Liberalizing foodgrains markets

Experience, impacts and lessons from South Asia

Anand Ganesh-Kumar, Devesh Roy, Ashok Gulati

Despite the Green Revolution’s dramatic success in increasing South Asia's agricultural production, almost one quarter of the region’s population remains undernourished. The 2007–08 food price spike has further aggravated this problem. In the face of both ongoing and new challenges to food security, Liberalizing Foodgrains Markets identifies policies for countering undernourishment in the region.

The essays place contemporary food security policies in historical perspective, examining the divergent approaches to food security adopted in the past by Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. They analyze policies on the production, stocks, trade, and consumption of various foodgrains—rice in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, and rice and wheat in India and Pakistan—and draw lessons for South Asia as a region.


Analysis reveals that spatially integrated domestic markets, in which prices are uniform and goods are transported easily, are vital to improving food security and preventing localized price spikes. Within Bangladesh and Nepal, integration requires investment in physical infrastructure, while India and Pakistan must reduce government interference in the movement of goods.


Improved food security also requires that governments intervene to restore competition in domestic food trade, which is often dominated by small groups of traders who can fix prices. On the international level, improved cooperation among South Asian nations that combines free trade with the establishment of a region-wide food reserve would be beneficial.

These and other findings and policy recommendations make this volume a valuable resource for policymakers, development specialists, and others concerned with reducing hunger and undernourishment in South Asia.