Agriculture plays an extremely important role in global markets, as shown by the impact of increasing prices of agricultural commodities. Swings in supply and demand impact the poor the most, which calls for renewed debate on the merits of government intervention, especially in South Asia, where food and nutritional insecurity abounds. This paper reviews existing literature and stakeholder interviews, in an attempt to bring out the various contours of the issue.
The study reviews existing literature and analyses primary data collected through interviews on four main aspects in relation to agricultural price and procurement policies in five main South Asian countries. The four aspects are: (a) historical experiences relating to the said policy of the respective countries, (b) whether there has been a reversal of the initial economic conditions that justified government intervention, (c) critical evaluation of the extent to which government intervention in the agricultural sector has achieved stated objectives, and (d) documenting case studies that highlight the debate on whether government intervention in agriculture should be continued.
The study found that the initial conditions of market failure in the agriculture sectors of South Asian countries have apparently been abated by the infrastructural, technological and in some cases institutional developments that took place in the last two to three decades. Further, the impact of newer forms of (global) market failure such limited preparedness for climate change impacts and increased price volatility in international markets are not yet adequately understood or addressed. Therefore, the debate about the necessity of government intervention is still an open one, contrary to claims in some of the literature.
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