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Daily Current Affairs

6-November-2023

1) DESPITE GOVT’S EFFORTS, WHY ONION PRICES ARE STILL HIGH

Topic: GS3- Economy

Context:

  • Despite a virtual ban on exports and creation of a buffer stock, onion prices are still high.
  • In most metro cities, the bulb has touched the Rs 80/kg mark, with more escalation expected.

Government’s Efforts to Control Onion Prices

  • The Indian government has taken a number of steps in recent months to rein in the skyrocketing prices of onions.
  • A 40% export duty was imposed in August to boost domestic availability as part of these measures, and on October 28, a Minimum Export Price (MEP) of $800/tonne (about Rs 67/kg) was announced.
  • Together with organizations like NAFED and NCCF, the government also established a buffer stock of five lakh tonnes of onions.

Price Escalation Continues

  • In most metro cities, onion prices are still high despite these efforts; a kilogram of onions might cost up to Rs 80.
  • The main price-setting venue of Lasalgaon’s wholesale market saw a slight decline in the average transacted price, but it did not rise to the levels targeted by the government.
  • Even at the retail level, onion prices are ineffectively still high, with most cities reporting prices between Rs 70 and Rs 80/kg.

Reasons for Continued Price Rise

  • The main causes of the high onion prices this year are the delayed onset of the monsoon and significant damage to the harvested crop earlier in the year.
  • Rabi onions were severely damaged by unseasonal rainfall and hailstorms in March. Rabi onions are normally harvested after March after being sown in December or January.
  • Farmers in April and May sold an estimated 60% of the onions that were supposed to be stored at cheap rates due to damage. The transplanting of the kharif crop, which was meant to be in the market by October, was hampered by the delayed monsoon, and the late kharif crop was also delayed.
  • As a result, the market’s only available onions are the rabi crop that has been preserved, creating a serious supply chain mismatch.

When Can We Expect Stabilization?

  • Although kharif onions are beginning to arrive in Lasalgaon, there is not yet enough of them to have a significant impact.
  • Because most farmers are clearing out their stored crop, the majority of onions on the market are still from previous stock.
  • By the end of the month, when greater arrivals of the fresh crop are anticipated, things should get better and onion prices should stabilize.

2) Falling farm exports: concerns

Topic: GS3- Economy

Context:

  • Between April and September, there was a notable 11.6% annual decrease in India’s agricultural exports.
  • A number of reasons have been given for this decline, including the Indian government’s prohibitions and limitations on the export of certain goods, including sugar, wheat, and rice.
  • In addition, since Russia invaded Ukraine, prices have decreased from their earlier highs globally.

Statistics and Trade Surplus

  • The Department of Commerce reports that exports of agricultural commodities totaled $23.6 billion from April to September 2023, a decrease from $26.7 billion during the same period in 2022.
  • Agricultural trade surplus fell slightly from $7.4 billion in April-September 2022 to $7.2 billion in 2023 as a result of a fall in import statistics from $19.3 billion to $16.2 billion.

Factors Impacting Agricultural Exports

Impact of Global Prices

  • The agricultural trade of India, particularly its exports, is directly correlated with world prices. The Food Price Index (FPI) of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed a notable increase between 2019–20 and 2022–2023.
  • Throughout April through October of 2023, the current fiscal year, the FPI averaged 123.2 points.
  • The value of agricultural commodity imports and exports is predicted to fall in 2023–2024 due to the current reduction in world prices.

Impact of Export Restrictions

  • The Indian government’s implementation of export limits, motivated by worries about domestic availability and inflation, is another factor contributing to the decline in agricultural exports.
  • Exports of wheat, rice, and sugar were subject to tariffs and bans, and both basmati and non-basmati rice were subject to limitations.
  • The current fiscal year has seen a notable decline in wheat and rice exports, indicating the effectiveness of these efforts.
  • Moreover, sugar shipments have more than half decreased.

Concerns for Farmers

  • The falling global prices have an impact on India’s agricultural exports’ competitiveness as well as increasing the country’s farmers’ susceptibility to imports.
  • Edible oils and cotton are two examples of this. India’s exports of cotton have sharply decreased, while imports of cotton have increased, as a result of the considerable decline in the benchmark global Cotlook ‘A’ Index price for cotton.
  • Similar to this, the value of India’s imports of edible oil doubled between 2019–20 and 2022–2023 as a result of the world prices surging, especially following the conflict in Ukraine.
  • Edible oil imports continue at a low tax despite the price decline, which affects domestic producers.

3) Maternity leave for women soldiers on par with officers

Topic: GS1- Society

Context:

  • A proposal to give female soldiers, sailors, and air warriors in the Armed Forces the same leave benefits as their officer counterparts for maternity, child care, and child adoption has been accepted by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
  • The defence ministry said that all women serving in the military, regardless of rank, will be entitled to the same leave benefits.

Inclusion of Women in Air Force and Navy

  • The Indian Air Force and Navy had no female sailors or airmen in the past. With the launch of the Agnipath military recruitment program last year, both services started admitting female members.
  • Women were first inducted into the Army in 2019 as members of the Corps of Military Police (CMP), and they are currently being inducted as Agniveers.

Eligibility and Conditions for Leave

  • After serving a four-year tenure, women soldiers, sailors, and air warriors who are among the 25% of Agniveers accepted into the three forces based on merit selection are eligible for the extended leave benefits.
  • These ladies are obligated to serve for four years before they can be married under the terms and conditions of the Agnipath program.
  • Women officers in the three services are currently eligible for 180 days of paid maternity leave, which can be extended in exceptional cases for an extra month without pay.
  • In addition, they are eligible for 30 days of leave in the event of an abortion or miscarriage.
  • If a woman officer adopts a child under the age of one year, she is also eligible for 180 days of vacation. Short service commission women officers are entitled to 180 days of leave, whereas permanent commission women officers are eligible for 360 days.

Vision of Inclusive Participation

  • This choice is in line with the defense minister’s goal of allowing all women, regardless of rank, to participate equally in the armed forces.
  • The purpose of the leave regulations’ expansion is to address family and societal challenges that are unique to women and affect the Armed Forces.
  • It is anticipated to improve women’s working circumstances in the armed forces and assist them in better juggling work and family obligations.

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