Minimum Support Price (MSP) is the assured price at which foodgrains are procured from farmers by the central and state governments and their agencies, for the central pool of foodgrains.  The central pool is used for providing foodgrains under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and other welfare schemes, and also kept as reserve in the form of buffer stock.  However, in the past few months, there have been demands to extend MSP to private trade as well and guarantee MSP to farmers on all kinds of trade.  This blogpost looks at the state of public procurement of foodgrains in India and the provision of MSP.

Is MSP applicable for all crops?

The central government notifies MSP for 23 crops every year before the Kharif and Rabi seasons based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, an attached office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.   These crops include foodgrains such as cereals, coarse grains, and pulses.  However, public procurement is largely limited to a few foodgrains such as paddy (rice), wheat, and, to a limited extent, pulses (Figure 1).

Figure 1:  Percentage of crop production that was procured at MSP in 2019-20









Sources:  Unstarred Question No. 331, Lok Sabha, September 15, 2020; PRS.

Since rice and wheat are the primary foodgrains distributed under PDS and stored for food security, their procurement level is considerably high.  However, the National Food Security Act, 2013 requires the central and state governments to progressively undertake necessary reforms in PDS.  One of the reforms requires them to diversify the commodities distributed under PDS over a period of time.

How does procurement vary across states?

The procurement of foodgrains is largely concentrated in a few states.  Three states (Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana) producing 46% of the wheat in the country account for 85% of its procurement (Figure 2).   For rice, six states (Punjab, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Haryana) with 40% of the production have 74% share in procurement (Figure 3).  The National Food Security Act, 2013 requires the central, state, and local governments to strive to progressively realise certain objectives for advancing food and nutritional security.  One of these objectives involves geographical diversification of the procurement operations.

Figure 2:   85% wheat procurement is from three states (2019-20)









Sources:  Department of Food and Public Distribution; PRS.

Figure 3:   76% of the rice procured comes from six states (2019-20)









Sources:  Department of Food and Public Distribution; PRS.

Is MSP mandatory for private trade as well in some states?

MSP is not mandatory for purchase of foodgrains by private traders or companies.  It acts as a reference price at which the government and its agencies procure certain foodgrains from farmers.

In September 2020, the central government enacted a new farm law which allows anyone with a PAN card to buy farmers’ produce in the ‘trade area’ outside the markets notified or run by the state Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs).  Buyers do not need to get a license from the state government or APMC, or pay any tax to them for such purchase in the ‘trade area’.  These changes in regulations raised concerns regarding the kind of protections available to farmers in the ‘trade area’ outside APMC markets, particularly in terms of the price discovery and payment.  In October 2020, Punjab passed a Bill in response to the central farm law to prohibit purchase of paddy and wheat below MSP.   Any person or company compelling or pressurising farmers to sell below MSP will be punished with a minimum of three-year imprisonment and a fine.  Note that 72% of the wheat and 92% of the rice produced in Punjab was purchased under public procurement in 2019-20.

Similarly, in November 2020, Rajasthan passed a Bill to declare those contract farming agreements as invalid where the purchase is done below MSP.   Any person or company compelling or pressurising farmers to enter into such an invalid contract will be punished with 3 to 7 years of imprisonment, or a fine of minimum five lakh rupees, or both.   Both these Bills have not been enacted yet as they are awaiting the Governors’ assent.

How has MSP affected the cropping pattern?

According to the central government’s procurement policy, the objective of public procurement is to ensure that farmers get remunerative prices for their produce and do not have to resort to distress sale.  If farmers get a better price in comparison to MSP, they are free to sell their produce in the open market.  The Economic Survey 2019-20 observed that the regular increase in MSP is seen by farmers as a signal to opt for crops which have an assured procurement system (for example, rice and wheat).  The Economic Survey also noted that this indicates market prices do not offer remunerative options for farmers, and MSP has, in effect, become the maximum price that the farmers are able to realise.

Thus, MSP incentivises farmers to grow crops which are procured by the government.  As wheat and rice are major food grains provided under the PDS, the focus of procurement is on these crops.  This skews the production of crops in favour of wheat and paddy (particularly in states where procurement levels are high), and does not offer an incentive for farmers to produce other items such as pulses.  Further, this puts pressure on the water table as these crops are water-intensive crops.

To encourage crop diversification and thereby reduce the consumption of water, some state governments are taking measures to incentivise farmers to shift away from paddy and wheat.  For example, Haryana has launched a scheme in 2020 to provide Rs 7,000 per acre to those farmers who will use more than 50% of their paddy area (as per the area sown in 2019-20) for other crops.  The farmers can grow maize, bajra, pulses, or cotton in such diversified area.  Further, the crop produce grown in such diversified area under the scheme will be procured by the state government at MSP.

On June 6, 2022, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology released the draft amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules, 2021) for public feedback.  The IT Rules were notified on February 25, 2021, under the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act).  The Ministry noted that there is a need to amend the Rules to keep up with the challenges and gaps emerging in an expanding digital ecosystem.  In this blog post, we give a brief background to the IT Rules, 2021 and explain the key proposed changes to the Rules.

Background to the IT Rules, 2021

The IT Act exempts intermediaries from liability for user-generated content on their platform provided they meet certain due diligence requirements.  Intermediaries are entities that store or transmit data on behalf of other persons and include telecom and internet service providers, online marketplaces, search engines, and social media sites.  IT Rules specify the due diligence requirements for the intermediaries.  These include: (i) informing users about rules and regulations, privacy policy, and terms and conditions for usage of its services, including types of content which are prohibited, (ii) expeditiously taking down content upon an order from the government or courts, (iii) providing a grievance redressal mechanism to resolve complaints from users about violation of Rules, and (iv) enabling identification of the first originator of the information on its platform under certain conditions.  It also specifies a framework for content regulation of online publishers of news and current affairs and curated audio-visual content.  For an analysis of the IT Rules 2021 please see here.

Key changes proposed to the IT Rules 2021

Key changes proposed by the draft amendments are as follows:

  • Obligations of intermediaries:  The 2021 Rules require the intermediary to “publish” rules and regulations, privacy policy and user agreement for access or usage of its services.   The Rules specify restrictions on the types of content that users are allowed to create, upload, or share.  The Rules require intermediaries to “inform” users about these restrictions.  Proposed amendments seek to expand the obligation on intermediaries to include: (i) “ensuring compliance” with rules and regulations, privacy policy, and user agreement, and (ii) "causing users to not" create, upload, or share prohibited content.
  • The proposed amendments also add that intermediaries should take all reasonable measures to ensure accessibility of their services to all users, with a reasonable expectation of due diligence, privacy, and transparency.   Further, intermediaries should respect the constitutional rights of all users.  The Ministry observed that such a change was necessary as several intermediaries have acted in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens.
  • Appeal mechanism against decisions of grievance officers:  The 2021 Rules require intermediaries to designate a grievance officer to address complaints regarding violations of the Rules.  The Ministry observed that there have been instances where these officers do not address the grievances satisfactorily or fairly.  A person aggrieved with the decision of the grievance officer needs to approach courts to seek redressal.  Hence, the draft amendments propose an alternative mechanism for such appeals.  A Grievance Appellate Committee will be formed by the central government to hear appeals against the decisions of grievance officers.  The Committee will consist of a chairperson and other members appointed by the central government through a notification.  The Committee is required to dispose of such appeals within 30 days from the date of receipt.  The concerned intermediary must comply with the order passed by the Committee.  Note that the proposed amendments do not restrict users from directly approaching courts.
  • Expeditious removal of prohibited content:  The 2021 Rules require intermediaries to acknowledge complaints regarding violation of Rules within 24 hours, and dispose of complaints within 15 days.  The proposed amendments add that the complaints concerning the removal of prohibited content must be addressed within 72 hours.  The Ministry observed that given the potential for virality of content over internet, a stricter timeline will help in removing prohibited content expeditiously.

Comments on the draft amendments are invited until July 6, 2022.