Archive for the ‘Agriculture and Food’ Category

Explained: Recent changes in MSPs

July 16th, 2018 No comments

Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved an increase in the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for Kharif crops for the 2018-19 marketing season.  Subsequently, the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) released its price policy report for Kharif crops for the marketing season 2018-19.

The central government notifies MSPs based on the recommendations of the CACP.  These recommendations are made separately for the Kharif marketing season (KMS) and the Rabi marketing season (RMS).  Post harvesting, the government procures crops from farmers at the MSP notified for that season, in order to ensure remunerative prices to farmers for their produce.

In this blog post, we look at how MSPs are determined, changes brought in them over time, and their effectiveness for farmers across different states.

How are Minimum Support Prices determined?

The CACP considers various factors such as the cost of cultivation and production, productivity of crops, and market prices for the determination of MSPs.  The National Commission on Farmers (Chair: Prof. M. S. Swaminathan) in 2006 had recommended that MSPs must be at least 50% more than the cost of production.  In this year’s budget speech, the Finance Minister said that MSPs would be fixed at least at 50% more than the cost of production.

The CACP calculates cost of production at three levels: (i) A2, which includes cost of inputs such as seeds, fertilizer, labour; (ii) A2+FL, which includes the implied cost of family labour (FL); and (iii) C2, which includes the implied rent on land and interest on capital assets over and above A2+FL.

Table 1 shows the cost of production as calculated by the CACP and the approved MSPs for KMS 2018-19.  For paddy (common), the MSP was increased from Rs 1,550/quintal in 2017-18 to Rs 1,750/quintal in 2018-19.  This price would give a farmer a profit of 50.1% on the cost of production A2+FL.  However, the profit calculated on the cost of production C2 would be 12.2%.  It has been argued that the cost of production should be taken as C2 for calculating MSPs.  In such a scenario, this would have increased the MSP to Rs 2,340/quintal, much above the current MSP of Rs 1,750/quintal.

Figure 1

Which are the major crops that are procured at MSPs?

Every year, MSPs are announced for 23 crops.  However, public procurement is limited to a few crops such as paddy, wheat and, to a limited extent, pulses as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 2

The procurement is also limited to a few states.  Three states which produce 49% of the national wheat output account for 93% of procurement.  For paddy, six states with 40% production share have 77% share of the procurement.  As a result, in these states, farmers focus on cultivating these crops over other crops such as pulses, oilseeds, and coarse grains.

Due to limitations on the procurement side (both crop-wise and state-wise), all farmers do not receive benefits of increase in MSPs.  The CACP has noted in its 2018-19 price policy report that the inability of farmers to sell at MSPs is one of the key areas of concern.  Farmers who are unable to sell their produce at MSPs have to sell it at market prices, which may be much lower than the MSPs.

How have MSPs for major crops changed over time?

Higher procurement of paddy and wheat, as compared to other crops at MSPs tilts the production cycle towards these crops.  In order to balance this and encourage the production of pulses, there is a larger proportional increase in the MSPs of pulses over the years as seen in Figure 2.  In addition to this, it is also used as a measure to encourage farmers to shift from water-intensive crops such as paddy and wheat to pulses, which relatively require less water for irrigation.

Figure 3

What is the effectiveness of MSPs across states?

The MSP fixed for each crop is uniform for the entire country.  However, the production cost of crops vary across states.  Figure 3 highlights the MSP of paddy and the variation in its cost of production across states in 2018-19.

Figure 4

For example, production cost for paddy at the A2+FL level is Rs 702/quintal in Punjab and Rs 2,102/quintal in Maharashtra.  Due to this differentiation, while the MSP of Rs 1,750/quintal of paddy will result in a profit of 149% to a farmer in Punjab, it will result in a loss of 17% to a farmer in Maharashtra.  Similarly, at the C2 level, the production cost for paddy is Rs 1,174/quintal in Punjab and Rs 2,481/quintal in Maharashtra.  In this scenario, a farmer in Punjab may get 49% return, while his counterpart in Maharashtra may make a loss of 29%.

Figure 5

Figure 4 highlights the MSP of wheat and the variation in its cost of production across states in 2017-18. In the case of wheat, the cost of production in Maharashtra and West Bengal is much more than the cost in rest of the states.  At the A2+FL level, the cost of production in West Bengal is Rs 1,777/quintal.  This is significantly higher than in states like Haryana and Punjab, where the cost is Rs 736/quintal and Rs 642/quintal, respectively.  In this case, while a wheat growing farmer suffers a loss of 2% in West Bengal, a farmer in Haryana makes a profit of 136%.  The return in Punjab is even higher at 1.5 times or more the cost of production.



Food Processing Infrastructure in India

Recently, there have been reports of price crashes and distress sales in case of farm produce, such as tomatoes, mangoes, and garlic.  In some cases, farmers have dumped their produce on roads.  Produce such as fruits and vegetables are perishable and therefore have a short shelf life.  Further, due to inadequate storage facilities and poor food processing infrastructure farmers have limited options but to sell the produce at prevailing market prices.  This can lead to distress sales or roadside discards (in some cases to avoid additional cost of transportation).

Food processing allows raw food to be stored, marketed, or preserved for consumption later.  For instance, raw agricultural produce such as fruits may be processed into juices, jams, and pickles.  Activities such as waxing (for preservation), packaging, labelling, or ripening of produce also form part of the food processing industry.

Between 2001-02 and 2016-17, production of food grains grew annually at 1.7% on average.  Production of horticulture crops surpassed food grains with an average growth rate of 4.8%.  While production has been increasing over the years, surplus produce tends to go waste at various stages such as procurement, storage, and processing due to lack of infrastructure such as cold storages and food processing units.

Source: Horticulture Statistics at a Glance 2017, Union Budget 2018-19; PRS.

Source: Horticulture Statistics at a Glance 2017, Union Budget 2018-19; PRS.


Losses high among perishables such as fruits and vegetables

Crop losses ranged between 7-16% among fruits and around 5% among cereals in 2015.  The highest losses were witnessed in case of guava, followed by mango, which are perishable fruits.  Perishables such as fruits and vegetables are more prone to losses as compared to cereals.  Such crop losses can occur during operations such as harvesting, thrashing, grading, drying, packaging, transportation, and storage depending upon the commodity.

It was estimated that the annual value of harvest and post-harvest losses of major agricultural products at the national level was Rs 92,651 crore in 2015.  The Standing Committee on Agriculture (2017) stated that such wastage can be reduced with adequate food processing facilities.

Sources: Annual Report 2016-17, Ministry of Food Processing Industries; PRS.

Sources: Annual Report 2016-17, Ministry of Food Processing Industries; PRS.


Inadequate food processing infrastructure

As previously discussed, perishables such as fruits and vegetables are more prone to damages as compared to cereals.  Due to inadequate processing facilities in close proximity, farmers may be unable to hold their produce for a long time.  Hence, they may be forced to sell their produce soon after harvest, irrespective of the prevailing market situations.  Expert committees have recommended that agri-logistics such as cold chain infrastructure and market linkages should be strengthened.

Cold chain infrastructure: Cold chain infrastructure includes processing units, cold storages, and refrigerated vans.  As of 2014, out of a required cold storage capacity of 35 million metric tonnes (MT), almost 90% (31.8 million MT) of the capacity was available (see Table 1).  However, cold storage needs to be coupled with logistical support to facilitate smooth transfer of harvested value from farms to distant locations.  This includes: (i) pack-houses for packaging and preparing fresh produce for long distance transport, (ii) refrigerated transport such as reefer vehicles, and (iii) ripening chambers to ripen raw produce before marketing.  For instance, bananas which are harvested raw may be ripened in these chambers before being marketed.

While there are sufficient cold storages, there are wide gaps in the availability of other associated infrastructure.  This implies that even though almost 90% (32 million tonnes) of cold storage capacity is available, only 15% of the required refrigerated transport exists.  Further, the shortfall in the availability of infrastructure necessary for safe handling of farm produce, like pack-houses and ripening chambers, is over 90%.

Table 1:  Gaps in cold chain infrastructure (2014)

Facility Required Available Gap % gap
Cold storage
(in million MT)


31.8 3.2




249 69,831


Reefer vehicles


9,000 52,826


Ripening chambers


812 8,319


Source: Standing Committee on Agriculture 2018; PRS.


To minimise post-harvest losses, the Standing Committee (2017) recommended that a country-wide integrated cold chain infrastructure network at block and district levels should be created.  It further recommended that a Cold Chain Coordination and Monitoring Committee should be constituted at the district-level.  The Standing Committee also recommended that farmers need to be trained in value addition activities such as sorting, grading, and pre-cooling harvested produce through facilities such as freezers and ripening chambers.

Between 2008 and 2017, 238 cold chain projects were sanctioned under the Scheme for Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure.  Grants worth Rs 1,775 crore were approved for these projects.  Of this amount, Rs 964 crore (54%) has been released as of January 2018.  Consequently, out of the total projects sanctioned, 114 (48%) are completed.  The remaining 124 projects are currently under implementation.

Transport Facilities:  Currently, majority of food grains and certain quantities of tea, potato, and onion are transported through railways.  The Committee on Doubling Farmers Income had recommended that railways needs to upgrade its logistics to facilitate the transport of fresh produce directly to export hubs.  This includes creation of adjoining facilities for loading and unloading, and distribution to road transport.

Mega Food Parks: The Mega Food Parks scheme was launched in 2008.  It seeks to facilitate setting up of food processing units.  These units are to be located at a central processing centre with infrastructure required for processing, packaging, quality control labs, and trade facilitation centres.

As of March 2018, out of the 42 projects approved, 10 were operational.  The Standing Committee on Agriculture noted certain reasons for delay in implementation of projects under the scheme.  These include: (i) difficulty in getting loans from banks for the project, (ii) delay in obtaining clearances from the state governments and agencies for roads, power, and water at the project site, (iii) lack of special incentives for setting up food processing units in Mega Food Parks, and (iv) unwillingness of the co-promoters in contributing their share of equity.

Further, the Standing Committee stated that as the scheme requires a minimum area of 50 acres, it does not to promote smaller or individual food processing and preservation units.  It recommended that smaller agro-processing clusters near production areas must be promoted.  The Committee on Doubling Farmers Income recommended establishment of processing and value addition units at strategic places.  This includes rural or production areas for pulses, millets, fruits, vegetables, dairy, fisheries, and poultry in public private-partnership mode.

Explained: The draft Model Contract Farming Act, 2018

January 8th, 2018 1 comment

Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture released a draft Model Contract Farming Act, 2018.  The draft Model Act seeks to create a regulatory and policy framework for contract farming.  Based on this draft Model Act, legislatures of states can enact a law on contract farming as contracts fall under the Concurrent List of the Constitution.  In this context, we discuss contract farming, issues related to it, and progress so far.

What is contract farming?

Under contract farming, agricultural production (including livestock and poultry) can be carried out based on a pre-harvest agreement between buyers (such as food processing units and exporters), and producers (farmers or farmer organisations).  The producer can sell the agricultural produce at a specific price in the future to the buyer as per the agreement.  Under contract farming, the producer can reduce the risk of fluctuating market price and demand.  The buyer can reduce the risk of non-availability of quality produce.

Under the draft Model Act, the producer can get support from the buyer for improving production through inputs (such as technology, pre-harvest and post-harvest infrastructure) as per the agreement.  However, the buyer cannot raise a permanent structure on the producer’s land.  Rights or title ownership of the producer’s land cannot be transferred to the buyer.

What is the existing regulatory structure?

Currently, contract farming requires registration with the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) in few states.  This means that contractual agreements are recorded with the APMCs which can also resolve disputes arising out of these contracts.  Further, market fees and levies are paid to the APMC to undertake contract farming.  The Model APMC Act, 2003 provided for contract farming and was released to the states for them to use this as reference while enacting their respective laws.  Consequently, 20 states have amended their APMC Acts to provide for contract farming, while Punjab has a separate law on contract farming.  However, only 14 states notified rules related to contract farming, as of October 2016.

What are the issues with the current structure, and how does the draft Model Act seek to address them?

Over the years, expert bodies have identified issues related to the implementation of contract farming.  These include: (i) role of APMCs which are designated as an authority for registration and dispute settlement in most states, (ii) provisions of stockholding limits on produce under contract farming, and (iii) poor publicity of contract farming among the farmers about its benefits.

Role of Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees/Marketing Boards

The NITI Aayog observed that market fees and other levies are paid to the APMC for contract framing when no services such as market facilities and infrastructure are rendered by them.  In this context, the Committee of State Ministers on Agricultural Reforms recommended that contract farming should be out of the ambit of APMCs.  Instead, an independent regulatory authority must be brought in to disengage contract farming stakeholders from the existing APMCs.

In this regard, as per the draft Model Act, contract farming will be outside the ambit of the state APMCs.  This implies that buyers need not pay market fee and commission charges to these APMCs to undertake contract farming.  Further, the draft Model Act provides for establishing a state-level Contract Farming (Promotion and Facilitation) Authority to ensure implementation of the draft Model Act.  Functions of the Authority include (i) levying and collecting facilitation fees, (ii) disposing appeals related to disputes under the draft Model Act, and (iii) publicising contract farming.  Further, the sale and purchase of contracted produce is out of the ambit of regulation of the respective state/UT Agricultural Marketing Act.

Registration and agreement recording

The Model APMC Act, 2003 released to the states provides for the registration of contract farming agreements by an APMC.  This was done to safeguard the interests of the producer and the buyer through legal support, including dispute resolution.  The procedures for registration and recording of agreements vary across states.  Currently, registration for contract farming has been provided with the APMC in few states, and with a state-level nodal agency in others.  Further, market fee on purchases under contract agreements is completely exempted in few states and partially exempted in others.  The Committee of State Ministers on Agricultural Reforms recommended that a instead of a APMC, district-level authorities can be set-up for registration of contract farming agreements.  Further, any registering authority should verify the details such as the financial status of the buyer.

Under the draft Model Act, every agreement should be registered with a Registering and Agreement Recording Committee, which will be set up consisting of officials from departments such as agriculture, animal husbandry, marketing, and rural development.  Such a Committee can be set up at the district, taluka or block levels.

Disputes between the producer and the buyer

The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare observed certain risks related to upholding the contract farming agreement.  For example, producers may sell their produce to a buyer other than the one with whom they hold a contract.  On the other side, a buyer may fail to buy products at the agreed prices or in the agreed quantities, or arbitrarily downgrade produce quality.  The Committee of State Ministers on Agricultural Reforms recommended that dispute redressal mechanism should be at block, district or regional-level state authorities and not with an APMC.

Under the draft Model Act, in case of disputes between a producer and a buyer, they can: (i) reach a mutually acceptable solution through negotiation or conciliation, (ii) refer the dispute to a dispute settlement officer designated by the state government, and (iii) appeal to the Contract Farming (Promotion and Facilitation) Authority (to be established in each state) in case they are not satisfied by the decision of the dispute settlement officer.

Stockholdings limits on contracted produce

Stockholding limits are imposed through control orders as per the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.  Such provisions of stockholding limits can be restrictive and discourage buyers to enter into contracts.  It was recommended that the buyers can be exempted from stock limits up to six months of their requirement in the interest of trade.  Under the draft Model Act, limits of stockholding of agricultural produce will not be applicable on produce purchased under contract farming.

Other recommendations

While contract farming seeks to provide alternative marketing channels and better price realisation to farmers, several other marketing reforms have been suggested by experts in this regard.  These include: (i) allowing direct sale of produce by farmers, (ii) removing fruits and vegetables out of the ambit of APMCs, and (iii) setting-up of farmer-consumer markets, (iv) electronic trading, and (v) joining electronic National Agricultural Market for the sale of produce.

Food Security in India

October 16th, 2017 No comments

The United Nations celebrates October 16 as the World Food Day every year, with an aim to spread awareness about eradicating hunger and ensuring food security for all.[1]  In this context, we examine the status of food and public distribution in India, and some challenges in ensuring food security for all.


In 2017-18, over Rs 1,50,000 crore, or 7.6% of the government’s total expenditure has been allocated for providing food subsidy under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).[2]  This allocation is made to the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.

Food subsidy has been the largest component of the Department’s expenditure (94% in 2017-18), and has increased six-fold over the past 10 years.  This subsidy is used for the implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA), which provides subsidised food grains (wheat and rice) to 80 crore people in the country.[3]  The NFSA seeks to ensure improved nutritional intake for people in the country.3

One of the reasons for the six-fold increase in food subsidy is the non-revision of the price at which food grains are given to beneficiaries since 2002.[4]  For example, rice is given to families under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana at Rs 3/Kg since 2002, while the cost of providing this has increased from Rs 11/Kg in 2001-02 to Rs 33/Kg in 2017-18.

Provision of food subsidyTable 1

TPDS provides food security to people below the poverty line.  Over the years, the expenditure on food subsidy has increased, while the ratio of people below poverty line has reduced.  A similar trend can also be seen in the proportion of undernourished persons in India, which reduced from 24% in 1990 to 15% in 2014 (see Table 1).  These trends may indicate that the share of people needing subsidised food has declined.

Nutritional balance:  The NFSA guarantees food grains i.e. wheat and rice to beneficiaries, to ensure nutritious food intake.3  Over the last two decades, the share of cereals or food grains as a percentage of food consumption has reduced from 13% to 8% in the country, whereas that of milk, eggs, fish and meat has increased (see Figure 1).  This indicates a reduced preference for wheat and rice, and a rise in preference towards other protein rich food items. Figure 1

Methods of providing food subsidy

Food subsidy is provided majorly using two methods.  We discuss these in detail below.

TPDS assures beneficiaries that they will receive food grains, and insulates them against price volatility. Food grains are delivered through fair price shops in villages, which are easy to access.[5],[6]

However, high leakages have been observed in the system, both during transportation and distribution.  These include pilferage and errors of inclusion and exclusion from the beneficiary list.  In addition, it has also been argued that the distribution of wheat and rice may cause an imbalance in the nutritional intake as discussed earlier.7  Beneficiaries have also reported receiving poor quality food grains as part of the system.

Cash Transfers seek to increase the choices available with a beneficiary, and provide financial assistance. It has been argued that the costs of DBT may be lesser than TPDS, owing to lesser costs incurred on transport and storage.  These transfers may also be undertaken electronically.6,7

However, it has also been argued that cash received as part of DBT may be spent on non-food items.  Such a system may also expose beneficiaries to inflation.  In this regard, one may also consider the low penetration and access to banking in rural areas.[7]

Figure 2

In 2017-18, 52% of the centre’s total subsidy expenditure will be on providing food subsidy under TPDS (see Figure 2).  The NFSA states that the centre and states should introduce schemes for cash transfers to beneficiaries.  Other experts have also suggested replacing TPDS with a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) system.4,[8]

The central government introduced cash subsidy to TPDS beneficiaries in September 2015.[9]  As of March 2016, this was being implemented on a pilot basis in a few union territories.  In 2015, a Committee on Restructuring of Food Corporation of India had also recommended introducing Aadhaar to plug leakages in PDS, and indexing it to inflation.  The Committee estimated that a switch to DBT would reduce the food subsidy bill of the government by more than Rs 30,000 crore.[10]

Current challenges in PDS

Leakages in PDS:  Leakages refer to food grains not reaching intended beneficiaries.  According to 2011 data, leakages in PDS were estimated to be 46.7%.10,[11]  Leakages may be of three types: (i) pilferage during transportation of food grains, (ii) diversion at fair price shops to non-beneficiaries, and (iii) exclusion of entitled beneficiaries from the list.6,[12]

In 2016, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found that states had not completed the process of identifying beneficiaries, and 49% of the beneficiaries were yet to be identified.  It also noted that inclusion and exclusion errors had been reported in the beneficiary lists.[13]

In February 2017, the Ministry made it mandatory for beneficiaries under NFSA to use Aadhaar as proof of identification for receiving food grains.  Through this, the government aims to remove bogus ration cards, check leakages and ensure better delivery of food grains.10,[14]  As of January 2017, while 100% ration cards had been digitised, the seeding of these cards with Aadhaar was at 73%.14

Figure 3

Storage:  As of 2016-17, the total storage capacity in the country is 788 lakh tonnes, of which 354 lakh tonnes is with the Food Corporation of India and 424 lakh tonnes is with the state agencies.[15]

The CAG in its performance audit found that the available storage capacity in states was inadequate for the allocated quantity of food grains.13  For example, as of October 2015, of the 233 godowns sanctioned for construction in Maharashtra, only 93 had been completed.  It also noted that in four of the last five years, the stock of food grains with the centre had been higher than the storage capacity available with Food Corporation of India.

Quality of food grains:  A survey conducted in 2011 had noted that people complained about receiving poor quality food grain which had to be mixed with other grains to be edible.6  There have also been complaints about people receiving food grains containing alien substances such as pebbles.  Poor quality of food may impact the willingness of people to buy food from fair price shops, and may have an adverse impact on their health.[16]

The Ministry has stated that while regular surveillance, monitoring, inspection and random sampling of all food items is under-taken by State Food Safety Officers, separate data for food grains distributed under PDS is unavailable.[17]  In the absence of data with regard to quality testing results of food grains supplied under PDS, it may be difficult to ascertain whether these food items meet the prescribed quality and safety standards.

[1] About World Food Day,

[2] Expenditure Budget, Union Budget 2017-18,

[3] National Food Security Act, 2013,

[4] “Prices, Agriculture and Food Management”, Chapter 5, Economic Survey 2015-16,

[5] The Case for Direct Cash Transfers to the Poor, Economic and Political Weekly, April 2008,

[6] Revival of the Public Distribution System: Evidence and Explanations, The Economic and Political Weekly, November 5, 2011,

[7] ‘Report of the Internal Working Group on Branch Authorisation Policy’, Reserve Bank of India, September 2016,

[8] Working Paper 294, “Leakages from Public Distribution System”, January 2015, ICRIER,

[9] “The Cash Transfer of Food Subsidy Rules, 2015”, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, September 3, 2015,

[10] Report of the High Level Committee on Reorienting the Role and Restructuring of Food Corporation of India, January 2015,

[11] Third Report of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution: Demands for Grants 2015-16, Department of Food and Public Distribution,,%20Consumer%20Affairs%20&%20Public%20Distribution/16_Food_Consumer_Affairs_And_Public_Distribution_3.pdf.

[12] Performance Evaluation of Targeted Public Distribution System, Planning Commission of India, March 2005,

[13] Audit on the Preparedness for Implementation of National Food Security Act, 2013 for the year ended March, 2015, Report No. 54 of 2015, Comptroller and Auditor General of India,

[14] Unstarred Question No. 844, Lok Sabha, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Answered on February 7, 2017,

[15] Annual Report 2016-17, Department of Food & Public Distribution, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution,

[16] 30 Food Subsidy, The Economic and Political Weekly, December 27, 2014,

[17] Unstarred Question No. 2124, Lok Sabha, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Answered on November 29, 2016,