Feeding India’s Growing Billion: inclusive growth of food production indispensable

Feeding India’s Growing Billion: inclusive growth of food production indispensable

According to the report of the United Nations World Food Programme, India ranks 67th in the Global Hunger Index of 119 countries. It also points to some staggering figures. More than 27 per cent of the world’s undernourished population lives in India while 43 per cent of children (under 5 years) are underweight. This is the highest figure in the world and even higher than the Sub-Saharan Africa’s figure (28 per cent).

The 2011 population census indicates that India today needs to feed 1.2 billion people. During the last decade, 182 million new consumers of food have been added every year. Ironically, despite significant economic progress in the wake of global slowdown, India has one of the largest numbers of hungry and malnourished people. Under the circumstance, growing more food and to manage it efficiently, is indeed a concern capturing the attention of both governmental (programmes like the National Food Security Mission) and non-governmental campaigns (Oxfam’s recent Grow campaign).

What exactly has been India’s performance in food production in recent years? India faces two major issues in the food management system – one is related to the supply-side issues including risk and variability of food production and other is access to quality food.

This policy briefing combines statistical data from the supply-side dynamics of food security in terms of changing trend of unmatched decadal growth of population and respective food production. It shows unabated population growth on one hand, and on the other hand, highly fluctuating behaviour of the food production over the decades. During the decade of 2010s, the incremental production/supply of home grown food was 28 million ton, a level equal to that of the 1980s, which is down from 44 million ton in 2000s. Can this level of incremental production feed 182 million new consumers, after satisfying the food need of the existing billion plus population in India?  

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