Negative signals: on falling inflation rates


  • Retail inflation dropped to a 17-month low of 2.33% in November, as compared to 3.31% in October, primarily due to the fall in the prices of various essential food items.
  • Food prices fell by a huge 6.96 percentage points compared to a year ago and, at minus 2.61%, are now in deflationary territory for the second successive month.
  • The fall in inflation is obviously good news for consumers, particularly those in urban India who are happy to pay less for their purchases; also for the Reserve Bank of India, which will now have more room for manoeuvre in the matter of interest rates.

Analysing the agricultural distress

  • The producers of basic food items who are located in the distress-affected rural parts of the country, with falling farm incomes also impacting landless labour and rural demand.
  • At the heart of this problem is the unpredictability of farm prices, which are known to exhibit extreme levels of volatility owing to various supply-side issues that plague the agricultural sector.
  • Though farmer producer companies have stepped in with help and guidance to farmers to use hedging tools to minimise price risks, they are too few and far between to make a difference.
  • Finally commanded impressive prices in the retail market, the cartelised agricultural marketing system has made sure that farmers received little to nothing.

Way forward

  • Ahead of the general election next year, State governments across the country are likely to resort to short-term relief measures such as farm loan waivers to temporarily relieve farmers of their deep distress.
  • There will also be pressure to announce higher minimum support prices for various agricultural goods.
  • It is another matter that no government has ever had the wherewithal to deliver on such lofty promises.
  • The poor implementation of MSPs is one of the reasons for farmers taking to the streets in protest.
  • The Centre may prod the new RBI Governor to adopt a more dovish monetary policy stance in the run-up to the election citing falling inflation figures.
  • But none of these measures will help farmers, who have increasingly taken the protest route of late to make their demands heard, in any meaningful manner in the long run.
  • Real agricultural reform is crucial to enable farmers to freely make their own business decisions without the grabbing hand of the government.

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