Policy Dilemmas in India - The Impact of Changes in Agricultural Prices on Rural and Urban Poverty

Sandra Polaski
Manoj Panda
A. Ganesh-Kumar
Scott McDonald
Sherman Robinson
JEL codes: 
Trade policy reforms which lead to changes in world prices of agricultural commodities or domestic policies aimed at affecting agricultural prices are often seen as causing a policy dilemma: a fall in agricultural prices benefits poor urban consumers but hurts poor rural producers, while a rise yields the converse. Poor countries have argued that they need to be able to use import protection and/or price support policies to protect themselves against volatility in world agricultural prices in order to dampen these effects. In this paper, we explore this dilemma in a CGE model of India that uses a new social accounting matrix (SAM) developed at the Indira Ghandi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) in Mumbai. The SAM includes extensive disaggregation of agricultural activities, commodity markets, labor markets, and rural and urban households. This SAM includes 115 commodities, 48 labor types and 352 types of households, (classified by social group, income class, region, and urban/rural). The CGE model based on this SAM can be used to explore the linkages between changes in world prices of agriculture and the incomes of poor rural and urban households, capturing rural-urban linkages in both commodity and factor markets. The results indicate that the inclusion of linkages between rural and urban labor markets is necessary to fully explore, and potentially eliminate, the dilemma. A fall in agricultural prices hurts agricultural producers, lowers wages and/or employment of rural labor, and in some cases spills over into urban labor markets, depressing wages and incomes of poor urban households as well. In these cases both rural and urban poverty increases. The paper explores the strength of these commodity and factor market linkages, and the potential spillover effects of policies affecting agricultural prices.