Food security has been a prevailing concern in India. Even though it is a basic human right, according to UN-India, nearly 195 million remain undernourished in the country, which is a quarter of the world’s hunger burden. Moreover, India ranks 94th among the 107 nations in the Global Hunger Index of 2020. Experts indicate poor implementation processes, lack of effective monitoring, slow approach in tackling malnutrition and poor performance by large states behind the low ranking. The coronavirus outbreak, which has further challenged the country’s public health and food systems, has compromised the food security and the livelihoods of millions of people who are now likely to stay hungry because of the pandemic’s impact on economies. This unprecedented rise in the number of people facing acute food insecurity in India and around the world can only stop if swift action is taken today.
Access to quality and nutritious food is vital for healthy human existence and food security can eliminate hunger to make it possible. India’s leading Agrochemicals company Safex Chemicals reveals the top five benefits of food security:
- Eliminating Malnutrition
Malnutrition is a major issue faced by India. According to the data collected by India’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS) in 2019-20, children in several states were more undernourished than they were five years ago. The survey was conducted in 22 states before the outbreak of the pandemic and experts feared the situation to be worse in the rest of the states where the survey was conducted post the lockdown got lifted. This lack of nutritious food has been resulting in stunted growth in children. Food security will ensure better nutrition leading to better growth of a generation of citizens who can be helpful in serving the nation.
- Child mortality rate can be in control
The mortality rate of children under the age of 5 in India is very high due to the unavailability of food for mothers. In fact, following the outbreak of COVID-19, millions of children in the country have no access to proper meals. As a result, maternal and child malnutrition has been a reason for 68% of the under-five deaths in India, as published by The Lancet in 2020 after mapping trends from 2002 to 2017. As malnutrition is constantly posing as a leading risk factor for child death, emphasising maternal nutrition during pregnancy needs to be the government’s priority. Food security can ensure access to proper nutrition for all and also help the government in providing the necessary diet to most families for a healthy future generation.
- Improved health and well-being of the nation
There is a growing need to understand that the health of the population of a country like India is shaped by external factors like access to food and nutrition, lack of which during emergency situations can result in unexpected health consequences. For instance, affordability becomes a major issue in times of crisis like draught, floods, pandemic etc. Food security can help during such situations by keeping pricing within reach for all citizens and prevent millions of deaths due to famines. But, distributing food commodities alone cannot reduce the condition of food insecurity in the country. The focus should also be on promoting agricultural development and economic growth to mitigate the primary causes of chronic hunger as they can contribute to increasing food supply and expanding food production in the country.
- Balanced trade practices
It is quite ironic to identify that India’s undernutrition problem coincides with abundant food stocks. As of September 2020, 70 million tonnes of rice and wheat stocks were available, which was enough to suffice the problem of hunger in the country. The pandemic aggravated the vulnerabilities of certain sections of the Indian population. Farmers reportedly had to dump their produce due to restrictions on transportation that led to disruptions in the food supply chain. During the nationwide lockdown, migrated workers lost their livelihoods which disrupted their income flow and directly affected their food security. The ecological crisis, which is also fast emerging in India can cause irreparable damage to natural resources, resulting in a loss in productivity. While India was one of the first developing countries to prioritise food security as a policy in the 1970s and has been focusing on the interests of neighbouring nations like Africa and Nepal by helping them escape hunger and poverty, malnutrition continues to prevail in the vulnerable sections of the Indian population. This indicates that food insecurity can coexist with surplus food grain production because of poor management and faulty distribution systems. The pandemic has made it clear that food security depends on sufficient agricultural supplies, both domestic and foreign. Thus, India needs to make food security a core policy priority to improve its hunger situation and also tide over any environmental or unprecedented health crisis.
- Poverty reduction
In the last two decades, the Public Distribution System (PDS) and the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDM) were two of the country’s largest food security interventions that have contributed significantly to India’s poverty reduction. Apart from these programmes, since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, huge efforts have been made to provide food provisions and cooked meals to millions of migrant labourers and urban wage earners, poor, and various additional vulnerable groups. The NGOs, the private sector, and the government support have been extensively engaging in responding to the additional demand for food. This indicates growth in the agriculture sector to be one of the fundamental factors behind reducing the poverty. India’s prominent agrochemical companies like Safex Chemicals India have been helping the country increase crop productivity & crop protection for the past 29 years, thereby contributing to food security, quality of life and health in the country.
Considering the rapidly increasing population, resource constraints and climate change concerns, followed by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative for India to make food security a priority that will influence the country’s growth in many ways. Reinforcing it today with appropriate and strategic initiatives will define how the country builds resilience tomorrow.