An opportunity to recast India’s food system – Building a Sustainable Food System in India: Challenges and Solutions | 20 October 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about a building a sustainable food system in India, its challenges and possible solutions.


  • GS2: Issues relating to Poverty and Hunger


  • India, with the largest population in the world, faces significant challenges in building a sustainable food system. The food system must ensure nutrition security for all while being economically resilient and environmentally sustainable.
  • This article analyzes the challenges faced by India's food system and proposes a three-sided approach to address them.


  • Nutrition, Livelihoods, and Environmental Security:
    • India faces a double burden of malnutrition, with a sizable proportion of the population exhibiting nutrient deficiencies, while others suffer from obesity due to imbalanced diets and sedentary lifestyles.
    • On the production side, farm incomes are insufficient to meet the ends of marginal and small farmers.
    • Depleting natural resources and changing climate are making India's food production highly vulnerable.
  • Adopt a Three-Sided Approach:
    • To solve these interconnected challenges, a triad approach that engages all three sides of the food system is necessary.
      1. Consumer Demand:
        • Consumer demand needs to shift towards healthy and sustainable diets.
        • The private sector can drive aspirational consumption patterns for India's population.
        • Civil society and the health community could partner with social media influencers to shape healthier and sustainable consumption for millions.
        • The public sector can help improve what at least 70% of Indians are consuming through its innumerable touchpoints such as the Public Distribution System, mid-day meals, railways catering, urban canteens, and public and institutional procurement.
      2. Resilient Incomes:
        • To ensure resilient incomes, farmers' transition towards remunerative and regenerative agricultural practices must be supported.
        • Agricultural support should move from input subsidies to direct cash support to farmers per hectare of cultivation.
        • Agricultural research and extension services should also earmark a proportion of their respective budgets to focus on sustainable agricultural practices.
      3. Sustainable and Inclusive Value Chains:
        • Shifting farm-to-fork value chains towards more sustainable and inclusive ones is critical.
        • Middlemen should prioritize direct procurement from farmers, incentivize procurement of sustainably harvested produce, and implement well-established approaches such as fair trade.
        • Various young agri-tech enterprises are enabling such farm-to-buyer linkages.
        • Enabling trading of produce between farmer producer organizations is another way to ensure a greater value share for farmers.

Way Forward:

  • Building a sustainable food system in India is a complex challenge that requires a multi-faceted approach. The proposed three-sided approach that engages all three sides of the food system – consumers, producers, and middlemen – can help address the interconnected challenges of nutrition, livelihoods, and environmental security. If India acts fast, it has a unique opportunity to showcase to the rest of the world how to get its food system right.

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