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Soya Meal as an Essential Commodity

  • 27 Dec 2021
  • 4 min read

For Prelims: Essential Commodity, Essential Commodities Act

For Mains: Issues Related to Essential Commodities Act 1955

Why in News

Recently, the government has notified, under the Essential Commodities Act 1955, to declare 'soya meal' as an essential commodity up to 30th June, 2022.

  • This step is expected to stop any unfair practises (like hoarding, black marketing etc) in the market having the potential to hike the prices of soya meal.
  • This will also enhance the availability of the commodity for consumers like poultry farms and cattle feed manufacturers.

Key Points

  • About Soybean Meal:
    • Soybean meal is the most important protein source used to feed farm animals. It is also used for human consumption in some countries.
    • It represents nearly two-thirds of the total world output of protein feedstuffs, including all other major oil meals and fish meals.
    • Soybean meal is the by-product of the extraction of soybean oil.
  • About Essential Commodities Act 1955:
    • Background: The ECA Act 1955, was legislated at a time when the country was facing a scarcity of foodstuffs due to persistent low levels of foodgrains production.
      • The country was dependent on imports and assistance (such as wheat import form the US under PL-480) to feed the population.
      • To prevent hoarding and black marketing of foodstuffs, the Essential Commodities Act was enacted in 1955.
    • Essential Commodity: There is no specific definition of essential commodities in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
      • Section 2(A) states that an “essential commodity” means a commodity specified in the Schedule of the Act.
    • Legal Jurisdiction: The Act gives powers to the central government to add or remove a commodity in the Schedule.
      • The Centre, if it is satisfied that it is necessary to do so in public interest, can notify an item as essential, in consultation with state governments.
    • Objective: The ECA 1955 is used to curb inflation by allowing the Centre to enable control by state governments of trade in a wide variety of commodities.
    • Implementing Agency: The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, implements the Act.
    • Impact: By declaring a commodity as essential, the government can control the production, supply, and distribution of that commodity, and impose a stock limit.
  • Issues Related to Essential Commodities Act 1955:
    • The Economic Survey 2019-20 highlighted that government intervention under the ECA 1955 often distorted agricultural trade while being totally ineffective in curbing inflation.
      • Such intervention does enable opportunities for rent-seeking and harassment. Rent-seeking is a term used by economists to describe unproductive income, including from corruption.
    • Traders tend to buy far less than their usual capacity and farmers often suffer huge losses during surplus harvests of perishables.
    • This led to farmers being unable to get better prices due to lack of investment in cold storage, warehouses, processing and export.
    • Owing to these issues, the Parliament passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020. However, due to farmers’ protest the Government had to repeal this law.

Way Forward

  • The ECA 1955 was brought when India was not self-sufficient in food grains production. However, now India has become surplus in most agri-commodities, and the amendments in the ECA 1955 is an important step by the government to achieve its target of doubling farmers’ income and also for ease of doing business.

Source: PIB

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