FOOD SECURITY ISSUES DUE TO SLOW GROWTH IN AGRICULTURE
- Dr. B.K. Lokesha, Associate Professor
Indian agriculture provides food surplus to the expanding population. Food and nutritional security to its population has been the prime concern of India’s policies. For most of the malnourished, the lack of access to food is a greater problem than food availability. Slow growth in agriculture and increasing population in India cause poor per capita availability of food grains. There is big gap between supply of and demand for food. Nearly 50 per cent of the world’s hungry live in India. Food insecurity arises due to low productivity in agriculture sector. India happens to be one of the largest growers and producers of most of the agricultural crops but ranks very low in terms of yield. Not only is productivity in Indian agriculture lower than that in other countries, it is much lower than that in other countries.
While India has made significant progress in the areas of Science and Technology and industrial development, food security for the rural poor continues to be a cause of concern. Major reasons which still keep India a developing nation, are growing population, over dependence of rural population on agriculture, decreasing growth in agricultural production due to depleting natural resources and poor implementation of development programmes intended to promote sustainable development. Among these problems, food security is the most crucial as it hampers the development of the people as well as the nation.
Food security is a measure of ensured access to essential nutrition. It refers to a household’s or country’s ability to provide future physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that fulfills the dietary needs and food preferences for living an active and healthy lifestyle. P.V.Srinivasan coated the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s definition, “Food security implies access by all people at all times to sufficient quantities of food to lead an active and healthy life.” (P.V.S rinivasan, “Agriculture and Food Security”, in Shovan Ray(ed). Handbook of Agriculture in India (New Delhi, 2007), p. 130) In view of this definition, this requires adequate supply of food at the aggregate level. As far as the question of ‘adequate supply’ is concerned, it involves two dimensions: (i) the quantitative dimension which means the overall food availability in the economy should be sufficient to meet the demand, (ii) the qualitative dimension which means the nutritional requirements of the population are properly looked after.
As for as quantitative dimension is concern, because of chronic food shortages that the country face in the years following Independence the focus of food policy was to achieve self sufficiency. It is matter of agricultural productivity concern. Compared with other countries and as compared with the potential, actual productivity levels in agriculture continue to be very low in India. To tackle the food security problem the government have to take measure to improve the agricultural productivity especially in food production and also measures should be taken to solve the problem through distribution system of food.
Problem of food security
Various political-agricultural practices contribute to food insecurity in India. These include substituting commodity crops for food crops (e.g., growing corn instead of vegetables) and heavy exportation of food crops at the expense of food security of the country. In addition, the recent demand for bio fuels, currently produced primarily from corn and soy, has further decreased the amount of viable arable land being used for food production.
Burning issue of food inflation caused by chronic food shortages due to low agricultural growth. Food and nutritional security to its population has been the prime concern of India’s policies. With increase in population, income and urbanization, the demand for food grains has also increased and diversified. Although there has been more than fourfold increase in food grain production from 1950-51 (50.82 mt) to 2008-09 (233.88 mt) a large section of our population continues to suffer from malnutrition and inadequacy of food grains.
For most of the malnourished, the lack of access to food is a greater problem than food availability. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen famously wrote that “starvation is a matter of some people not having enough food to eat.” The irony is that most of the food insecure lives in rural areas where food is produced, yet they are net food buyers rather than sellers.
As far as quantitative aspect is concern slow growth in agriculture and increasing population in India cause poor per capita availability of food grains. Reduction in the rate of growth in food production had several adverse effects on the farmers, particularly the poor. As can be seen in Table 1, the per capita availability of food grains declined after 1990. While the availability of rice and wheat marginally declined, there was a drastic reduction in the availability of coarse cereals and pulses. This had a direct impact on the supply of protein and minerals, which accelerated the incidences of malnutrition particularly among pregnant women and children.
Table 1. Per Capita Availability of Food Grains in India
(Kg per capita per year as in July 2009)
Year Rice Wheat Other Cereals Pulses Food grains
1951 58.0 24.0 40.0 22.1 144.1
1961 73.4 28.9 43.6 25.2 171.1
1971 70.3 37.8 44.3 18.7 171.1
1981 72.2 47.3 32.8 13.7 166.0
1991 80.9 60.0 29.2 15.2 186.2
2001 69.5 49.6 20.5 10.9 151.9
2010 64.0 53.0 19.7 15.3 159.2
RBI: Handbook of statistics 2010
There is big gap between supply of and demand for food. Food demand in India is projected for 2025 and 2050 are given in Table 2. We use the state level population projections of Manhood and Kundu 2006 for estimating the total food demand. According to this demographic projection, the rural population will increase from 729 million in 2000 to 879 million in 2025 and then decrease to 776 million by 2050.
Year Grains Rice Wheat Maize Cereals Pulses Oil crops Roots Veg.
2000 173 76 58 10 17 12 42 6 70
2025 230 102 81 11 20 16 89 11 142
2050 241 109 92 7 14 19 115 19 180
Source: 1990 and 2000 data from FAOSTST (FAO 2005)
The urban population will increase from 278 million in 2000 to 510 million in 2025 and to 810 million by 2050. Overall, the total population will reach the peak of about 1,580 million by 2050 and will start to decline thereafter. More than half (53 %) the total population will be in urban areas by 2050. So the demand for food also increases in due course.
Even more worrisome is the qualitative aspect of the problem as the following facts clearly bring out:
1. According to the Global Hunger Index 2011, released in October 2011, India ranks an abysmal 67 in a group of 122 developing countries- way below neighboring countries like China (rank 4) and Pakistan (rank 59).
2. According to the World Food Programme, nearly 50 per cent of the world’s hungry live in India.
3. About 35 per cent of India’s population – over 350 million is food-insecure, consuming less than 80 per cent of the minimum energy requirement.
4. Nearly 9 out of 10 pregnant women between 15 and 49 years are malnourished and anemic.
5. Anemia in pregnant women causes 20 per cent of infant mortality.
6. Malnutrition accounts for 50 per cent deaths of underage five.
7. Percentage of stunted children is 37, i.e., one out of three children has stunted growth.
8. Percentage of children not fully immunized is 51.
In a developing country like India, food security means making available minimum quality of food grains to the entire population. Despite the fact that India has made a satisfactory achievement in food grains production, its population growth has nullified the benefits of production.
Investments in agriculture are important to increase food security. Rising productivity in agriculture increases rural incomes and lowers food prices, making food more accessible to the poor. Other investments—such as improved irrigation and drought-tolerant crops—reduce price and income variability by mitigating the impact of a drought. Productivity gains are key to food security in countries with foreign exchange shortage or limited infrastructure to import food. The contributions that agriculture makes to food security need to be complemented by medium-term programs to raise incomes of the poor, as well as insurance and safety nets, including food aid, to protect the chronic and transitory poor.
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