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Reorienting India’s food basket

  • IASbaba
  • June 11, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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AGRICULTURE/ ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 2,3:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources

Reorienting India’s food basket

Context: Covid-19 – a zoonotic disease–  has brought into sharp focus the need to reorient our food basket.

Advantages of Pulses Cultivation

  • Protein Source: Pulses are a great source of protein for Indians, especially vegetarians
  • Helps achieve Sustainable Development Goals: Pulses fits well with SDG-12 (responsible consumption and production) rather than meat based food
  • Water efficiency of the crop: One-hectare millimetre of water can produce 12.5 kg of Bengal gram while it can produce only 7 kg of wheat and 2.5 kg of paddy.
  • Improves Soil Health by fixing nitrogen in the soil.
  • Suitable for Post-COVID world: Plant-based nutrition(pulses) will be seen as a more sustainable system of production and consumption from the environment and nutrition(protein) viewpoint especially in post-COVID world
  • Future Demand Potential: Increasing population, improved incomes and enhanced awareness about nutrition has boosted demand for pulses in the last two decades

Pulse Cultivation in India

  • Red gram and Bengal gram (chana) account for most of India’s pulse production, followed by black gram and green gram. 
  • In 2010, pulse cultivation accounted for 26 million ha (mha) with an annual production of 16 million tons (mt) and annual import of 4 mt.
  • In 2016, pulse cultivation accounted for 30 mha and imports increased to 6.3 mt 
  • The MSP for pulses has increased every year. Similarly, tur dal support price increased from Rs 46.25/kg in 2015 to Rs 58/kg this year
  • Although these support prices provided relief for the farmers, on many occasions, the market price was less than the support price, especially when large-scale imports took place
  • By 2030, when our population crosses 150 crore, the estimated demand for pulses will be 33 mt

Way Ahead

  • Increased Acreage: There is a need to convert some of the acreages under cereals to grow pulses. This will help bring greater balance to the crop portfolio, especially considering the changing food basket.
  • Improve Productivity: If we have to meet the demand requirements of 2030 and avoid imports, our current yields of 835kg/ha have to go up by at least 30% in this decade.
  • Increase R&D: There is a need to take up projects that increase yields, protein content and make our red gram varieties more tolerant to the dreaded pod borer, which causes 50% yield losses
  • Use of Bt Technology: Farmers use heavy doses of pesticides to control the pod borer in red gram and the diseases in black gram and green gram. There is a strong case to use Bt technology, used in cotton to control the same insect
  • Smooth regulatory progress to fast track projects that are in various stages of development of new seeds
  • Micro-irrigation tool like Hose Reel technology-based irrigation system could be perfectly suited for these crops
  • Private investments could be encouraged in genomics area through strong PPP projects to find useful genes that can help these crops to resist pests, diseases and water stress conditions.
  • Encouraging farmers to grow pulses as mixed crops with sugar cane and to bring 1.2 mha of additional cultivation of pulses in rice fallow lands.
  • Market Reforms: While the new e-NAM is expected to help, there is a need to make more efforts in setting up village-level primary processing and grading centres.
  • Long-term and predictable policy environment for import and export of pulses is required as sudden decisions to import can land the farmers in distress.
  • Inclusion in Welfare schemes: Pulses need to be included in PDS and in the mid-day meals to improve nutrition standards

Connecting the dots:

  • Green Revolution 2.0
  • Tur Dal price hike in 2015 and measures taken by government

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