Friday, October 31, 2008

Food Security in India

Food security in India is an issue of rising concern with long term consequences affecting the growth of 9%, which we have maintained for the last four years. About 26% of our people live below the poverty line (BPL) today and they don't have enough money to buy essential food items, not even the first meal.

The green revolution gave us food security in the 60's, but today there is a need for another such revolution. The recent Food and Agriculture Organization summit concluded that over 100 million joined the world's hungry and 22 countries are vulnerable to chronic hunger.

Before going ahead, I'd like to emphasize the correct definition of food security. Food security is a situation where a country can meet its domestic food demand while maintaining enough reserves for any eventuality or crisis. Not only the demand of food should be met, it has to be made more affordable.

But why are we suddenly discussing about food security today ? One main reason is the burgeoning population of India. Our present population is about 1.3 billion. Indian can see a surge in the domestic food demand from 168.3 million metric tonnes in 1991 to 343 million metric tonnes in 2020 or maybe even more.

Agriculture and allied sectors contribute nearly 22 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP of India), while about 65-70 per cent of the population is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

It is difficult to teach philosophy to man who is desperate to have a handful of rice

Swami Vivekananda

How has growth affected food security ?

India has seen an exponential growth rate in the last few years and has maintained a growth rate of 9 percent over the last four years. When there is growth, which is confined to a few pockets, there is an increase in consumption, but since the production is not growing at the same rate, there needs to be a mechanism to ensure enough food for poor.

More recently agriculture has been under severe stress. Agriculture distress has become so severe a problem that it has been given the top most priority in the eleventh five year plan.

Reliance on Rain

In India around 70% of the cultivated region is rain few and hence weather disturbances directly affect agriculture. Recently appointed by the united nations, the Inter Governmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) gave concrete evidence of the anthropogenic climate change is due to CO2 emissions in the past 100 years in its report on climate change.

This climate change is the reason for the distortion in the rainfall patterns in India. During 2005, Southwest monsoon was not well distributed in time. It was below normal in June, active in July, subdued in August and became active in September over the country.

Effect of rising Oil prices

Oil prices have come down recently, but their increase previously had a direct consequence of the agriculture industry. Prices of fertilizers shot up and created a huge problem for government in terms of a huge subsidy bill that also ensured the adequate supply of fertilizers.

Industrialization and Special Economic Zones

Tata Nano's departure from West Bengal was huge issue and covered all the newspapers of the country. It is essential we create a balance between industrial development and agriculture. In the Tata Nano case, valuable fertile land was give for the purpose of industrialization. The result of the Mamta Banerjee led protests and the leaving of the project mid way caused the fertile land in singur to be wasted. In India, most of the land is uncultivable and hence it is a challenge for both the central and state government to use the power of discretion and also use wisdom while allocatind land.

Biofuels

Biofuels are being seen as the fuels for the next century. Brazil has successful energy model for such biofuels. But it has adversely affected food security. In United States and countries of European Union have started diverting major agriculture lands for the production of corn and other crops that lead to production of ethanol etc. This led to a huge inflationary trend in fuel prices across the globe.

The solution

We need to adopt a broad based approach to get us back in the comfortable position of food security, which we enjoyed in the 60's. Looking at the bog picture we need to build a solid foundation to maintain our food supplies for the next 50 years or so. Areas of production have been decreasing, they need to be increased. We also need implement measures like rain water harvesting, watershed along with improvements in irrigation facilities.

Efforts to increase increase the production of fruits, vegetables and horticultural crops would ensure both food security and adeqaute remuneration for farmers.

To achieve the growth rate of 4% targeted by the National Agriculture Policy 2000,quick implememtation of the swaminathan commision is required.

It is also imperative that we adopt appropriate mitigation measures that would insulate India from the effects of global climate chage.

One of the challenges we face in future is that of food security and to overcome this remains a daunting challenge.

Finally we have to focus on India's primary sector as mentioned by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in this quote.

"Of all things before us, agriculture comes first"

Jawaharlal Nehru

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Mamta Banerjee back stabs farmers : This is not the first time an Indian politician has done this, but yet another incident of back stabbing the people of the nation. The Mamta Banerjee led agitation was more an effort to capture the vote bank of rural Bengal.

Tata Nano moves to Gujarat : Tata Nano's mother plant will finally move out to Sanand in Gujarat. The Modi government has handed over 1050 acres of land to Tata Motors and according to the press conference. The land will be sold at the market price.

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Refernces: National Portal of India, Wikipedia