Sampriti Biswas

Kurzexposé zum Promotionsvorhaben von Sampriti Biswas


The Political Economy of the Electronic Market Place for Agriculture in India

Farming in India is a financially precarious profession with the annual farmers’ income subject to multiple uncertainties. Farm work encompasses physical, mental and economic stress. Indian agriculture markets start from unregulated village haats, village fairs and local village markets to regulated markets like Agricultural Produce Market Committees (Kumar and Ardeshna, 2018). The middlemen’s value capture is one factor among others which keeps income of smallholders down. An electronic market place is defined as ‘an inter-organizational information system that allows the participating buyer and sellers to exchange information about prices and product offerings’ (Bakos, 1991). Furthermore, it can be said that, it is a ‘web-based systems that link multiple businesses together for the purposes of trading or collaboration’ (Howard et al, 2006).
Electronic market platforms can help in better price realisations ( as well as serve as an effective platform to bypass the intermediaries. In India, the unified online agricultural market initiative was first developed in Karnataka in 2014. Rashtriya e Market Services Private Limited (ReMS) was started as a joint venture company by NCDEX e-Market Limited and the Government of Karnataka ( Under it every farmer who brings produce to the APMC market has a choice to use the common online trading platform or the platform of commission agent for auction of his produce. The National Agriculture Market or the eNAM is an electronic trading portal which exists all over India. ( The mission of eNAM is to integrate the APMC’s together and provide better prices through transparent auctions and timely online payment.
The food supply chain has multiple tiers in it: farmers, small traders, big traders, commission agents or the middlemen. The Commissioned Agents can be widely said as people operating in the wholesale market who acts as the representative of either buyer or the seller. He has a wide range of actions; from physical handling of the produce, arranging the sale of the produce, collecting the price from the buyer and doing so for a commission. The middlemen can act as farmers (representing them at mandis), traders (buying crops as well as giving loan to the farmers) as well as commissioned agents. Currently, there are fundamentally three types of middlemen in India; Merchant/Trader Middlemen, Agent Middlemen and Speculative Middlemen. According to Bailey’s study (1997), intermediaries will have an important function in ‘providing trust and security infrastructure’. But the differences in the type of or the nature of the electronic markets have a potential to have an impact on the intermediaries. This is also a subject of both theoretical and empirical research.
My pin-pointed questions for research are like, what are the factors that impair the proper implementation and use of leading electronic marketplace for agricultural produce such as the eNAM? If indeed the farmers are helped by the electronic market places, then is it the farmers in general (Small-holders especially) or only the big farmers helped in the process? After the launch of electronic market places are the farmers better off than before where the middlemen are concerned? If the answer is yes, then to what extent have they been helped and what are the exact parameters for measuring the same? Will electronic market places for agriculture such as eNAM give rise to a class of people who would operate on behalf of the farmers if the farmers are not literate enough to do it themselves? Are the farmers educated or tech savvy sufficiently to embrace and utilise the changes brought about by the electronic market places? Can they operate it themselves – be it the mobile app or using the computerized version of the trading portals? Furthermore, I seek to examine whether a developing nation such as India is ready to accept the digital innovations in any field especially in the agricultural marketing processes. Or is it something ‘pushed’ down by the Government to the farmers irrespective of their need. So, basically researching the political economy of having these electronic markets in agriculture; do the farmers really need it or are these electronic Agri markets merely the culmination of Merchant Capital.

Some of the important literature studied for in depth research pertaining to various aspects of e-market places are Banker et al (2011), Deshmukh et al (2018), Chand (2012, 2016), Suri and Chaudhury (2020), Reddy (2018), Yadav (2017), Aggarwal et al (2016), Ghosh (2018) Reddy and Mehjabeen (2019) etc. To understand the impact of the electronic marketplace for agricultural produce a comparative research design will be undertaken. The main idea is to compare between states which have mandis linked to electronic market places for agriculture with those which do not. Since eNAM is the leading pan Indian electronic market place for agricultural produce hence eNAM is taken into consideration for the research. For this purpose, two states of India, West Bengal and Bihar are chosen for research. Both of these two states lie in the eastern part of the country and are neighbouring states. These states have been quite similar where size and population are concerned. But, West Bengal has mandis linked to eNAM whereas Bihar is still not linked to the e-trading platform. Then, mandis are selected from different districts of West Bengal and Bihar through probability proportional to size method. For West Bengal the mandis which are selected are linked to the electronic trading portal. A detailed quantitative as well as qualitative analysis is envisaged for the study. Hence in-depth Interviews and Focussed Group Discussions with the stakeholders of the eNAM are planned. Apart from the farmers, middlemen and traders I will conduct expert interviews with government officials, academics, marketing board practitioners in both the states as a part of the in-depth primary research.