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Feeding India's Billion plus Population , the Roadmap Ahead.

India accounts for only 2.4 percent of the world surface area, yet it supports and sustains 17.75 percentage of the world population. It is now estimated that by 2024, India will most likely overtake China to become the most populous country on the earth with 1.44 billion people. Ensuring food security for such a huge population will be a very big challenge for the government. The three main aspects of food security as defined by World Health Organisation(WHO) are food availability, food access and food utilization. To ensure food security, the government should make sure that sufficient food is available, the people are capable of buying the food for their nutritional requirement and they have access to water and sanitation for proper utilization of the food.

At present, the Buffer stock of food grains in India is 3 times the required quantity. The Food Corporation of India(FCI) is forced to sell excess stocks in open markets to make space for further procurement of grains from the farmers. India's agricultural policies now focus more on cereal production to meet the nutritional need in caloric, high-quality protein and fat intakes. At present, 14.5% of the population is undernourished in India. Eventhough the percentage of undernourished citizens is being brought down, we still lag at the rate of reduction when compared with many developing countries. Food availability and access for food are two main factors to be considered when we talk about feeding India's billion plus population. The growth in world food production is likely to be slower in the future than earlier decades due to inadequate per-capita income and poverty. This can affect Indian sub-continent as well.

Food production and reduction of food wastage should go hand in hand to address the concern of food security in India. About one-third of the food produced in the world is wasted. In developing countries like India, the food loss happens in the early stage of food chain supply where the delay in taking food to the needed is the main cause of food wastage. This can be addressed by improving the infrastructure of villages and also proper demand-supply management.

Agriculture production, livestock and fishing are the main sources of food in India. Even if insects and algae as a food source being recommended by many researchers around the world, it will not take over the present Indian food habits in near future. Livestock being considered as the source of around 14% of global green house gas(GHG) emission, sooner or later the world will be forced to cut down the consumption of meat and livestock related foods. Aquaponics and marine fishing contributes a considerable quantity of food. But the sustainable agricultural production will always remain as the major requirement to ensure food security.

The way forward to ensure food security from Agricultural production:

The number of farmers in India are reducing at an alarming rate. This is due to insufficient income, increased cost of farming and unpredictable climatic conditions prevailing in India. At the same time conditions laid by W.T.O, restricting the subsidies given to the farmers by the government has also lead to decline in the number of farmers. The government is looking for ways to increase the income of farmers without exceeding the subsidy limits of W.T.O. The following measures can ensure increase in the income of farmers as well as food security from agricultural production:

  • Farming methods like Zero Budget Natural Farming(ZBNF), which uses organic manures and pesticides instead of chemicals will decrease the investment made by the farmers and will also increase the production from crops.
  • Efficient irrigation methods should be taught to the farmers for making maximum usage of available water resource.
  • Instead of giving Minimum Support price for specific crops, government can give "Price deficiency payment" for all crops by which the farmers are ensured to get the minimum price compensation incase of fall in market price for their products, this will also ensure that the government will not breach the subsidy limit set by W.T.O.
  • Kitchen gardens should be encouraged in all households and schools through consciousness programs and if necessary it can be made compulsory like water harvesting systems made compulsory in Tamilnadu.
  • 5. Agrarian infrastructure should be improved and digitised to ensure the proper link of demand and supply, increased income for farmers and reduce the wastage of food produced.

Right to access for food is a “basic human right” and a basic requirement to ensure “the fundamental right to life” as assured by Indian constitution in article 21. Government should ensure that we will remain self sufficient in food production and all the citizens are given access for food they need. At the same time it is the duty of each individual to reduce food wastage and contribute in food production in all possible ways.

- Krupan.P.M