Hunger amid abundance: the Indian food security enigma

Agriculture Public health Nutrition Food consumption Food security India

India is self-sufficient in a number of food crops including rice and wheat, which are among the national staples, and there is enough food to meet demand. Despite this, hundreds of millions of Indians have poor nutritional health. India has been successful in ensuring that its population has access to food, but it has failed to ensure that it includes the necessary diversity in the types of food available. Micronutrient deficiencies are common in India, mainly as a result of a focus on calorie availability and not dietary diversity. Poor water management and subsidies that encourage wasteful practices in agricultural production could come to present a threat to Indian food security.

Key points:

  • Various food assistance policies, which have existed since the 1940s, guarantee that Indians have access to food. A lack of dietary diversity, however, means that many of the poorest members of Indian society continue to have nutritional deficits.
  • Water mismanagement in states that provide 20 to 30 per cent of India’s food supply, could undermine food security if the situation does not improve.
  • Subsidies for agricultural inputs, such as fuel and fertilisers, disproportionately benefit large landowners and encourage wasteful usage of those inputs. They are also failing to lift the productivity of Indian farms.
  • While the Indian population is broadly food secure at present, these challenges could undermine food security in the long term.
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