On the agri-imports front, the biggest item is edible oils — worth about $10 billion (more than 15 mt). This is where there is a need to create “aatma nirbharta”, not by levying high import duties, but by creating a competitive advantage through augmenting productivity and increasing the recovery ratio of oil from oilseeds.
Let the Modi government listen to its own chief economic advisor, what his team had to say in The Economic Survey: Reduce the coverage under PDS; link issue price to at least half of the procurement price; and move gradually towards cash transfers.
Despite initial disruptions in supply lines, India has somehow managed to feed its large population of 1.37 billion. There have been no large-scale food riots and no major flaring up of food prices for consumers.
Global experience shows that with the right public policies focusing on agriculture, improved sanitation, and women’s education, one can have much better health and well-being for its citizens, especially children.
The massive accumulation of grain stocks is the result of a very inefficient strategy for food management wherein the procurement for wheat and rice (paddy) remains open-ended, but the disbursal of those stocks remains largely restricted to PDS.
Paddy stubble burning in states neighbouring Delhi, especially Punjab, is being seen as one of the reasons for the smog in the national capital. Change to a less water-guzzling crop will help address stubble burning.
India can learn three lessons from China — investing more in agri-R&D and innovations, improving incentives for farmers by carrying out agri-marketing reforms, and collapsing input subsidies into direct income support on per hectare basis.
Tomatoes-onions-potatoes (TOP) are the three basic vegetables that face extreme price volatility and the government often finds itself on the edge in fulfilling its dual objectives of ensuring remunerative prices for farmers and affordable prices for consumers.