IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Making agricultural market reforms successful

27th August, 2020 Editorial

Context: The recent reforms in agricultural marketing have brought a sea change in policy. The removal of restrictions under the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) should help attract private investment in agriculture and help farmers of cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onion and potato, who have been adversely affected by the policy regime hitherto that discouraged private investment. The two new ordinances are expected to enable inter-State trade and promote contract farming, thereby providing a large number of options to farmers.


  • The first one is what the behavioural economists call the ‘time-inconsistency’ problem, or in simple terms, the policy credibility problem. This situation arises when a decision maker’s preferences change over time in such a way that the preferences are inconsistent at different points in time.

Electronic national agricultural market (e-NAM):

  • In 2016, the electronic national agricultural market (e-NAM) was launched with a lot of fanfare.
  • The e-NAM was intended to be a market-based mechanism for efficient price discovery by the farmers.
  • In the first phase, 585 markets across 16 States and 2 Union Territories were covered. States needed to amend their respective Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Acts to put in place three prerequisites for the success of this programme — a single licence across the State; a single-point levy of the market fee; and electronic auctioning in all the markets.
  • Several States could not or did not carry out these amendments and the e-NAM proved to be far less effective than desired.

Policy reversals:

  • As a result, the government reverted back to public price support by launching an ambitious programme, PM-AASHA, in September 2018.
  • The main objective of this programme was to provide an assured price to farmers that ensured a return of at least 50% more than the cost of cultivation.
  • The programme was confined to pulses and oilseeds to limit the fiscal costs, although many other crops, which did not receive the benefits of the MSP-procurement system, also needed this coverage.
  • Public procurement, deficiency payments and private procurement were the main planks of this programme.
  • However, only public procurement was carried out in a meaningful way. Deficiency payments were only implemented on a pilot basis in Madhya Pradesh and private procurement was not initiated, even on a pilot basis, in any State.
  • PM-KISAN, a direct cash transfer programme, in the interim Budget of 2019-2020 (February 2019). This programme involved a fixed payment of ₹6,000 per annum to each farm household with a budgetary outlay of ₹75,000 crores. This programme has worked reasonably well so far with many States topping up the amount at their end
  • With the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, improving the market functioning received renewed attention. E-NAM has been scaled up to cover 415 more markets, farmers have been allowed to sell and transport directly from registered warehouses and Farmer Produce Organisations (FPOs) and app-based transport services have been devised

Better coordination

  • The second issue is the Centre-State and State-State relations. Although the Ordinances were passed by the Central Government using the constitutional provisions, the implementation of the same vests with the States. Also, inter-State trade involves movement of goods across the State boundaries. Thus, coordination between the Central and the State governments, and also among various States becomes crucial.
  • The third important issue is the multiple market failures and the resultant inter-linkage of rural markets. Absence or failure of credit and insurance markets may lead a farmer to depend upon the local input dealer or the middleman to meet his/her farming needs.
  • In conclusion, consistency in policy, collaborative approach and complementary reforms are necessary for the success of the recent agricultural market reforms.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/making-agricultural-market-reforms-successful/article32451273.ece#:~:text=States%20needed%20to%20amend%20their,auctioning%20in%20all%20the%20markets.