ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles by Ashok GulatiSubscribe to Ashok Gulati

Tackling Food Inflation

Retail inflation, measured by the year-on-year consumer price index, reached 6.83% in August 2023, higher than the Reserve Bank of India’s upper tolerance limit of 6%. This surge was driven by soaring food prices. The government has implemented a series of measures, including an export ban on non-basmati white rice, export ban and stocking limits on wheat, a 20% export duty on parboiled rice, a minimum export price of $1,200 per tonne on basmati rice, etc, to contain food inflation. However, these abrupt and stringent market-depressing measures are impacting farmers’ income adversely. A more rational and dependable trade policy that balances the interests of producers and consumers while containing food inflation is advocated.

India–Africa in G21

The inclusion of the African Union under India’s G20 presidency has brought the challenges of the global South to the forefront. India and Africa confront quite similar challenges, including persistent poverty, high population growth and widespread undernourishment. The article explores India’s experience in achieving zero hunger and ending all forms of malnutrition by 2030 to facilitate south-south learning on this complex issue. It finds that access to nutritious food alone cannot address the multidimensional problem of undernutrition in these regions but this requires a multisectoral solution. Investing in women’s higher education and nutritional status can contribute substantially to bringing down malnutrition among children.

Reforming Indian Agriculture

Reforms in four areas should be the priority if the current government’s agenda of doubling farmer incomes is to be accomplished in the coming years. First, the focus of agricultural policies must shift from production per se to farmers’ livelihoods. Second, policies to improve the allocation and efficiency of land and water are essential if these critical resources are to be conserved. Third, reforms are needed to help farmers cope with the growing risks of weather and price volatility. Fourth, agricultural markets must be opened to greater competition and provided with better infrastructure if farmers are to realise better returns for produce, without trading off the low-income consumers’ nutritional security.

Goal Setting for Indian Agriculture

Though the 16-point action plan for agriculture laid down in the 2020 Union Budget continues prioritising subsidies and safety nets over agricultural investments, it does not make any fundamental improvements in the allocations towards these heads.

Putting the Cart before the Horse

The 2019 union budget has neither proposed any bold policy moves, nor any big allocations for investments in the agri-food sector. What it has is massive welfare programmes, predominantly the remnants of its predecessor government’s welfare policies. It appears that India has already become a welfare state before generating enough wealth. Has the budget for the agricultural sector actually put the cart before the horse?

Secret of Gujarat's Agrarian Miracle after 2000

Semi-arid Gujarat has clocked high and steady growth at 9.6% per year in agricultural state domestic product since 1999-2000. What has driven this growth? The Gujarat government has aggressively pursued an innovative agriculture development programme by liberalising markets, inviting private capital, reinventing agricultural extension, improving roads and other infrastructure. Canal-irrigated South and Central Gujarat should have led Gujarat's agricultural rally. Instead it is dry Saurashtra and Kachchh, and North Gujarat that have been at the forefront. These could not have performed so well but for the improved availability of groundwater for irrigation. Arguably, mass-based water harvesting and farm power reforms have helped energise Gujarat's agriculture.

The Dragon and the Elephant: Learning from Agricultural and Rural Reforms in China and India

What can we learn from the process of economic reform in China and India? Does the sequencing of reform and an agriculture-led package matter? What could other developing countries and countries in economic transition learn from the experiences of India and China? What could these two countries learn from their own as well as each other's experiences? How can the two largest developing countries cooperate in their agricultural and economic development and work together at multilateral negotiations, such as those conducted through the World Trade Organisation, to address the concerns of developing countries? This paper summarises the key findings of a number of studies that were prepared for two international conferences devoted to comparing the rural development and agricultural reform experiences of China (the dragon) and India (the elephant) over the last several decades.

Can the Budget Boost Agricultural Performance?

More than any other budget, which has been presented in recent years, the budget for 2005-06 was expected to correct the neglect of the agricultural sector. The budget is noteworthy for its focus on creation of greater employment in rural areas through increased allocations for rural development and irrigation. It also acknowledges some of the important changes that need to be implemented in agriculture, including a policy for diversification, rationalisation and restructuring of subsidies and greater decentralisation. But are the fiscal allocations and the policy impetus emanating from the budget adequate to revitalise agricultural growth performance in the economy? In this regard, the budget falls short of expectations. Not much of an effort has also been made to cut the food and fertiliser subsidy and stimulate public investment in agricultural research and development. Institutional changes necessary to improve service delivery in rural areas have also not been addressed adequately.

Farm Sector Performance and Reform Agenda

Recent political changes in India have brought back agriculture to the centre stage of policy discussions. How long it stays there is yet to be seen. But it would be worth analysing the structural and policy-induced changes in agriculture since the reforms started in 1991, and try to build a political consensus on the reform agenda that can put agriculture on a higher growth trajectory, makes it globally competitive and enables the masses to share in its gains, and is also sustainable in the long run. This paper is an attempt in that direction.

Agriculture Diversification in South Asia

South Asian countries are gradually diversifying with some inter-country variation in favour of high value commodities, namely, fruits, vegetables, livestock and fisheries. Agricultural diversification is strongly influenced by price policy, infrastructure development (especially markets and roads), urbanisation and technological improvements. Rainfed areas have benefited more as a result of agricultural diversification in favour of high value crops by substituting inferior coarse cereals. Agricultural diversification is also contributing to employment opportunities in agriculture and increasing exports. The need is to suitably integrate production and marketing of high value commodities through appropriate institutions. Market reforms in developing and strengthening desired institutions through required legal changes would go a long way in boosting agricultural growth, augmenting income of small farm holders and promoting exports.

Rice Trade Liberalisation and Poverty

This paper explores the important link between rice trade liberalisation and poverty, seeking specifically to respond to two questions: What would be the effect of freer trade in rice on trade flow patterns? How will rice trade liberalisation and consequent rice price equalisation across countries influence the prevalence of poverty in the poorer economies? In doing so, the paper focuses primarily on Asia.

Capital Formation in Indian Agriculture

Is capital formation in Indian agriculture really declining? How and to what extent has it affected growth in agriculture? These questions have been at the centre stage of a debate sparked off in the late 1980s. This paper re-visits this debate by dissecting different components of capital formation, by digging into the very concept and estimation procedures followed in the Indian system of National Accounts vis-à-vis the UN system. The study, after re-defining and re-estimating trends in capital formation in agriculture, concludes that the situation is definitely not good, but not as alarming as is sometimes made out to be. This is because of the increasing share and role of private sector investments in agriculture over time. And the trend in that has remained robust despite decline in public sector capital formation in agriculture, and despite the fact that public sector investment has an inducement effect on private sector capital formation. This only goes to suggest that private sector investment in agriculture has been increasingly influenced by other factors, especially the terms of trade. And this has implications for the structure of growth within agriculture.


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