Trade policy review report by the secretariat

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  1. Agriculture

    1. General policy framework

            1. Agriculture accounts for around 17% of GDP in India (Table 4.1), and 56% of total employment (according to Census 2011). Within the central Government, agricultural policy is formulated and implemented mainly by the Ministry of Agriculture, with the assistance of other institutions.1 India's current agricultural policy is outlined in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17), which aims, inter alia, to improve agri-investment, income product and productivity, promotion and extension of modern technologies, and resource-use efficiency for sustainable agriculture. With these objectives, India uses various measures in the agriculture sector, including in production, marketing, consumption and international trade. In 2012-13 and 2013-14, India emerged as the largest exporter of rice in the world, with more than 10 MMT of exports each year. Total cereal exports amounted to 22 MMT in 2012-13 and 21 MMT in 2013-14.

Table 4.38 Selected indicators for agriculture, 2009-13





GDP in the agriculture sectorb, at constant 2004/05 prices (growth rate, %)





Contribution of the agriculture sectorb to current GDP (%)





Employmentb (% of total)





Agricultural production (million tonnes)











Coarse cereals




















Cotton (million bales of 170 kg each)





.. Not available.

a Estimates.

b Including agriculture, forestry, and fishing.

Source: Department of Agriculture and Co‑operation, Agricultural Statistics at a Glance 2013, 10 December.

        1. Measures affecting imports

              1. India's tariff policy focuses on supporting domestic agricultural policy objectives. Hence, average tariff protection for agricultural products (WTO definition) in 2014-15 was 36.4%, (compared with 33.2% in 2010-11) considerably above that of non-agricultural products (WTO definition) at 9.5%. Around 55.7% of agricultural goods bear tariffs of 30%, and 17.2% bear tariffs above 30%. This contrasts with tariffs on non-agricultural products, where tariff rates exceeding 10% account for 4% of the whole non-agricultural tariff lines.

              2. There are significant differences in applied tariff rates for specific agricultural products within product groups. For example, among vegetable fats and oils, the applied MFN tariff rate on crude palm oil and edible margarine is 7.5% and that on crude soybean is zero. Similarly, vegetable oils (HS 1507‑HS 1515) have traditionally been protected by high applied MFN tariffs. The average applied MFN tariff rate on animals and animal products is 30.4%, with most products subject to a 30% tariff.2 Imported fresh and frozen chicken cuts are subject to a 100% applied MFN tariff rate. Applied MFN tariff rates on oats and rye are zero, while rates on other cereals, such as some types of rice and wheat (of seed quality) are 80% and 50%, respectively.

              3. Bound tariff rates for agricultural products range from 10%‑300%, compared with those for manufactured goods (0%-150%). For many agricultural products, there is a wide spread between bound (10%-300%) and applied tariff rates (0%-150%), which allows the Government to modify its tariffs substantially while complying with its WTO commitments. This variability, as well as the complex process for the notification of tariff‑rate changes, can create uncertainty and act as an impediment to trade.

              4. Imports under tariff rate quotas (TRQs) are allowed only through eligible entities or designated agencies. These entities and agencies apply to the DGFT prior to or by 1 March of each financial year proceeding the quota year. The Exim Facilitation Committee in DGFT receives, evaluates and allots the TRQ. Imports must be completed before 31 March of the financial year for which the quota is allocated. During the period under review, according to India's latest notification to the WTO submitted in March 2011, tariff quotas continue to be allocated on a pro rata basis by the DGFT, on request by designated agencies.3

              5. The authorities may impose import (and export) restrictions for security, self‑sufficiency, and balance‑of‑payments reasons, and on health and moral grounds.4 India links the use of import (and export) restrictions and licensing, and other NTMs to domestic policies. Products subject to import prohibitions include pig fat, edible products of wild animal origin; import restrictions apply to various live animals and products as well as vegetable products.

              6. India maintains state trading requirements on imports of certain agricultural goods including wheat, rye, oats, rice, grain sorghum, buckwheat, millet, canary seed, jawar, bajra, ragi, other cereals, milk or cream, sunflower seed or safflower oil, copra, coconut oil, and maize, and on exports of onions, gum karaya, and sugar.5

              7. Imports of animal products into India require sanitary import permits issued by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries; a permit must be obtained prior to shipment from the country of origin. Imports of plants and plant material must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by the national plant protection organization of the exporting country and an import permit issued by the officer-in-charge of the plant quarantine station.
        2. Measures affecting exports

              1. While no export taxes are charged on agricultural products, India imposes export cess on tobacco.

              2. India imposes export restrictions and prohibitions mainly for environmental, food security, marketing, pricing, and domestic supply reasons, and to comply with international treaties. Some agricultural products are subject to export prohibitions, including certain pulses, and edible oils.

              3. State trading is maintained on exports with the purpose of ensuring better marketing and prices of agricultural and minor forestry products including sugar (for exports under preferential regime), onions, and gum karaya. Currently, sugar, under preferential quotas, and onions are exported through state trading.6

              4. India's last notification of export subsidies, made to the WTO in 2012, covered 2004 to 2010. Based on the Sugar Development Fund (Amendment) Rules 2014, on 12 February 2014 the Government approved a subsidy at the rate of Rs 3,300 per tonne towards marketing and promotion services of raw sugar production for February-March 2014.7 The scheme is now to be reviewed for the current sugar season 2014-15.8

              5. Sugar under the preferential regimes by the European Union and the United States (exported by state-trading enterprises), milk powder, wheat, edible oil, pulses, and non-basmati rice and wheat products (HS 1001) was subject to export quotas during the period under review.

              6. Export prohibitions and export quotas are notified annually; they are usually in place for a specific period, during which they may be subject to change. These changes can diminish the predictability of the regime.

              7. Minimum export prices are also maintained to control prices and availability in the domestic market. Minimum export prices currently apply to certain edible oils, onions, Bangalore roses and Krishnapuram onions and potatoes.
        3. Internal measures

              1. Agriculture comes under the purview of the state Governments in India; the responsibility for development in agriculture and related sectors is vested with the States. However, the central Government supports the state Governments in their efforts to increase agricultural production, enhance productivity by providing technical support, and explore the sector's untapped potential. Since India's previous Review, in order to achieve the objectives of the 12th Five-Year Plan, the Department of Agriculture (DAC) has reviewed its 51 existing schemes with a view to restructuring them into 11 missions/schemes from 1 April 2014 onwards in order to: (i) promote investment in agriculture and related sectors; (ii) improve income and productivity; and (iii) ensure extension of modern technologies and resource-use efficiency for sustainable agriculture (Table 4.2). India also supports the farm sector through output price support programmes, input support programmes, and credit and insurance schemes. Output price support programmes include minimum support prices (MSPs) for certain staple crops produced in India. Input support programmes focus primarily on fertilizers, rates for irrigation water, electricity rates, diesel prices, and seeds. Credit schemes comprise a number of government programmes to improve the flow of credit to agriculture and to lower the cost of borrowing for farmers (via below-market-rate loans or debt write-offs).

Table 4.39 Agriculture sector schemes/programmes, 2014


Budget allocation


National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA)

Rs 16.84 billion

Seeks to address issues of "sustainable agriculture" in the context of climate change by devising appropriate strategies for ensuring food security, enhancing livelihood opportunities, and contributing to economic stability at national level. Aims at enhancing agricultural productivity in rain-fed areas focusing on integrated farming, water use efficiency, soil health management and synergizing resource conservation

Mission for Integrated Development of Agriculture (MIDH)

Rs 22.63 billion

Aims at holistic growth of horticulture sector covering fruits, vegetables and flowers with a view to augmenting farmers' income and nutritional security

National Mission on Oilseed and Oil Palm (NMOOP)

Rs 4.33 billion

Aims at ensuring edible oil security through production improvement of traditional oilseed and tree-borne oilseed

National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMEAT)

Rs 13.16 billion

Seeks to restructure, strengthen and promote agricultural extension to enable use of appropriate agro-technology and improved agronomic practices to farmers

National Food Security Mission (NFSM)

Rs 20.3 billion

Seeks to ensure food security by reducing gaps between potential and actual yields and by providing extension and promotion services to agriculture and rural community

Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY)

Rs 99.54 billion

Seeks to promote public investment in agriculture and related sector by the states, and provide flexibility and autonomy to states for planning and executing programmes/projects.

Modified National Agriculture Insurance Scheme (MNAIS)

Rs 28.23 billion

Aims at providing relief to the farmers from crop failure due to natural disasters, pests and diseases

Integrated Scheme for Agricultural Marketing (ISAM)

Rs 8.0 billion

Seeks to promote: (i) creation and improvement of marketing infrastructure, (ii) capacity-building of stakeholders, and (iii) access to market information

Integrated Scheme on Agriculture Cooperation (ISAC)

Rs 1.11 billion

Seeks to promote cooperative action in agriculture by: (i) capacity-building of cooperatives to undertake value addition; (ii) providing managerial and technical inputs including training; (iii) fostering diversification of activities; and (iv) boosting creation of cooperative storage/cold facilities

Integrated Scheme on Agriculture Census and Statistics (ISAC&S)

Rs 2.57 billion

Aims at collecting statistics relating to the agricultural holdings, land use, cropping patterns, irrigation status, tenancy, and deriving facets of agriculture in the country

Secretariat Economic Services

Rs 0.13 billion

Aims at carrying out agro-economic evaluations and research and providing expert services to the department on various economic and statistical issues

Source: WTO Secretariat, based on information provided by the Indian authorities.

              1. A key objective of India's domestic agricultural policy is to ensure stability of food supply and income support for the nearly 60% of the population that is dependent on agriculture. This policy is implemented through price support for farmers such as MSPs for 25 major commodities and for sugar, and the market intervention scheme (MIS) for other crops, input subsidies for fertilizers, power and water, as well as food subsidies (through the targeted public distribution system).

              2. The Government announces MSPs for major agricultural commodities each year for crop seasons after taking into account the recommendations of the CACP (Table 4.3). According to the authorities, the purpose of the MSP scheme is primarily to protect the "small and marginal" farmers growing "essentially staple" food crops from market volatility. The scheme is at present applicable for 25 major agricultural commodities as below.

              3. Farmers are guaranteed the MSP through the price support scheme (PSS): when prices of the relevant commodities fall below the MSP, government‑designated agencies intervene in the market to purchase at the MSP.9 Designated agencies under the PSS purchase specific products.10 The FCI is also authorized occasionally to sell from its stock through open market sales, including for export. During 2012-13 for instance, the Government authorized the export of 4.5 million metric tonnes of wheat and 2 million metric tonnes in 2014-15. Domestic sales are carried out at pre-determined prices, with 7 million metric tonnes and 6 million metric tonnes of grain sold respectively during 2012-13 and 2013-14.11 It was not clear to the Secretariat how prices are set for domestic open market sales, and who the grains are sold to.

              4. Purchasing prices of sugarcane are subject to the fair and remunerative price (FRP)12; a minimum price set at the central level, below which no sugar mill may purchase sugarcane from a farmer.13 State governments also set a state advisory price (SAP) for sugarcane. If the SAP is higher than the FRP, the State Government bears the loss. In addition to the price intervention, a quota of the sugar production (at present 10%), referred to as "levy sugar", is earmarked for distribution under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).14 The remaining sugar may be sold under the monthly regulated release system. Exports of sugar are also controlled through bilateral quotas with the European Union and the United States.

Table 4.40 Minimum support prices, 2010-15

(Rs per quintal)

Minimum support prices (MSPs)



Paddy (common)



Jowar (hybrid)












Arhar (tur)









Cotton (medium staple)



Groundnut in shell



Sunflower seed



Soybean (black)






Niger seed












Masur (lentil)



Rapeseed (mustard)



Safflower seed









De-husked coconut









.. Not available.

Source: Directorate of Economics and Statistics online information. Viewed at:; and information provided by the Indian authorities.

              1. Under the MIS, the NAFED and other State-designated agencies purchase perishables not covered under the MSPs at a market intervention price (MIP) when the prices decline because of a bumper crop, and distribute the products to avoid distress sales during the peak arrival period of the produce. The MIS is carried out by NAFED for horticultural commodities; they are sold in local markets. The MIS is implemented when there is at least a 10% increase in production or 10% decrease in prices over the previous year. Procurement is made by the Central and State agencies. NAFED is also authorized to undertake procurement under the scheme as a central agency.

              2. The National Food Security (NFS) Act, 2013 was passed by Parliament on 10 September 2013.15 Its stated aim is "to provide for food and nutritional security by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto". It aims at providing food grains (wheat, rice or coarse grains) to around two-thirds of the population (around 800 million people) at subsidized prices. The targeted population is around three-quarters of the rural population and half of the urban population. Corresponding to the coverage of 75% of the rural and 50% of the urban population at the all India level, coverage by states and union territories (States/UT) has been determined by the Planning Commission. Within the coverage determined for each State/UT, eligible households are to be identified by State/UT governments in accordance with criteria to be determined by them. Subsidized food grains under the Act will continue to be provided through the targeted public distribution system (TPDS) with an attempt to better streamline food delivery. While the TPDS currently provides 15 kg per month of subsidized wheat, rice, coarse grains per household (35 kg per household for below the poverty line households), the entitlement under the NFSA is 5 kg per person of wheat, rice or coarse grains per month at the central issue price of Rs 2, 3, and 1 per kg respectively.16 Antyodaya Anna Yojana households, who are the poorest of the poor, will continue to receive 35 kg foodgrains per household per month. Kerosene and sugar are not included as entitlements under NFSA; nonetheless, their distribution at subsidized prices under the TPDS is continuing as separate schemes. The NFSA will also bring under its umbrella various other ongoing schemes intended for nutritional support to pregnant women and lactating mothers and children, such as Integrated Child Development Services and mid-day meal scheme, thereby enshrining them as legal rights. It also provides for maternity benefits of Rs 6,000 to pregnant women and lactating mothers. It is expected that implementation of the NFSA will require around 61 million metric tonnes of grain per year.17 According to the authorities, this will not be a substantive change compared to the amounts distributed in recent years under the TPDS of 58‑59 million metric tonnes per year; this is mainly because of a reduction in the share of the population below the poverty line. One estimate shows that the cost of the food subsidy will be about 1.1% of GDP for 2013-14.18 According to the national budget, food subsidies for 2014-15, which includes subsidies under the NFSA, amounts to Rs 1.15 trillion compared with Rs 0.9 trillion for 2013-14 (before the NFSA was adopted).

              3. Another key change is in the delivery of food grains. Procurement will continue at MSPs by central Government agencies such as the FCI and state agencies and maintained in the central pool. Procurement by state Government agencies will be continued under the NFSA as has been the case under the TPDS through the decentralized procurement system. The grain will then be transported to designated points in each state according to the applicable allocation. It will then be the responsibility of each individual state to ensure that the food is delivered to the fair price shops for sale to the identified recipients. The storage and logistical infrastructure required will be considerable and in this regard, a High Level Committee (HLC) set up by the Government on reorienting the role and restructuring of the FCI has suggested that the FCI should be outsourcing its warehousing to the central warehousing corporation (CWC), the state warehousing corporation (SWC), and the private sector and should also largely leave procurement and stocking to the states that have demonstrated considerable success in doing so.19 The HLC on restructuring of the FCI submitted its report to the Government in January 2015, which is finalizing its comments and an action plan on the implementation of the recommendations of the HLC.

              4. To date 11 States/UTs (out of 36) have implemented the NFSA.20 The TPDS has experienced implementation problems in the past21 and to ensure better implementation, the NFSA includes guidelines that provide for reforms to strengthen it and a "grievance redressal mechanism" in each state to address complaints.22

              5. India's latest notification to the WTO on domestic support commitments in 2014 covered 2004-05 to 2010-11.23

              6. The bulk of India's subsidies, as mentioned in each year's annual budget, is aimed mainly at promoting food security and reducing poverty. As a result, most of the outlays are allocated to food and fertilizers. Food subsidies are provided by the Department of Food and Public Distribution to meet the difference between actual prices and the central issue prices fixed under the TPDS and other welfare schemes. The central Government also provides a subsidy to the Food Corporation of India to keep buffer stocks of wheat and rice as a food security measure. "Other subsidies", which accounted for 0.4% of total subsidies in 2014-15, include market intervention and price support schemes for agricultural products.

              7. India continues to subsidize indigenous and imported (urea) fertilizers through price controls, which remain unchanged since its previous Review.24 This policy has resulted in an excessive use of chemical fertilizers that has resulted in severe depletion of micronutrients and degradation of soil in many parts of the country.25 India's farmers also benefit from: input support for irrigation water, electricity, diesel, and seeds; and programmes to supply quality seeds at "affordable prices".26

              8. India sets targets for priority‑sector lending to ensure that banks provide credit to specific priority sectors. Domestic commercial banks are required to reserve 18% of their adjusted net bank credit (ANBC) or credit equivalent amount of off‑balance‑sheet exposure (OBSE), whichever is higher, for agriculture (Section

              9. In addition to credit set‑asides, India has implemented programmes to ensure access to credit in agriculture and allied activities, including providing subsidized direct credit to agriculture up to a certain limit, rehabilitation packages for distressed farmers (e.g. debt write‑offs for farmers in distress and farmers in arrears), and a One Time Settlement (OTS) Scheme for small and marginal farmers and relief to farmers indebted to non‑institutional lenders, such as money‑lenders. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has been designated as the implementing agency for the Short‑Term Co-operative Rural Credit (Refinance) Fund (STCRC (Refinance) Fund). The purpose of the Fund is to enhance refinancing operations of NABARD to short-term co-operative credit institutions, i.e., state co-operative banks/district central co-operative banks. NABARD also administers funds that ensure the availability of credit to farmers. The Agriculture Insurance Company of India Ltd. (AICI) implements the Government's National Agriculture Insurance Scheme (NAIS).27
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