Cross-posted from India Food Security Portal written by Jaspreet Aulakh
The International Food Policy Research Institute held a virtual dialogue on the impact of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on trade and agriculture in India on November 30. The implementation of the GST is expected to significantly boost trade inside India (this topic has been previously discussed in a blog on the India Food Security Portal). The GST will eliminate the current multitude of taxes, duties, and surcharges that exist between states, thereby effectively creating a common Indian market. However, the taxes that will be imposed on the movement of goods are not clear. Experts that participated in the dialogue included the following:
- Purushotham, Adjunct Professor, CESS
- CA Sachin Sinha, Partner, Prakash Sachin & Co.
- Amit Pujara, Assistant VP, NCDEX
- Rahul Ganatra, NCDEX
- PK Joshi, Director, IFPRI-South Asia
- Devesh Roy, Research Fellow, IFPRI
A summary of the key questions that were discussed in the virtual dialogue are as follows and all of the comments for each question are available on the forum as well as a full summary.
The GST is expected to create a more seamless movement of agriculture produce between states and is expected that primary markets can respond quickly to the market signals avoiding local shortages and avoiding transportation costs of up to 3-5 percent depending upon the region and commodity. There is also the idea that this will help favor the e-National Agricultural Market (e-NAM) given that taxation on agricultural products will be simplified. The e-NAM will help in avoiding mandi fees and taxes and link farmers with buyers and improving market efficiency, hence benefiting both farmers and buyers. Both the GST and the e-NAM have a common goal to create an integrated national commodities market with a uniform tax structure for uniform market fees across the nation.
The press release by the GST Council on November 3, 2016 noted that the GST will be levied at multiple rates ranging from 0 percent, 5, 12, 18 to 28 percent with food grains exempted from the tax. The lowest taxes will go to several food items such as meat products, milk and dairy, and other processed foods. Purchase taxes, market fees (mandi taxes), and infrastructure development taxes will be incorporated into GST. It is expected that better compliance will help in widening the tax base and hence lowering the tax burden on average dealer in agriculture trade.
Participants agreed that market competitiveness will be improved, helping export markets. It is expected that uniformity across states and the nation will help in compliance and the new GST tax structure, and is expected to help protect the interest of small traders and hence attract more traders, boosting competition.
The impacts on production are unclear as it might dis-incentivize the farming community. The reduction in the number of tax-exempt products from 300 to 90 under GST may include some farm inputs that currently have tax exemptions and concessions; that might be increase in their price and hence impact the net income of the farming community. Seeds will continue to be exempted and IFPRI South Asia
Multiple participants in the dialogue noted that the GST may help facilitate and significantly increase the trade of goods and services within India. Bihar is the only state without the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act and has also welcomed the ratification of GST saying it will increase country-wide trade and state tax revenues since it has no organized market sector. The multiple layers of taxes with the supply chain will be clubbed into a single tax. The movement of goods and services will at ease across the states. For example, successful GST implementation is expected to eliminate the queues of trucks waiting at state boundaries. Indian businesses are generally supportive of the GST as it is expected to simplify their value chains.
Every supply chain will be affected by the new tax regime meaning that farmers will also be affected. However, the effect is not clear yet since the laws in the act exempt agriculturalists but the allied services might be affected and hence can impact agriculture. To best understand the system, farmers need to understand the documentation, system compliance, and use of information technology along with the digital transactions. There can be some resistance due to initial new system adjustments.
The implementation of the GST along with demonetization may require farmers to increasingly use banking channels and appropriate banking policies may be required to waive feeds and help low-income farmers access the banks.
There is significant debate across the political spectrum at what standard rate the GST should be set and which items to include and exclude. The opposition parties are advocating for a rate below the generally proposed 18 percent while some States are proposing to set it at 20 percent to ensure adequate revenue collection. A report for the government on how to ensure neutral revenue rates after GST implementation recommends a standard GST rate of 17- 19 percent for most goods and services, a 12 percent rate for some goods (including most agricultural goods) and a 40 percent rate for luxury goods.
The central government has clarified that all food grains and food commodities that go into the common food basket will be exempted from the tax and a few items will be taxed at the 5% percent level. It is not yet clear which items will be taxed and how that may affect nutrition.
The implementation of the GST is expected to significantly boost trade within India. As discussed above, the GST will eliminate the current multitude of taxes, duties, and surcharges that exist between states, thereby effectively creating a common Indian market. However, the taxes that will be imposed on the movement of goods are not clear. For instance, if goods move from producing states to consuming states, it is unclear which state will receive the tax benefits and how those benefits will be structured. However, ‘producing’ states are likely to experience a decrease in total tax revenues, and ‘consuming’ States an increase in total tax revenues, due to changes to where goods are taxed. It is hoped that the taxation of services by states will allow them to mitigate the expected shortfall in tax revenues.
The Central and State governments have joined hands to register for the new Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that will provide shared technological infrastructure. The key objectives of the GSTN are to provide a standard and uniform electronic interface to provide shared information technology infrastructure for all state government agencies.
It is expected that market signals will be clearer and food grains and other food commodities can move from surplus zones to deficit zones. This may help more traders participate and increase competition in the markets to respond to local food shortages. The GST system will help incorporate more accurate information on agricultural and food stock levels nationally and regionally, assisting with food security decisions. Perishables can move faster and cheaper due to less checks, paper work and taxes during transport.
The main concern in the application of GST to food is the impact it would have on those living at or below subsistence levels. It was noted that in the rural sector, the predominant distribution channel for unprocessed food would be either a direct sale by the farmer to final consumers or through small distributors and retailers. Even where food is within the scope of the GST, such sales would largely remain exempt because of the small business registration threshold. Further, the output of agricultural sector is mostly exempt from tax, and inputs in agricultural sector like power and fertilizer are heavily subsidized and will continue to be subsidized.
In effect, this means that ‘producing’ states are likely to experience a decrease in total tax revenues, and ‘consuming’ states an increase in total tax revenues, due to changes to where goods are taxed. However, it is hoped that the taxation of services by states will allow these states to mitigate the expected shortfall in tax revenues. Thus, the shorter-term and longer-term impacts of GST will be discovered in the near future. With the rollout planned to be next year on April 1, the important decisions rest on the shoulders of the GST council, regarding the GST rates. The capping of the GST at rate of 18 percent will not be favorable as it might lead to revenue deficits in some states.
A full summary is available here.
Cross-posted from the FSP India website written by Bas Paris
A paper in Food Policy provides a review of various studies on the impacts of agricultural interventions on the nutritional status in South Asia. Past review exercises and studies have analysed the available evidences to understand the ways in which agriculture can be leveraged to enhance nutritional status, however, very few of them have employed a systematic approach encompassing a significant number of studies. This paper aims to fill this gap through conducting a systematic review assessing the existing evidence in 25 studies for combating food insecurity and malnutrition through agricultural interventions.
The paper analysed studies on the impact of interventions in agriculture and allied sectors (horticulture, livestock, fisheries and forestry) in South Asia (and India) on the nutritional outcomes for adults and children, published since the year 2000. The nutritional outcomes were captured through intermediate outcome indicators such as dietary diversity, calorie intake and nutrient intake, and outcome indicators such as anthropometric factors and DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years). The studies selected were not homogenous in terms of a common outcome indicator and the studies used different metrics for examining the linkage. Some studies analysed nutritional outcomes by examining the stunting and wasting of children and adolescents, whereas others analysed the Body Mass Index for determining adult malnutrition or levels of micronutrients such as vitamin A and haemoglobin. Some studies used intermediate outcome indicators, such as changes in consumption patterns, dietary diversity, and intakes of certain foods. Most of the included empirical studies analysed data from secondary datasets and had large sample sizes. Others were primary baseline surveys, with smaller sample sizes.
The paper categorizes the findings of the studies according to six pathways developed by UNICEF, and slightly modified by the paper, through which agriculture can influence nutritional outcomes. These six pathways are: sources of food, source of income of households involved in agriculture, agricultural policy and prices, women in agriculture and their socio-economic status, maternal employment in agriculture, and maternal nutrition and health status.
Regarding the sources of food the study highlights that 22 of the 25 reviewed studies examined the contribution of agriculture as a source of food for nutrition. The studies indicate strong evidence that the dietary intake of agricultural households largely depends on food supplies from their own farm, this is because subsistence farming is common across South Asia. The evidence, however, is not conclusive for the impact of supply of livestock on food consumption. A negative and significant association was also reported in three studies between improvements in agricultural productivity and under-nutrition. Particularly, the interventions for increasing the productivity and production of specific nutritious food crops such as vegetables and pulses, widely grown and consumed in India, showed positive implications for increased intake and child nutrition. However, a number of studies, two of which focused on India, estimated a weak relationship between calorie consumption and nutritional outcomes.
8 out of 25 studies investigated the impact of agricultural incomes on nutrition. In this regard the paper highlights that it is unclear whether agricultural growth leads to improvements in nutrition. Specifically, Heady illustrates that high agricultural growth rates in some states of India, such as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Bihar, were not accompanied by a decrease in under-nutrition. However, a number of studies find that nutritional security was reported to be significantly influenced by per capita agricultural income, one study also reported that increased household wealth also significantly positively affected the diet diversity of children in India.
Only 5 studies analysed the role of agricultural policies aimed at reducing relative prices or increasing the affordability of food on nutritional status. Based on the representative sample for India, it was demonstrated that policy interventions for affecting food prices played an important role in diet diversification and nutritional outcomes. The policy of improving the affordability of staples by the public distribution system provided food and nutritional security. However, the relative price of staples has a strong and significant association with diet diversity, but not with calorie availability.
8 studies covered the importance of women empowerment in agriculture and its contribution to household food and nutritional security. The nutritional status of the mothers, measured using the BMI, had statistically significant positive effects on height and weight for age scores of their children aged less than three years. Women empowerment influenced the quality of feeding practices for infants and young children, but was weakly associated with child nutrition status.
In conclusion the paper highlights that agricultural interventions (pathways 1-3) have the potential to influence nutritional outcomes in India and South Asia. However, the available evidence linking the agricultural interventions and their impact on the nutritional status of women and children is small (pathways 4-6). Overall, the paper stresses that these findings show that linkages between agriculture and nutrition are complex and require multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional approaches to tackle malnutrition problems. The findings clearly indicate the importance of the home production of nutrient-rich food crops for improving the nutritional outcomes. This suggests that bio-fortification of staples and homestead gardens can influence the intake of a micronutrient-rich diet and consequently nutritional outcomes. This also suggests that the diversification of agriculture towards fruits and vegetables can potentially promote dietary diversity and improve nutritional outcomes.
The full paper can be accessed here
In April 2015, Nepal experienced a catastrophic earthquake of 7.6 magnitude, followed by more than 300 aftershocks causing about 9000 casualties and 22,300 injuries. The earthquake not only made a significant impact on the country’s immediate food and nutritional security situation, but caused damage during the harvest season for wheat and maize, with a likely resulting loss in food stocks.
In Kathmandu earlier this month, the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) organized a one day dialogue on the Effects of Natural Disasters on Agriculture Sector in Nepal: Options and Strategies for its Revival.The aim of the dialogue was to deliberate on the nature and pattern of the impact of natural disasters on agriculture-based livelihood, the evidence and experiences of responding to loss of livelihood, and lessons that Nepal could learn while striving to chart out the pathways to its recovery.
Participants included policymakers, donors, researchers, and representatives from corporations, the farming community, civil society, and development organizations from Nepal and India.
The discussion brought forth a number of key outcomes:
Livelihood loss in the agriculture sector emanates from the loss of productive assets (such as land and livestock), farm infrastructures (such as roads, irrigation and storage structures), inputs (such as seeds), and markets (for output and inputs).
- Re-linking farmers, especially those who are illiterate, unskilled and immobile, with markets is crucial for the revival strategy.
- Employment guarantee schemes could be useful for immediate food security as well as for market revival, providing cash in hand in the short run. The revival strategy should also address the issue of labor shortage by promoting agri-mechanization. For long-term impact, due consideration should be given to improving the terms of trade in agriculture.
- Natural disasters have a significant impact on agriculture, given the nature of its technicality, demography, and vulnerability. Agriculture sector-specific disaster management policy and guidelines are needed.
- Institutions and civil service must make efforts to work together. Capacity and accountability are important tor institutions to be effective. At the local level, it is important to mobilize community based organizations, particularly in the absence of elected representatives in the local government bodies.
This dialogue is third in the series of ongoing policy dialogues on food and agriculture organized by IFPRI under the Policy Reform Initiative Project (PRIP) in Nepal. Past dialogues in the series are (a) Public Expenditure in Agriculture (February 06, 2015) and (b) Potential Effects of India's Budget 2015-16 on Nepalese Agriculture and Policy Implications for Nepal (April 01, 2015).
A recent conference organized jointly by the Council for Social Development (CSD) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) explored research gaps on food and livelihood security and existing models that could be used for successful change.
To ignore current food security issues facing India can be likened to a doctor refusing to perform surgery because the future will offer better methods, said Muchkund Dubey of the CSD.
The conference was held 14 July at the India International Centre in New Delhi, and brought together members of government and the private sector to discuss models and processes that are scalable as well as their applicability in particular situations. The discussion also centered on topics associated with existing practices that demand more research.
Four technical sessions covered best practices related to the Public Distribution System (PDS), the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), food security and self-help groups, and civil society organisations. The conference closed with a panel discussion on “Learning Lessons for Up-Scaling Best Practices.”
There was unanimous consensus on the definitions of best practices, food security, and livelihood security: best practices (BPs) in agriculture were defined as norms which help rural agricultural systems to self-sustain, ensuring food as well as livelihood security; food security should incorporate food availability, food access, food safety, and food nutrition; and livelihood security means income generation for the rural and urban population.
Several points were highlighted during the course of the conference. First, each state in India varies greatly in terms of socioeconomic makeup and politics, which makes the cross-implementation and upscaling of best practices based on case studies alone difficult. Second, the government and political system can make a huge difference in creating success stories. Third, the use of information technology in management of any agricultural system is necessary for creating a success story. Capacity building and diversification within agricultural systems is also necessary to protect them from shocks.
During the final discussion, Former Secretary to the Government of India Alok Sinha noted that Indian agriculture has reached a plateau; half of the population is engaged in agriculture, but it contributes to only 2-3 percent of the country’s GDP. Small projects scattered over India cannot represent the country as a whole, he said, and PDS needs to become a transparent public system where the beneficiaries know their rights. Since Minimum Support Price (MSP) and PDS are closely interlinked, the cash transfer policy can adversely affect MSP and PDS and should therefore be tested before implementation. Digital tracking is also important for procurement to end in PDS.
Agriculture impacts a large percentage of the Indian population—47 percent of the population was employed in agriculture and related activity in 2012, according to the World Bank-- and civil society has an important role serving the rural poor.
For additional coverage and lessons-learned from the conference, check out our blogs on: