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Ridding India of food insecurity

  • Published
    12th Sep, 2023

Context

Despite being the fastest growing large economy, India is facing the alarming issue of food-price inflation. Its impact can be seen on the affordability of a healthy diet for a significant portion of the population.

The Gravity of the Problem

  • Rising Food-Price Inflation: Food prices in India have been steadily increasing since 2019, with annual inflation exceeding 11% in July 2023, the highest in a decade.
  • Shocking Affordability Figures: The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that in 2021, a staggering 74% of the Indian population cannot afford a healthy diet, equivalent to approximately one billion people.
  • Evidence of Impact: Studies reveal a significant decline in purchasing power, with food costs outpacing wage growth, leading to concerns about reduced food consumption and increasing instances of nutrient deficiency, particularly among women.

The Need for Intervention

  • Ineffectiveness of Macroeconomic Policy: Conventional macroeconomic policies have failed to control food inflation, and the Reserve Bank of India's "inflation targeting" approach does not address supply-side issues.
  • The Green Revolution's Success: India's historical success with the Green Revolution, which involved high-yield seeds, cheap credit, and assured prices for farmers, is highlighted.
  • Mistakes of the Past: While celebrating the Green Revolution, there is need to acknowledge the past mistakes such as over-reliance on chemical fertilizers and focusing on cereals over pulses, leading to soil degradation and inflation.

Recommendations for a Second Agricultural Revolution

  • A Comprehensive Approach: To tackle rising food prices, a multifaceted approach is needed, including measures to increase agricultural productivity and lower production costs.
  • Key Initiatives: Specific initiatives are proposed, such as increased public spending on irrigation, promoting land leasing, revitalizing agricultural research institutes, and re-establishing agricultural extension services.
  • State and Central Collaboration: Effective collaboration between states and the central government, resembling the cooperative federalism model, is essential to implement these initiatives successfully.
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