Reliance Industries (RIL) is not engaged in contract or corporate farming and has no plans to do so, the company clarified on Monday.
The company said it will also insist to its suppliers to abide by the minimum support price (MSP), as it seeks to assuage farmer unions’ concerns.
Reliance has been a target of the ongoing farmer protests and its mobile towers have been damaged in Punjab. The group’s retail arm controls nearly half of vegetable and fruit sales in the organised retail space and it is being viewed by the agitators as a beneficiary of the new farm laws.
On Monday, the company issued a statement to clarify its position on farming and retail. It also moved Punjab and Harayana High Court seeking action against vandalism and said miscreants had been instigated by vested interests and business rivals. Rival telecom firms Airtel and Vodafone have dismissed the charges.
In its statement, Reliance Industries said the company and subsidiaries have not done any corporate or contract farming and has absolutely no plans to enter the business. It added that the company has not purchased any land directly or indirectly for the purpose of corporate or contract farming.
It further said the group's retail arm does not purchase any food grains directly from farmers. “It has never entered into long-term procurement contracts to gain unfair advantage over farmers or sought that its suppliers buy from farmers at less than remunerative prices, nor will it ever do so," Reliance said in a statement. It will tell suppliers to abide by MSP or other remunerative price mechanisms fixed by the government.
According to sources, Reliance Retail sells over 200 tonnes of fruit and over 300 tonnes of vegetables daily through Reliance Fresh and Reliance Smart (supermarkets). It together accounts for over 50 per cent of fruit and vegetable sales in the organised retail space.
The agitating farmers, who have laid siege on Delhi borders since more than a month, have alleged that big corporates and multinationals will grab their lands after the three farm laws come into play as there are several clauses in them which are detrimental to the interest of farmers.
The fear is that once companies start entering into contract farming agreements with farmers, they will lure farmers to part with their land.
Thousands of farmers have dug their heels at the protest venues outside several of Delhi’s gateways, undeterred by the biting cold and firm in their resolve to not return home till their demands are met.
After seven rounds of negotiations between three Union ministers and a 41-member representative group of farmers, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar had said at least 50 per cent resolution has been reached with mutual agreement on two out of the four items on the agenda. Discussions continued on Monday on the remaining two issues.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an association of almost 200 farmer groups, while reacting to Reliance's affidavit given in the high court, said it is simply a ploy to serve its business interests.
“Reliance’s affidavit is full of false claims of it not entering the crop market and not taking over farm land. In Raigad, Maharashtra, and other places, large tracts of land have been taken over by Reliance and it must return them,” the AIKSCC said in the statement.
With inputs from Viveat Pinto and Sanjeeb Mukherjee