetics managing director, Ram V Kaundinya, told Business Standard.

In fact, the Association of Seed Industry (ASI), whose members include Advanta, Ankur, Mahyco, Monsanto, Pioneer (Dupont), Rasi and Syngenta, adopted a “no-child labour policy” three years back in 2002 when the issue of child labour in hybrid cottonseed production in Andhra caught the attention of national and international media, government and non-governmental organisations.

But, so far only EG and Proagro among the multinational companies have been active in making a concerted effort to eliminate child labour. Nevertheless, from 2002-2004, adult labour per acre in cottonseed production is stated to have increased from 31.7 per cent to 49.5 per cent while child labour declined from 68.3 per cent to 50.5 per cent.

However, director of Glocal Research and Consultancy Services, Davuluri Venkateswarlu, who was the first to expose child labour in cotton fields, cautions against getting too optimistic about this partial replacement of child labour with adult labour. According to his study [commissioned by the India Committee of the Netherlands], unless the seed companies hike the procurement price, other interventions to address the problem will not be very effective.

On the other hand, the ASI feels that employment of child labour in cottonseed production is no way linked to procurement price policy adopted by the companies. The association points out that cottonseed farmers have relatively better profit margins than other farmers.

“Child labour is a deep-rooted socio-economic problem. We are working on a comprehensive solution to eradicate the problem, though it is a long way to go,” Kaundinya said.

He also pointed out that EG and Proagro control only 10 per cent of the cottonseed growing area in Andhra, emphasising the need for all seed companies, government and non-governmental organisations to make a concerted effort to address the problem.

Clive J Pegg, director of ASI and managing director of Proagro-Bayer said that the two companies "are planning to intensify their action plan together with further cooperation partners.”

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Landelijke India Werkgroep - 18 november 2005