Economic & Political Weekly
December 19, 2021
This transcription of a presentation, commentary and a discussion at IIM Banglore in 2020 has three parts. In Part 1, contested definitions of food, urgent food questions and concepts of food systems are clarified before considering the ways agricultural markets are integrated in food systems, the contradictory principles at work in policies for their regulation, and the ways such policy practices are imagined. Sixteen multidisciplinary depictions of global food systems, agricultural markets and food policies are analysed, concluding that their conceptual fracturing results from a disregard of theory. New models of the Indian food system will need to give rigorous attention to institutions for policy.
Part 2 problematises the empirical granularity needed to understand market behaviour that policymakers ignore as they shift agriculture from being the driver of industrialisation to being a residualised welfare sector. By continuing to ignore and misunderstand existing physical markets, regulatory reforms like the new central laws assume that the deregulation would somehow automatically bypass the vast number of private intermediaries necessary for distribution whose relatively easy-to-enter, small-scale activity undercuts the transaction costs of corporate agribusiness. In doing so, they lose sight of the original purpose and need for public regulation in primary agricultural markets in the first place.
Part 3 discusses the need for consultative policy processes for policy and the implications for small scales and informality in agriculture and its markets of the close integration of self-employment in the rural non-farm economy.Publisher Page>