Home   »   India's export policy

India’s Export Policy: Striking a Balance Between Food Security and Agricultural Exports

India stands at a crossroads, grappling with the intricate challenge of reconciling its quest for food security with its ambition to become a global agri-export leader. In this discourse, we dissect the current state of India’s export policy, with a particular focus on basmati rice, and explore the repercussions it has on farmers, consumers, and India’s global image.

As the nation strives to foster economic and social development, it must address the delicate balance between sustainable development, poverty alleviation, and inclusive growth. This article delves into key facets of this conundrum, offering insights and potential solutions.

Food Inflation: Understanding the Culprit

Before diving into India’s export policy, it is essential to comprehend the underlying issue of food inflation. Food inflation, as the name suggests, pertains to the increase in the prices of essential food items, which, in turn, impacts the cost of living for a significant portion of the population. It is a critical economic indicator and a key concern for policymakers.

The Causes of Food Inflation

Food inflation can be attributed to various factors, including but not limited to:

  • Supply and Demand Dynamics: Fluctuations in the production of essential food items, such as rice, can significantly influence prices. Changes in weather patterns, natural disasters, and crop failures can disrupt the supply chain, leading to price spikes.
  • Export Restrictions: Government policies, particularly export restrictions, can affect food prices. When exports are curtailed, it limits the global supply, driving domestic prices upward.
  • Speculation and Market Manipulation: Speculation in commodity markets and market manipulation can artificially inflate food prices, impacting consumers.
  • Cost of Production: The cost of inputs, such as fertilizers and labor, can also contribute to food inflation. Rising production costs can lead to higher prices for consumers.

Taming Food Inflation: The Role of Policymakers

To combat food inflation, policymakers employ a range of measures, including:

  • Buffer Stocks: Maintaining strategic grain reserves to stabilize food prices during periods of shortage.
  • Subsidies: Providing subsidies on essential food items to cushion the impact of rising prices on consumers.
  • Export Policies: Regulating exports to ensure an adequate domestic supply of food and stable prices.
  • Promoting Agricultural Productivity: Encouraging investments in agriculture to increase yields and reduce production costs.

Basmati Rice Export Dilemma

A glaring example of India’s export policy conundrum lies in its approach to basmati rice, a premium crop that has garnered global attention. In recent years, India’s basmati exports have faced significant challenges, primarily due to the Minimum Export Price (MEP) imposed by the government.

The Minimum Export Price (MEP)

The MEP is a price floor set by the government below which exporters are not allowed to sell basmati rice in international markets. The imposition of a high MEP, currently at $1,200 per tonne, has had far-reaching implications.

Impact on Farmers

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana, the primary basmati rice producers, have borne the brunt of this policy. With restricted exports, traders have been hesitant to buy basmati rice, leading to lower prices for farmers.

Competitive Disadvantage

The MEP has put Indian basmati rice at a competitive disadvantage. Pakistan, India’s main competitor in the global basmati rice market, benefits from India’s restrictive export policies.

The Need for Revisiting the MEP

To revitalize basmati rice exports, a revision of the MEP is imperative. A more reasonable price range, such as $800 to $850 per tonne, could help the sector regain its competitive edge.

Expanding Export Restrictions

India’s restrictive export policy extends beyond basmati rice to include other staple food items, such as non-basmati white rice, parboiled rice, and even wheat. These policies have raised concerns about India’s ability to achieve its agri-export targets.

The Dilemma of Export Bans and Duties

Export bans and high export duties, such as the 40 percent duty on onions, have further constricted India’s agricultural exports.

Straining India’s Global Image

These restrictive policies have strained India’s image as a leader of the Global South, undermining its ability to foster international partnerships and collaborations.

The Impact on Agri-Exports

The consequences of India’s restrictive export policies are evident in its agri-export numbers. Despite significant potential for growth, India has fallen short of its targets.

The Stagnation in Agri-Exports

India’s agri-exports have not seen the expected growth, with figures remaining far below their potential.

The Urban Consumer Bias

The root of this failure lies in a bias favoring urban consumers over farmers, which imposes an implicit tax on the latter. This approach does not align with the right way to design agri-export policies.

The Way Forward

To strike a balance between food security and agri-exports, India’s policymakers must consider the following steps:

  • Flexible MEP: Revising the MEP for basmati rice and other key agricultural products to ensure competitiveness in international markets while maintaining domestic food security.
  • Stable Export Policies: The need for consistent and predictable export policies to foster long-term relationships with global partners.
  • Promoting Agricultural Productivity: Investing in agriculture to enhance yields and reduce production costs, ensuring a steady supply for both domestic and international markets.
  • Diplomacy and Collaboration: Fostering diplomatic relations and partnerships with key trading partners to secure favorable terms for Indian agri exports.


India’s export policy dilemma is a microcosm of the broader challenges it faces in balancing the interests of its farmers, consumers, and global aspirations. To harness the full potential of its agricultural sector and achieve the goal of doubling agri exports, India must adopt a more flexible and strategic approach that reconciles food security with global competitiveness. It is crucial to view export markets as premium opportunities, nurtured over years, rather than as quick sources of revenue. In doing so, India can write a new chapter in its economic and social development, one that benefits all stakeholders and ensures a prosperous and inclusive future.

Sharing is caring!


What is India's export policy, and why is it significant?

India's export policy refers to the regulations and restrictions governing the export of goods, particularly agricultural products. It is significant because it has a direct impact on the livelihood of farmers, food security, and India's global trade relationships.

How does food inflation relate to India's export policy?

Food inflation is affected by India's export policies, as restrictions on exports can lead to reduced domestic supply, causing food prices to rise. Policymakers must balance export goals with the need to control food inflation.

What is the Minimum Export Price (MEP) and why is it a point of contention?

The Minimum Export Price (MEP) is the minimum price at which certain products can be exported from India. It's a point of contention because a high MEP, as seen in the case of basmati rice, can hinder exports and impact farmers' income.

About the Author

Hey there! I'm Nikesh, a content writer at Adda247. I specialize in creating informative content focused on UPSC and State PSC exams. Join me as we unravel the complexities of these exams and turn aspirations into achievements together!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *