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

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Major Insights from India's Minor Irrigation Censuses: 1986-87 to 2006-07

Based on data from the four minor irrigation censuses conducted by the Ministry of Water Resources between 1986-87 and 2006-07, this paper points out that India's groundwater sector has slowed down since 2000-01, most markedly in eastern India. It examines the reasons for this and also looks into how farmers have been responding to lowered groundwater tables. Besides identifying some factors that have not changed since the mid-1980s, it emphasises that there are wide regional variations in the country's groundwater economy and management strategies need to be crafted accordingly.

Changes in Wages and Earnings of Rural Labourers

This study aims to capture the changes in rural wages in different states of India and tries to relate the observed variations in level and trend to some plausible explanatory variables. This study is based on rural wage data taken from various rounds of the National Sample Survey and mainly focuses on the level and trend in wages during the first decade of 21st century. It makes an attempt to identify several variables that could explain the observed variations among Indian states in levels and trends during this period.

An Inquiry into the Composition of Farm Revenue Risk

In a liberalised economy, a fundamental understanding of the components of farm revenue risk through the relationship between yield and price risk is imperative. This study decomposes the changes in revenue risk over two decades of cotton cultivation in six districts of the Vidarbha region in Maharashtra into changes in price risk, yield risk, and the natural hedge. Examining data in two periods, 1991-2002 and 2003-11, it shows that though there has been a reduction in price variances, the increase in covariance between yield and price and the change in yield variance have caused increased riskiness in cotton revenues. It also indicates directions for future policies.

A Future Orientation to Agrarian Livelihoods

This paper argues that a future orientation to livelihoods research is needed which pays explicit attention to the trends and dynamics of household livelihoods. An analytical framework is presented that consider: dispositions of different groups, the influence of sociocultural environments, the different role of actors in reinforcing or transforming sociocultural environments, and the broader structural conditions including exclusion and terms of incorporation. This framework is applied to the analysis of different groupings of farmers in two villages in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh to highlight processes that result in upward and downward mobility for different social groups. The paper concludes that a future orientation to livelihoods research provides a more nuanced picture as compared to economic calculations of farm viability and the ability and willingness of different household groupings to invest in agriculture. Second, by employing this approach, the identification of groups that will suffer chronic poverty, or alternatively, those at the risk of downward mobility is enhanced. Finally, a future orientation to livelihoods helps to identify institutional and structural conditions that adversely shape livelihoods, and therefore where priority investments could be made.

Agrarian Structure and Land Lease Arrangements

The Indian rural economic structure has been undergoing changes. One aspect of this is the growth of households who own land but do not cultivate it themselves. An implication of this is the potential for tenancy acquiring increasing importance in the rural sector. This study uses data from nine villages in Andhra Pradesh to present the relative significance of these households and analyse the resource adjustment process in the land lease market. The presence of non-cultivating peasant households in rural areas and tenancy contracts becoming the dominant institution for resource adjustment can act as a shackle on agricultural growth and development of the economy.

Understanding Agricultural Commodity Markets

In recent years, agricultural markets in India have grown in size and complexity, not only in terms of volumes and commodities traded but also in terms of regulatory reforms and a proliferation of new marketing channels and arrangements, with new and evolving roles played by both state and private players. A new generation of theoretically-grounded empirical research is urgently needed to make sense of these rapidly changing agricultural markets and their linkages. Such a renewed agenda, moreover, must both build systematically on the insights of previous work and engage with the new and emerging features and forces shaping diverse commodity markets and regions. The papers in this special issue make a small contribution in this direction.

The Three Roles of Agricultural Markets

This paper is a review of the literature on agricultural commodity markets in India, in relation to the three vital roles these markets are thought to play. It outlines the strengths and limitations of each approach and shows how they contribute to our understanding of the workings of real markets. The paper also suggests a holistic view of markets, built on the basis of the insights of existing literature to enrich our knowledge of the complexity and diversity of real markets and assist realistic policymaking.

Commodity Futures and Regulation

The Forward Contracts (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2010 is critical to commodity futures markets and the farm sector in India for three reasons. One, it is risky for an agrarian country to liberalise internal trade in commodities without a powerful regulator in place. Two, lending institutions do not consider commodities as a standard asset class because they lack back-end infrastructure and well-regulated liquid markets. Three, foreign direct investment can be attracted to build infrastructure in the commodities supply chain only if there is a powerful regulator that ensures integrity and investor confidence in the marketplace.

Development Policies and Agricultural Markets

Agricultural marketing in India suffers from inefficiency, a disconnect between the prices received by producers and the prices paid by consumers, fragmented marketing channels, poor infrastructure and policy distortions. Urgent reforms are needed to address these inadequacies and check the excesses of middlemen. While encouraging new models that improve the bargaining power of producers and scaling up successful experiments, producers' companies and cooperative marketing societies could be promoted to provide alternative avenues for sale of produce. Meanwhile, price policy has to be reoriented to bring it in tune with the emerging demand and supply of various crops. Though the private sector is vital to improving efficiency, the public sector is equally essential to serve the larger social goal of maintaining price stability through market operations.

Auctions in Grain Markets and Farmer Welfare

Modifications to the Agriculture Produce Market Committee Acts have removed barriers to private participation and allowed trade outside regulated markets in the hope that it will help farmers and improve market infrastructure. But a key feature of regulated markets - the use of auctions to sell produce - has attracted relatively little attention. This paper argues that the auction mechanism is central to protecting farmers' interests in a given market, even in the presence of collusion among some large buyers. More generally, it is a transparent mechanism of price discovery and sets a benchmark with which any new market set up by a private player has to compete, thus mitigating any adverse impact on prices received by farmers.

States of Wheat

Madhya Pradesh has emerged as one of the leading wheat procurement states in the country in the last five years, reflecting remarkable changes in the regional distribution and dynamics of the country's grain procurement landscape. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Harda Mandi, this paper describes the new systems and processes that have been implemented in the market yard and examines their effects on the mandi and key participants - farmers, traders, labourers, functionaries, and multiple state agencies. By focusing on the logistics and micropractices of procurement, it grasps the interconnections between critical elements of market processes and their impact on market participation and outcomes.

Inflections in Agricultural Evolution

This paper examines the emergence of specific commodity complexes and transactional forms in eight interior districts in Tamil Nadu focusing on gherkins, marigold, broiler, cotton and papaya. Their growing importance is a response to the structural changes in the larger economy and the contextual constraints on agriculture in the region. It posits that this phenomenon represents an inflection in the trajectory of agricultural growth in the region because of three distinct features. First, the new commodity complexes have strong links to agribusinesses and global markets. Second, downstream players exert an unprecedented influence and control over production practices. Third, the need for control over quality demands particular transactional forms such as contract farming. The paper argues that despite some economic gain, challenges of a different kind emerge and the normative implications of these changes are as yet unclear.

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