Food security policy formulation: What can India learn from other countries?

  • IASbaba
  • January 15, 2022
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(Down to Earth: Agriculture)

Jan 3: Food security policy formulation: What can India learn from other countries? – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/agriculture/food-security-policy-formulation-what-can-india-learn-from-other-countries–80936 


  • GS-2- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
  • GS-3- Agriculture

Food security policy formulation: What can India learn from other countries?

Context: The Indian food grain scenario has drastically changed in the last five-six decades: India was a food-deficit country in the 1960sand had to import food grain to feed its people.

  • The situation was ship-to-mouth: The food grain unloaded from the ship at the port had to be sent to consumers in the shortest time possible. 
  • The situation is, however, no longer the same; there has been a substantial increase in food grain production.
  • Both state and Union governments have enhanced access to food for vulnerable sections of the population with reasonable success. 

But this is not it – we need to learn from international experiences to avoid falling into the same trap again. In this case, we should also learn what not to do.

Learnings from Pakistan

  • To overcome the food crisis in Pakistan, a suggestion was made to people to reduce their consumption of wheat and sugar. 
  • Such advice is not feasible when it is made to people suffering from malnutrition and hunger. 
  • At best, it can be considered as a short-term measure and not a long-run solution.

Learnings from Sri Lanka

  • Chemical fertilisers have played a key role in boosting agricultural production. However, this dependence has serious long-term implications which needs to be reduced in a phased manner.
  • The Government, without taking the required measures, recently decided to shift to organic farming. It decided to replace chemical fertiliser, being used by 90 per cent of farmers in the country, with organic manure.
  • The ban on the import of chemical fertilisers led to a sharp decline in food grain production and severe inflation in their prices. As a result, the price of rice touched Rs 115 / kg and that of wheat Rs 100 / kg. At the same time, the price of liquefied petroleum gas cylinder crossed Rs 2,500 per unit mark.
  • The countries whose economies depend excessively on tourism need to be careful in using their foreign reserves. There has been a sharp decline in the number of foreign tourists visiting Sri Lanka and consequent decline in foreign reserves during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • The scarce foreign reserves were used to clear the government’s debts. The ban on the import of food items and agricultural inputs has affected the agricultural sector. In short, hasty and irrational decisions have led to food shortages and inflation in the country.

Learnings from Venezuela and Zimbabwe

  • Irrational policies may lead to economic disasters even in resource-rich countries. 
  • The economy of Venezuela, an oil-rich country, was severely affected due to its irrational policy of distributing highly subsidised food grains and providing unemployment relief, as a result of which people preferred to remain idle.
  • The foreign entrepreneurs left the country due to the non-availability of workers and remunerative prices. 
  • The decline in food imports due to the depletion of foreign reserves led to food inflation. 
  • To appease the people, the government started printing currency notes recklessly, which led to hyperinflation.
  • Zimbabwe experienced similar hyper-inflation due to the reckless printing of currency notes.

Learnings from Uruguay

  • Providing food security to people implies not merely providing major cereals but a balanced food basket as well. Some countries have diversified their agriculture to this end.
  • Uruguay, for instance, focuses on enhancing dairy products along with traditional crops. The population of the country is only 3.3 million, but it has 12 million cows. There are about four cows for every person.
  • To monitor their movement, every cow has an electronic chip in its ear. Dairy products like milk, curd, butter and ghee are exported in large quantities.
  • In older days, India’s wealth was measured in terms of herds of cattle owned by a household. Cattle are important in a tropical country with a pastoral culture.
  • It may be disastrous for a household having only land if rains fail in a monsoon-dependent country. But, for a household having some cattle along with land can easily survive.

Learnings from Morocco

  • Some analysts have cautioned against excessive dependence on chemical fertilisers. Phosphorous is an important input in the production of chemical fertilisers.
  • About 70-80 per cent of known world resources of phosphorous are available only in Morocco. 
  • The country may control the production of fertiliser by manipulating the price of phosphorous.

The Way Forward – Soil Conservation

  • The method of cultivation must be environment-friendly and sustainable in the long run. There must be three-six per cent organic content in the soil.
  • Unfortunately, in a state like Punjab that has a high food grain production, the organic content is below 0.5 per cent. Low organic content in soil reduces it to sand. At least a quarter of cultivated land in India is likely to become desert in 10-15 years if this process continues.  
  • The organic content in the soil can be enhanced by adding leaves from tree or animal waste. It may become difficult to increase the organic content in the soil if trees are cut and animals slaughtered.
  • Therefore, there must be a mandate to maintain a certain proportion of area under trees.
  • To have environmentally friendly and sustainable agriculture, excessive dependence on chemical fertilisers has to be reduced in a phased manner.
  • To prevent desertification, the organic content in the soil has to be maintained according to the scientific norms by having an adequate number of trees and an adequate number of cattle herds.

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. India and its economic disasters – Food shortage, inflation, irrational polices
  2. Food security policy formulation in India

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