The Unsupportable Support Price: The Government in Paddy Auctions of Northern India
In most developing countries, there is an active debate on the changing role of the government in mediating market outcomes. In grain markets in India, this debate assumes a renewed significance, given the excessive accumulation of food stocks in recent years. For example, the wisdom of maintaining a 'high' Minimum Support Price has been called to question. Auction theory provides a powerful and hitherto unused tool not only for analysing the structure of grain markets and the process of price formation, but also for analysing implications of alternative government policies. Our results for a small, regulated market for parmal paddy in Northern India, where grain sales occur through the open ascending auction, suggest that (a) the government's inability to support the minimum price in the market has less to do with the poor quality of grain offered for sale, and more to do with a reluctance to accumulate stocks. (b) a lower but credibly-enforced minimum support price will not have the desired effect on government purchases. (c) a lowering of the percentage that millers are required to sell as levy to the government is consistent with a credible support price and effective management of stocks.
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