Since March, 2020, there has been a consistent rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in India. As of May 18, 2020, there were 96,169 confirmed cases of the infectious disease, of which 3,029 persons died. To contain the spread of COVID-19 in India, the central government imposed a nation-wide lockdown on March 24 till April 14, now extended till May 31. To ensure continued supply of agriculture produce during the lockdown and control the spread of the disease, some states have amended their respective Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) laws. This blog explains the manner in which agriculture marketing is regulated in India, steps taken by the centre for the agriculture sector during the COVID-19 crisis, and the recent amendments in the APMC laws that are being announced by various states.
How is agriculture marketing regulated in India?
Agriculture falls under the State List of the Constitution. Agriculture marketing in most states is regulated by APMCs established by state governments under the respective APMC Acts. The APMCs provide infrastructure for marketing of agricultural produce, regulate sale of such produce and collect market fees from such sale, and regulate competition in agricultural marketing. In 2017, the central government released the model Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2017 to provide states with a template to enact new legislation and bring comprehensive market reforms in the agriculture sector. The 2017 model Act aims to allow free competition, promote transparency, unify fragmented markets and facilitate flow of commodities, and encourage operation of multiple marketing channels. In November 2019, the 15th Finance Commission (Chair: Mr N. K. Singh) in its report provided that states which enact and implement all features of this Model Act will be eligible for certain financial incentives.
What steps were taken by the central government in light of COVID-19?
On April 2, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare launched new features of the electronic-National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) platform to strengthen agriculture marketing by reducing the need of farmers to physically come to wholesale mandis for selling their harvested produce. The e-NAM platform provides for contactless remote bidding and mobile-based any time payment for which traders do not need to either visit mandis or banks. This helps in ensuring social distancing and safety in the APMC markets to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
On April 4, 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare issued an advisory to states for limiting the regulation under their APMC Acts. The advisory called for facilitating direct marketing of agricultural produce, enabling direct purchase of the produce from farmers, farmer producer organisations, cooperatives by bulk buyers, big retailers, and processors.
On May 15, 2020 the Union Finance Minister announced certain reforms for the agriculture sector of the country to reduce the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown. Some of the major reforms include: (i) formulating a central law to ensure adequate choices to farmers to sell agricultural produce at attractive prices, barrier free inter-state trade, and framework for e-trading of agricultural produce, (ii) amending the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to enable better price realisation for agricultural produce such as all cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions, and potatoes, and (iii) creating a facilitative legal framework for contract farming, to enable farmers to engage directly with processors, large retailers, and exporters.
Which states have made changes to agriculture marketing laws?
The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet has approved an ordinance, and Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Karnataka have promulgated ordinances, to relax regulatory aspects of their APMC laws. These Ordinances are summarised below:
On May 1, 2020, the Madhya Pradesh government promulgated the Madhya Pradesh Krishi Upaj Mandi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. The Ordinance amends the Madhya Pradesh Krishi Upaj Mandi Act, 1972. The 1972 Act regulates the establishment of an agricultural market and marketing of notified agricultural produce. The following amendments have been made under the Ordinance:
Market yards: The 1972 Act provides that in every market area, there should be a market yard, with one or more sub-market yards, for conducting all marketing activities such as assembling, grading, storage, sale, and purchase of the produce. The Ordinance removes this provision and specifies that in the state, there may be: (i) a principal market yard and sub-market yard managed by the APMC, (ii) a private market yard managed by a person holding a license (granted by the Director of Agriculture Marketing), and (iii) electronic trading platforms (where trading of notified produce is done electronically through internet).
Director of Agricultural Marketing: The Ordinance provides for the appointment of the Director of Agricultural Marketing by the state government. The Director will be responsible for regulating: (i) trading and connected activities for the notified agricultural produce, (ii) private market yards, and (iii) electronic trading platforms. He may also grant licenses for these activities.
Market fee: The Ordinance also provides that market fee for trading under licenses granted by the Director of Agricultural Marketing will be levied as prescribed by the state government.
On May 6, 2020, the Gujarat government promulgated the Gujarat Agricultural Produce Markets (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. The Ordinance amends the Gujarat Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1963. The amended Act is called the Gujarat Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 1963. Key amendments made under the Ordinance are as follows:
Regulation of livestock market: The Ordinance brings the regulation of marketing of livestock such as cow, buffalo, bullock, bull, and fish under the ambit of this Act.
Unified market area: The Ordinance provides that the state government may declare the whole state as one unified market area through a notification. This can be done with the purpose of regulation of marketing of notified agricultural produce.
Unified single licence: The Ordinance provides for the grant of a single unified trading license. The license will be valid across the state in any market area. Existing trade licenses must be converted into the single unified licenses within six months from the date of commencement of the Ordinance.
Markets for conducting trading: The Ordinance allows the state government to notify any place in the market area as the principal market yard, sub-market yard, market sub-yard, or farmer consumer market yard for the regulation of marketing of notified agricultural produce. Certain places in the market area can also be declared a private market yard, a private market sub-yard, or a private farmer-consumer market yard. The Ordinance adds that the notified agricultural produce may also be sold at other places to a licence holder, if especially permitted by a market committee.
Market sub-yards: The Ordinance provides that a market area should have market-sub yards (warehouse, storage towers, cold storage enclosure buildings or such other structure or place or locality). Further, it also provides that the owner of a warehouse, silo, cold storage or such other structure or place notified as market sub-yard, may collect a market fee on notified agricultural produce. He may also collect user charge on de-notified agricultural produce transacted at the market sub-yard. The rate of the fees should not exceed the rates notified by the state government. However, no market fee shall be collected from farmers.
E-trading: The Ordinance provides for the establishment and promotion of electronic trading (e-trading) platforms. It provides that a license granted by the Director of Agricultural Marketing is necessary to establish an e-trading platform. Further, it provides that applications on the e-trading platform shall be inter-operable with other e-platforms as per specifications and standards laid down by the Director. This has been done to evolve a unified National Agricultural Market and integrate various e-platforms.
On May 16, the Karnataka government promulgated the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. The Ordinance amends the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) Act, 1966. The 1966 Act regulates the buying and selling and the establishment of markets for agricultural produce throughout the state. Key amendments made under the Ordinance are as follows:
Markets for agricultural produce: The 1966 Act provides that no place except the market yard, market sub-yard, sub-market yard, private market yard, or farmer - consumer market yard shall be used for the trade of notified agricultural produce. The Ordinance substitutes this to provide that the market committee shall regulate the marketing of notified agricultural produce in the market yards, market sub-yards and submarket yards. Thus, the Act no longer bars any place for the trade of notified agricultural produce.
Penalty: The 1966 Act provides that whoever uses any place for purchase or sale of notified agricultural produce can be punished with imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine of up to Rs 5,000, or both. The Ordinance removes this penalty provision from the Act.
On May 6, the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet approved the Uttar Pradesh Krishi Utpadan Mandi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. According to the state’s press release, the Uttar Pradesh government has decided to remove 46 fruits and vegetables from the ambit of the Uttar Pradesh Krishi Utpadan Mandi Act, 1964. The 1964 Act provides for the regulation of sale and purchase of notified agricultural produce and for the establishment and control of agricultural markets in Uttar Pradesh.
Certain fruits and vegetables exempted from the provisions of the Act: These fruits and vegetables include mango, apple, carrot, banana, and ladies’ finger. The proposed amendment aims to facilitate the purchase of these products directly from farmers from their farms. Farmers will be allowed to sell these products at the APMC mandis as well, where they will not be charged the mandi fee. Only the user charge will be levied as prescribed by the state government. As per the state government, this will entail a loss of revenue of approximately Rs 125 crore per year to the APMCs.
License: Specific licenses can be procured to carry on trade at places other than APMC markets. This will encourage the treatment of warehouses, silos, and cold storages as mandis. The owners or managers of such establishments can charge the user fee for managing the mandi. Further, unified license can be used to trade at village level.
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has decided to conduct an off-cycle meeting today to discuss the failure to meet the inflation target under Section 45ZN of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934. As per the Reserve Bank of India Act (RBI), 1934, MPC is required to meet at least four times each year, to discuss the macroeconomic issues in the country, and take policy decisions to address those. This is the second time MPC has conducted an off-cycle meeting in 2022-23. The meeting is scheduled in light of inflation being consistently high for nine consecutive months.
In this blog, we discuss what the inflation targeting framework is, examine retail and wholesale prices, and the divergence between them.
What is the inflation targeting framework, and what happens if inflation is persistently high?
In 2016, Parliament amended the RBI Act, 1934 to change the monetary policy, and introduce an inflation targeting framework. This framework prioritises price stability to achieve sustainable GDP growth. Price stability allows investors to confidently invest their money for productive activities, without worrying about it losing value. Price stability also maintains the purchasing power of consumers, i.e., the ability to purchase a good (or service) with a given amount of money.
As per the new framework, the central government, in consultation with RBI sets: (i) an inflation target, and (ii) an upper and lower tolerance level for retail inflation. The target has been set at 4%, with an upper tolerance limit of 6% and a lower tolerance limit of 2%. The upper and lower limits indicate that although it is desirable for inflation to be close to 4%, deviation between these limits is acceptable. The target and bands are revised every five years. In March 2021, the existing targets were carried forward.
Retail inflation has been above 6% for the past nine months, and it has been above 4% from October 2019 onwards (See Figure 1).
Figure 1: Consumer price index (year-on-year; in percentage)
Sources: Database on Indian Economy, Reserve Bank of India; PRS.
If inflation is above or below the prescribed limits for three quarters, RBI must submit a report to the central government explaining why prices have been rising (or falling) persistently, what will be done to correct that, and an estimate as to when the target will be achieved.
The MPC uses tools such as interest rates to control the level of inflation in the economy. One such rate is the policy repo rate, which is the rate at which RBI lends money to banks. An increase in the policy repo rate makes borrowing money more costly, and hence is expected to control inflation by reducing the money supply. MPC increased this rate from 4% in April 2022 to 4.4% in May 2022, to 4.9% in June 2022, to 5.4% in August 2022, and to 5.9% in September 2022.
Breaking down the Consumer Price Index and the Wholesale Price Index
Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures the general prices of goods and services such as food, clothing, and fuel over time. Retail inflation is calculated as the change in the CPI over a period of time. Goods and services such as petrol, food products, health, and education are considered for its calculation, which are assigned different weights (See Table 1). Between February 2022 and August 2022, the average annual inflation was 6.9%. The rise in prices of subcomponents of the CPI during this period is indicated in Table 2.
Table 1: Assigned weights for the calculation of CPI
Sources: MOSPI; PRS.
Table 2: Average inflation of some CPI components
Sources: Database on Indian Economy, RBI; PRS.
CPI is not the only index that measures inflation in an economy. The Wholesale Price Index (WPI) measures the wholesale prices of goods. A change in wholesale prices reflects wholesale inflation. Table 3 indicates the weights assigned to goods for calculating the WPI. Manufactured goods include metals, chemicals, food products, and textiles.
Primary articles (23%) include food articles, and crude petroleum and natural gas. Fuel and power (12%) include mineral oils, electricity, and coal. WPI has remained above 10% from April 2021 onwards. It reached an all-time high of 17% in May 2022. This was driven by the inflation in metals, kerosene and petroleum coke, fruits and vegetables, and palm oil.
Table 3:Assigned weights for the
Sources: Ministry of Commerce and Industry; PRS.
Why has WPI inflation been consistently above CPI inflation?
Movements in the WPI have an impact on the CPI. For almost a year and half, CPI inflation has remained below WPI inflation. However, as per the design of the indices, it is expected that CPI would remain above WPI, and that any increase in WPI would reflect in the CPI after a time lag. This is because retail prices include taxes (as a percentage of price), while wholesale prices do not. Additionally, some of the goods in WPI act as inputs in the goods considered in CPI. An increase in input prices would lead to higher retail prices after a time lag.
We discuss possible reasons for why CPI has remained below WPI for a year and a half.
Figure 2: Consumer Price Index and Wholesale Price Index
Sources: Database on Indian Economy, Reserve Bank of India; PRS.
Composition of indices
As indicated in Table 2 and 3, the composition of the two indices varies. For instance, prices of manufacture of basic metals, chemicals, and machinery grew at an average rate of 13% between February 2021 and September 2022. They contribute 7% to the WPI. These are input goods for producing final goods and services such as automobiles, which are included in the CPI. The rise in prices of transport vehicles, communication devices, fuel for transport, and housing (CPI components) rose by 6% during this period.
The Ministry of Finance has observed that wholesale prices did not feed into retail prices (from March 2021 onwards) as wholesalers absorbed the rising input costs and did not pass them on to retailers. In August 2022, it noted that as retail prices are rising now, the pass-through may occur.