Driven to tears- Trade curbs on farm products will distort sowing preferences

Driven to tears- Trade curbs on farm products will distort sowing preferences


In the face of mounting concerns over a steep 11.5% rise in consumer food prices in July, a move was made by the government to tackle this issue head-on. The recent imposition of a 40% export levy on onion exports, which had witnessed a substantial 65% growth in the past year, highlights the government’s endeavor to stabilize the situation. This is not the first time such steps have been taken, as we’ve seen curbs on non-basmati rice exports in July and restrictions on pulses and wheat in June. However, this series of actions raises questions about their effectiveness and impact on the agricultural landscape.


GS-03 (Indian Economy)


  • Repo rate
  • Reverse repo
  • Monetary policy
  • RBI

Mains Question:

  • Assess the implications of recent government interventions aimed at curbing food price inflation, particularly focusing on the impact on onion exports and its potential consequences for domestic production and farmers. 150 words

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Curbing Onion Exports
  • Vulnerabilities in Onion Production
  • Balancing Farmer Interests and Consumer Needs
  • The Broader Impact on Agricultural Landscape

Curbing Onion Exports:

  • The imposition of a 40% export levy on onion exports may be seen as an attempt to control domestic prices by limiting the availability of this essential vegetable in international markets. Yet, this approach is not without its complexities.
  • While it aims to ensure sufficient supply for domestic consumption, it also raises concerns about the livelihoods of farmers who have seen a surge in onion prices over the past two years.
  • Such a sudden export restriction might lead to unforeseen consequences, potentially causing a glut in the domestic market and an eventual price crash. Striking the right balance between stabilizing prices and ensuring the well-being of farmers remains a challenge.

Vulnerabilities in Onion Production:

  • The supply of onions, a staple in Indian cuisine, heavily depends on the agricultural outputs of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. These states collectively contribute nearly 60% of the country’s onion production.
  • However, the unpredictability of weather patterns has raised concerns for the kharif season. Deficient rainfall in these regions, following excessive rains in July, has cast doubt on the fate of onion yields. This uncertainty has already led to an increase in onion prices, posing potential difficulties for consumers and policymakers alike.

Balancing Farmer Interests and Consumer Needs:

  • Acknowledging the unrest among onion farmers due to the sudden imposition of an export levy without ensuring a minimum floor price, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal offered assurances. He pledged to purchase onions at an all-time high price of ₹2,410 per quintal and indicated a willingness to bolster buffer stock procurement if required.
  • While such measures might provide temporary relief to farmers, there is a looming risk of unintended consequences. History has shown that policy interventions like export curbs can inadvertently intensify market concerns about scarcity, potentially driving prices even higher.

The Broader Impact on Agricultural Landscape:

  • The complex interplay of policies designed to curb inflation highlights the delicate dance between addressing immediate price concerns and nurturing long-term agricultural sustainability. The recent spate of actions, while addressing short-term issues, underscores the need for a comprehensive strategy that considers the broader implications on sowing preferences for the upcoming year.
  • By relying heavily on policy interventions, there is a risk of distorting agricultural decision-making, potentially leading to imbalances in crop cultivation that exacerbate inflationary pressures.

Way Forward:

  • As we move forward, it becomes evident that a more nuanced approach is required to tackle the multifaceted challenges posed by food price inflation. Rather than solely relying on reactive measures such as export levies and stock limits, a more proactive stance is needed.
  • Investing in resilient food supply chains, particularly for crops that are historically susceptible to price volatility, emerges as a crucial strategy. Engaging with neighboring countries for a stable, longer-term supply plan for vegetables, backed by predictable purchase commitments, could provide a more sustainable solution.


The recent efforts by the government to address the surge in consumer food prices through policy interventions must be viewed through a holistic lens. The imposition of export levies, while aiming to stabilize domestic prices, carries inherent risks that could impact both farmers and consumers. For a lasting solution, a balanced approach that emphasizes stable supply chains and international collaborations is essential. As we navigate the complex terrain of food price management, it is crucial to prioritize the well-being of farmers and the stability of our food systems in the long run.