Context: Food security is key in an age of uncertainties. Growing climate-related risks, geopolitical tensions, and macroeconomic shocks make imports costlier than ever before—in both tangible and intangible terms.
- Due to the growing world population, it is estimated that global food production will need to increase by 60 percent to feed over 9.5 billion people by 2050.
- India’s agriculture sector’s GDP stands at US$ 262 billion, demonstrating a low dependence on imports. Achieving self-reliance and sustainability in agriculture has led to a critical policy switch.
- Food security is defined as a concept that considers both physical and economic access to food while also taking into consideration people’s dietary demands and preferences.
- Food security is defined as “ensuring that all people have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food at all times in order to live a healthy and active life.”
- Food security is built on four pillars:
- The primary problem in achieving the goal of self-sufficiency in emerging nations is food stability and availability.
Challenges with Food Security:
- Climate-oriented risks: Prolonged heat waves and an increased frequency of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and cyclones are also resulting in increased quantum damage-related expenses.
- Wastages and Losses: 5-7 percent of India’s food grain production is wasted due to procedural inefficiencies; this number is higher for fresh produce with an estimate of losses amounting to about 11 percent.
- Inadequate storage facilities: Inadequate and improper storage facilities for grains, which are often stored outside under tarps that provide little protection from humidity and pests.
- Hot and humid conditions in India also exacerbate the maintenance costs of cold storage facilities.
- Lack of Awareness: Lack of education and training on new techniques, technologies and agricultural products. Traditional farming methods are slightly more time consuming and delay the production of food grains, etc.
- Deteriorating Soil Health: A key element of food production is healthy soil because nearly 95% of global food production depends on soil.
Reforms to ensure food security:
- Water-conserving irrigation: The practice of flood irrigation is largely prevalent even today and it has a reinforcing impact on the depleting levels of groundwater, which, in turn, aggravate drought conditions.
- Moving to micro-irrigation will optimise costs on water and electricity inputs for farmers in the long term, freeing up financial resources for investment in post-harvest technologies.
- Storage infrastructure: Cold storage infrastructure and supply chains are an example of foundational interventions that can propel food processing industries, whilst simultaneously enhancing the diversification of crops with farmers being able to lengthen the shelf life of fresh produce.
- Expanding access to finance: Global finance pledges and the architecture of financial flows be changed to allow an increased flow of funds to the Global South.
- At a domestic stage, medium to long-term debt financing facilities for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management infrastructure and community farming assets, like the new Agriculture Infrastructure Fund(AIF) must be developed to accelerate change in this direction.
- Crop diversification: Food availability is a necessary condition for food security. India is more or less self-sufficient in cereals but has deficit in pulses and oilseeds.
- Due to changes in consumption patterns, demand for fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, poultry, and fishery products has been increasing.
- There is a need to increase crop diversification and improve allied activities to produce such crops and produces in which we are deficient.
- Tackling climate change: Food security in India can be achieved by paying higher attention to issues such as climate change, limiting global warming, including the promotion of climate-smart agricultural production systems and land use policies at a scale to help adapt and mitigate ill effects of climate change.
Food Security Programs in India:
- Mega Food Parks: This scheme, launched by the government in 2008, provides financial assistance up to 50 crores to set up modern infrastructure facilities for food processing called Mega Food Parks.
- PM Kisan SAMPADA Yojana: It is a comprehensive package aiming to create modern infrastructure with efficient supply chain management from farm gate to retail outlet.
- The scheme boosts the growth of the food processing sector in the country and helps in providing better returns to farmers as well.
- Agriculture Infrastructure Fund: It is a Central Sector Scheme approved by the Union Cabinet in 2020.
- It aims to provide a medium – long term debt financing facility for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management Infrastructure and community farming assets.
- The duration of the Scheme shall be from FY2020 to FY2032.
- Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana: PMKSY is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (Core Scheme) launched in 2015. Its objectives are:
- Convergence of investments in irrigation at the field level,
- To expand the cultivable area under assured irrigation (Har Khet ko Pani),
- To improve on-farm water use efficiency to reduce wastage of water,
- To enhance the adoption of precision-irrigation and other water saving technologies.
- So, we need a thorough upgradation of storage facilities (especially in rural areas) that can minimise losses in power, water and post-harvest losses, by expanding access to finance for climate resilient technology adoption.
- We need to smoothen access points for private sector innovations that can share the burden of improving agricultural resilience and complement public sector actions.
- It is time we acknowledge the role of modern solutions in overcoming food insecurity, enhancing access to nutrition and ensuring long-term food sector sustainability.