Child Labour in Hybrid Cottonseed Production in Andhra Pradesh: Recent Developments
SECTION I - Recent interventions
- Venkateswarlu, D. (2001) 'Seeds of Bondage: Female Child Bonded Labour in Hybrid Cottonseed Production in Andhra Pradesh', Business and Community Foundation and Plan International (India Chapter). The full text of the report is available on the website of ICN: http://www.indianet.nl/sob.html.
- Venkateswarlu, D. (2003) 'Child Labour and Transitional Seed Companies in Hybrid Cottonseed Production in Andhra Pradesh', India Committee of the Netherlands, The Netherlands (for full text, see ICN website: http://www.indianet.nl/cotseed.html).
- The names of the Indian subsidiary or joint venture companies of these MNCs are Hindustan Lever Limited (for Unilever), Syngenta India (for Syngenta AG), Advanta India (for Advanta BV), Monsanto India and Mahyco (for Monsanto) and Proagro (for Bayer). HLL transferred its seed business to a new company called Paras Extra Growth Seed and sold 74% of its stake in this new company in March 2002 to an American based seed company called Emergent Genetics.
- Out of 130 farms, 118 produce seed for these local companies and the remaining 12 for the unorganised sector (individual seed marketers who do not own any company).
- With regard to these four farms the farmers were not very co-operative in revealing the names of the companies. But they told the names of the seed organisers. These seed organisers produce seed for more than one MNC. Hence the difficulty raised to link these four farms to a specific MNC.
- Eight farms either discontinued their production for MNCs or shifted to local companies in 2003-04; four were producing seed for HLL, three for Syngenta and one for Proagro in 2001-02.
SECTION II - Impact of the interventions
- 'Primary Education: Rising Literacy Levels', advertisement feature on Andhra Pradesh Government Perspective on different sectors published in Economic and Political Weekly, March 22-29, 2003.
- The decline of number of child labourers in seed processing units is partly due to mechanisation. Some seed processing units situated in and around Boothpur and Kurnool towns have mechanised some of the operations that involved manual labour.
- The Seedsmen Association developed a model clause against the use of child labour in seed production activities and requested all its member companies to incorporate it in their written agreements with seed organisers/seed farmers.
- Progress report on 'Action programme on elimination of girl child labour in Mahaboobnagar (ILO-IPEC Project)', National Child Labour Programme, Mahaboobnagar, September 2003.
- Two of these organisations (SPEED and Sramika Vikas Kendram) are partners in ILO-IPEC programme special project on girl child labour in Mahaboobnagar district.
- The first study on the issue of child labour in cottonseed production was commissioned and published by MV Foundation in 1998.
- The issue of child labour was one of the agenda items discussed by the members of Seedsmen Association, Andhra Pradesh during their Annual General Body Meeting in 1999. When the issue came for discussion, several companies expressed their opinion that companies cannot to be held responsible for the actions of seed farmers. They have also expressed their concern about the increasing criticism on seed industries from local NGOs, activists and labour department officials for employing child labour.
- For details of initial responses of various companies, see the ICN report on 'Child Labour and Trans-National Seed Companies in Hybrid Cottonseed Production in Andhra Pradesh'.
- Some members of ASI are also members of Seedsman Association of Andhra Pradesh. Seedsman Association is a large body having membership of about 500 seed producers and organizers. Though Seedsman Association took up the issue of child labour in 2001 itself it could not make much progress. The large companies like Mahyco, Proagro, Advanta, Emergent Genetics, Syngenta and Ankur,who are both members of Seedsman Association and Association of Seed Industry in 2003 felt that focused attention on child labour issue can not be achieved through big organizations like Seedman Association and decided to launch a separate initiative through Association of Seed Industry.
- Out of 14000 acres under cottonseed production in Andhra Pradesh during 2003-04, 27% is controlled by ASI members. Non ASI companies like Nuziveedu, Tulasi, Pravardha seeds, Palamur seeds, Amereswara Agri tech, Vibha, Gangakaveri, Prudhvi Agrotech, Swagat seeds, Nandi seeds, Maurya seeds account for nearly 50% of the area and remaining is controlled by unorganized sector. During last two years the area covered by unorganized sector has increased. This is due to increasing area under illegal production of BT cottonseed in the state. The huge profit margins in illegal BT cottonseed production has encouraged several unorganized sector players to enter into this business. According to ASI the unorganized sector account for nearly 45% area under cottonseed production in Andhra Pradesh. The difference in estimates between ASI and present study is due to definitional problem. ASI included small and even some medium size companies like Parvardhna seeds, Nandi seeds and Tulasi seeds also under unorganized sector. The present study do not consider these companies under unorganized sector because these companies are well organized and have a significant control over production area.
- Minutes of Annual General Body Meeting of the Association of Seed Industry, September 2003.
- ASI initially (September 7 and December 13, 2003 meetings) agreed to share the information related lists of farmers with whom they enter the production agreements. After repeated requests from MV Foundation in April 2004 ASI informed that because of business reasons they can not share the names of farmers. However, they will provide the lists of villages and seed organisers. In July 2004, Emergent Genetics, Proagro and Syngenta have shared the list of villages with MV Foundation.
- The first week of December is not a right time to conduct field verifications. This is the fag end of the season and the requirement of labour will comedown by more than 60% during period. Due to pressure from various quarters farmers in several places are hiding children during the visits by outsiders to their farms. In this situation on-farm observations alone will not be sufficient to find the real situation. On-farm observations have to be supplemented with other sources of data collected from the reliable local persons. Unless there is co-operation from local villagers it is some time hard to find out exact situation. Whether company field staff has cross checked their field observations with other sources data is not known.
- The Fair Labor Association (FLA) is a US based independent monitoring organisation working towards promotion of fair and decent labour standards. It conducts independent external monitoring and verification of labour standards in the work sites and supply chain for those companies/organisations that approach it and publishes results on its website (http://www.fairlabor.org).
- In statement issued on August 5, 2004, FLA stated it is accepting the Syngenta's application to become a participating company in FLA and as agriculture is a new sector to them and it sees this as a pilot program to test the applicability of the FLA monitoring methodology in the agricultural sector. By becoming a participating company in FLA, Syngenta Seeds like other FLA Participating Companies will be expected to develop and implement an internal monitoring plan, including the training of internal monitors and consultations with local NGOs (including, especially, the MV Foundation, an Indian NGO that works to abolish child labor through village-level capacity building programs). Syngenta will also be required to promote code awareness among agents, farmers, and local stakeholders, and submit lists of suppliers from which the FLA can determine a schedule of unannounced monitoring visits by accredited independent external monitors.
- 'Syngenta opens up to independent scrutiny', The Financial Times, May 12, 2004.
- Personal communication with Martine Cumbamale, the representative of FLA (Septemer 5, 2004).
- It is true that in the initial stage ASI needed some time to make proper planning and pull all the stakeholders together for effective implementation of the action plans. But the time taken was too long and as a consequence, ASI lost the opportunity to make any significant positive impact on the child labour situation during the 2003 crop season.
- Compared to other areas the wage rates paid to labourers working in cottonseed farms are higher in Nandhyala. In Nandhyala wage rates are calculated on monthly basis. During 2003-04 the monthly wage rate paid to labourers varied between Rs 800 to Rs 1200 (for 12 to 13 hours of work per day) depending upon their age and experience. Compared to the daily wage rate of Rs 20 (for 9 to 10 hours of work per day) prevalent in several other pockets this is relatively better. There is high concentration of seed production activity in Nadhyala division and the available child labour force in the area is not sufficient to meet the labour requirement. Hence farmers were under pressure to recruit some adult labourers by increasing wage rates even if that means cutting into their profit margins. Most of the adult labourers who are involved in seed production activity in this area are either family labour or those desperately looking for some secured employment (about 100 to 120 days continuous employment is guaranteed in cottonseed production) even accepting less than market wages.
SECTION III - Current situation
- MV Foundation in Dharur, SPEED in Maldakal, SHEC Society in Koilakuntla and Sanjamala are actively involved in campaign against child labour. Maldakal is one of the mandal selected by ILO-IPEC for implementing a special project to address the problem of child labour in cottonseed production. Since January 2004 the MV Foundation has taken up a massive campaign in most of the mandals in Kurnool district.
- A total of 22 farms were surveyed in 2001-02 by ICN study. Out of 22 farms which were producing seed for MNCs in 2001-02, only 14 farms continued their production for MNCs in 2003-04. Four farms have completely stopped production of cottonseeds and four have shifted from MNCs to local companies. The 14 farms which continued their production for MNCs (eight for Emergent Genetics, three for Mahyco-Monsanto, two for Advanta and one for Proagro).
- Syngenta has declared crop holiday for its cottonseed production activity during 2003-04 in Andhra Pradesh. It continued its production activity in other states on a small scale. The reasons cited by the company are business related i.e. carry over stocks from earlier years and low profits rates in production and marketing of public hybrids. However, the timing of their decision gives scope for attributing other reasons like child labour issue also to their decision. In the light of child labour controversy in cottonseed production Syngenta might have thought to take a break to streamline line their internal monitoring mechanisms. During 2004-05 crop season Syngenta resumed its production activities in Andhra Pradesh.
- Nuziveedu Seeds, the largest cottonseed producing company in India, has recently reduced its production area in Andhra Pradesh and simultaneously increased its area under production in Gujarat. Several Gujarat based companies which earlier depended mostly on Andhra Pradesh for production of cottonseeds now shifted much of the area to their own state.
- During 2000-01 and 2003-04 the total number of children employed in cottonseed farms declined by 164,955 (from 247,830 in 2000-01 to 82,875 in 2003-04). The total area declined during this period with 10,783 acres. During 2000-01 an average 10 children were employed in one acre of cottonseed farm. Assuming that the decline in each acre of production results in decline of 10 child labourers, the decline of child labourers on account of 10,783 acres is estimated at 107,830 (10783 x 10). This is equivalent to nearly 60% of the total decline of child labourers (164,955).
- In the current crop season Emergent Genetics has cottonseed production programme on 1200 acres (900 acres last year), and Bayer on 400 acres (350 last year). Syngenta, which did not have any cottonseed production programme last year, has a production programme on about 300 acres during the current season.
- Though the farm, on which the boy Mallesh died while spraying pesticide was not contracted by any national or multinational seed company the pesticide spraying practices do not significantly vary from one farm to another farm and children are at risk every where irrespective of farms whether they produce seed for multinational or national or local companies.
- For more details about recent suicide deaths of farmers in Andhra Pradesh see a series of articles published by P. Sainath, a noted journalist, in the daily newspaper 'The Hindu' during June and August 2004. A collection of these articles is available on the website of India Together (http://www.indiatogether.org/2004/jun/psa-farmdie.htm).