Rice market integration and food security in Nepal: The role of cross-border trade with India
Coarse rice market integration between Nepal and India is analyzed applying a threshold autoregressive model. The price response behaviour of traders is found to be consistent with an asymmetric price adjustment mechanism, indicating coarse rice prices in Nepal respond to shocks originating in India. The results show that adjustments to negative price deviations from long-run stable equilibrium are faster than adjustments to the positive ones given a null threshold. Given that trade flows mainly from India to Nepal, Nepali traders would adjust their prices upward to align with the long-run equilibrium value relatively more quickly in the case of negative price deviations, than if the price deviations were positive. Such a high speed of adjustment to negative price deviations could be detrimental to net food buyers' food security status in the absence of a price stabilization mechanism. However, a price stabilization policy in Nepal, a food deficit and import dependent country, would hardly have any effect on prices unless further effort is made to build up the level of national food reserves for short-term food security interventions. In the current context of structurally low levels of national food reserves, an alternative short-term policy such as foreign aid, in the form of food or income transfers, targeting the most vulnerable households to price increases is necessary through social safety net programmes. In the long-run, an improvement of transportation infrastructure between market hubs (other than the Biratnagar trade basin) in the Terai (Nepal) and India would contribute to the reduction of transaction costs and create incentives for more competition in formal cross-border trade with India. In times of negative shocks such as the high food price crisis in 2008, restrictive food trade policies in India will continue to undermine household food security in Nepal.
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