Policymakers still talk of ‘food security’, it’s time to plan for ‘nutritional self-reliance’ -Ajay Vir Jakhar

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published Published on Jul 22, 2020   modified Modified on Jul 22, 2020

-The Indian Express

Farmers will need to be supported in perpetuity; they can never become atmanirbhar. The question is how best to support farmers such that India may become nutrition self-reliant

Imagine, while constructing a multi-storey building the contractors discover the building foundation has begun to sink. It is scary, but wait. Now, imagine that even though the contractors know this, they simply decide to continue work rather than alter the plans. That is precisely the state of Indian agriculture today.

Overflowing granaries give us the smug satisfaction of having solved the food security problem — it is actually a momentary cereal surplus phase. It appears so only because India’s per capita consumption of protein, meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables is amongst the lowest in the world, limited by the still appallingly low purchasing capacity of the majority. When the Indian economy eventually reverses the deceleration in growth, as it will someday, our demand for such will double in less than a decade. Climate change will further complicate efforts to salvage the future as inconsistent production gives recurring shocks. Today over 50 per cent of the Indian population is being given free monthly rations. If this was extended by a year, even the illusion of a cereal surplus state would shatter like a sheet of glass.

Farmers will need to be supported in perpetuity; they can never become atmanirbhar. The question is how best to support farmers such that India may become nutrition self-reliant. Policymakers still talk of “food security” which was achieved decades ago, it’s time to plan for “nutritional self-reliance”. These objectives require diametrically different strategies. To that end, it’s time to initiate an eight-step approach to pre-empt the floor from slipping underneath our feet.

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The Indian Express, 22 July, 2020, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/agriculture-farmers-covid-19-6517111/


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