What's the article about?
- It talks about the rising food inflation, food security and necessity of the second Green Revolution.
- GS2: Issues relating to Poverty and Hunger
- India's economy is growing rapidly, but it is also facing accelerating food-price inflation. The rise in the price of food first accelerated sharply in 2019, and has climbed in most years thereafter.
- In July this year, annual inflation exceeded 11%, the highest in a decade.
- This article analyzes the implications of continuing high food-price inflation and the evidence of a section of the population facing hardship in consuming food of adequate nutritional value.
- The State of Food Security and Nutrition in India:
- The ‘State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’ of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates the proportion of the population across countries unable to afford a healthy diet.
- The figure for India in 2021 is devastating to note — an estimated 74% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet. Given a population of 1,400 million, this makes for approximately one billion Indians.
- A shrinking ability of households to finance their food requirement is evident also in studies undertaken in India itself.
- Why This Finding is Plausible:
- A study reported in this daily (August 30, 2023 under a datapoint), of the trend in the price of food in Mumbai city over 2018-2023 found that while the cost of preparing a thaali at home has risen by 65%, in this period, the average wage of a manual worker rose by 38% and that of a salaried worker by 28%.
- The implied reduction in purchasing power is considerable, and it would be reasonable to expect that food consumption has been impacted.
- This would be in line with the reported rise in the prevalence of anaemia, mostly induced by nutrient deficiency, in the latest National Family Health Survey undertaken over 2019-21.
- The Need for a Second Green Revolution:
- Ensuring that Indians have access to a healthy diet is the most important task of economic policy today.
- Macroeconomic policy, relied upon to control inflation, has proved to be useless in the context.
- The Reserve Bank of India has failed in this task, with the inflation rate mostly higher than the target for four years by now.
- Its approach of contracting output when the inflation rate rises — misleadingly termed “inflation targeting” — does nothing to manage food inflation stemming from the supply side.
- Central banks are incapable of solving this problem, it must be said within any time frame. It is necessary to intervene on the supply side to ensure that food is produced at a steady price by raising the yield on land.
- India has rich experience in this area, having engineered a Green Revolution in the 1960s, but it is not being tapped.
- At the time, reeling under extreme food shortage following two successive droughts, the government orchestrated a supply-side response by providing farmers with high-yielding seeds, cheap credit, and assured prices through procurement. This succeeded spectacularly.
- Within a few years, India was no longer dependent on food imports. If there was a single event that aided India’s quest to be self-reliant in the highly polarised climate of the Cold War, it was this.
- Initiatives to Increase Agricultural Yield:
- To contain the rising price of food would require action on many fronts; a mission mode is necessary.
- Yield increasing interventions on the farm are needed to at least contain the cost of production, if not to actually lower it.
- Agricultural yield is lower in India than in East Asia, pointing to the potential for an increase.
- Attention is needed to extend irrigation to 100% of the net sown area, an end to restrictions on leasing of land, a quickening of agricultural research and the re-institution of extension. Initiatives to work on expanding protein production are also needed.
- Role of States:
- In all the areas identified above, the role of States is crucial. The States that were chosen for the spread of the new technology worked closely with the central government.
- This would have to be replicated in order to make a difference to the country as a whole, with the central government taking the States along in a spirit of co-operative federalism.
- At the same time, it may be asked if the States are playing their part to enhance agricultural productivity rather than relying on food allocations to their Public Distribution System from the central pool.
- India needs a second Green Revolution to ensure that all Indians have permanent access to a healthy diet. No approach consistent with ecological security must be off the table. The poor must benefit from this strategy.
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