Skip to content Skip to navigation

Managing Future Food Demand of India

India’s high economic growth rate has not led to reduction in hunger and malnutrition. But the subject of food security is complex and multi-dimensional. Hence, I would restrict my analysis to the way Solidaridad addresses the issue of food security in India. Our interventions have been primarily in different agricultural commodity supply chains where we support around a million smallholders and farm workers from 4000 villages in twelve Indian states.

The farmers and farm workers in rural India are the most food-insecure people. For long, food security for them was primarily a ‘poverty’, or ‘access’ problem. They don’t own land to grow enough food, and they don’t earn money to buy nutritional food. As a result, they are forced to buy food that is nutritionally poor and lacks nutritional diversity or sufficient calories to sustain life. It is particularly a big health issue for children under five because it causes stunting.

But increasingly the food ‘availability’ is becoming a greater challenge in the country which could potentially risk the whole food system. According to a recent survey by Mumbai University, the Indian middle class hasgrown to 600 million people and is increasing. It is no wonder India figures out as one the fastest growing food, feed and fibre markets of the world. The demand for biofuels is also setting in.  Therefore, farmers in India have a great future as providers of food, feed, fibre and fuel to address the growing demands. But to do that, farmers have to double their yields in the next twenty years and manage these competing claims on their land.

Nonetheless, such a proposition doesn’t seem to be easy. India's cereal yield (2,961.6 kg per ha) is drastically lower than that of developed regions such asNorth America (6,671 kg per ha), East Asia and the Pacific (5,184 kg per ha) or that of world average (3,851.3 kg per ha). Further, the yield per hectare of food grains has stagnated in India since the 1980s. The agricultural land size has reduced from around 3 ha in the 1970s to 1.16 ha in 2011. Such small size doesnot allow the use of modern agricultural technologies which could augment productivity.

Climate change is causing either excess rains or droughts, leading to crop loss. Soil now needs more fertilisers to maintain soil fertility and crops require more chemicals to neutralise new pest infestations. To add to that, about 54 percent of India faces high to extremely high water stress. The per capita total actual renewable water resources for India is 1545 m3/inhabitant/yr which is much less compared to even the Asian average of water-stressed countries. In addition to that, farmers face the perennial problems of access to credits, post-harvest losses and access to markets. It is no wonder that due to these factors we are losing more than 2,000 farmers, every single day since 1991. The overall number of farmers has dropped by 15 million in the last 20 years. The new generation does not want to become farmers and take up farming anymore.

Therefore, the situation is quite straightforward for us. We would need, out of the box solutions, to continue to be self-sufficient in food production. The following interventions would be critical for addressing India’s future food availability:

a. Train rural unemployed youths to collectivise smallholder lands and apply modern technologies: The next generation of Indian farmers doesn’t want to enter into farming any more. Small size, primitive technologies and low returns have made farming unattractive for them. Therefore, there are plenty of such smallholder land that could be grouped together by rural youths for efficient farming. Farming is one of mankind’s oldest endeavours, and digital technology is one of its newest. A fascinating challenge will be to bring them together, displaying just how much good can come from the collaboration of both. The focus should be to reduce the number of farm labour needed per hectare through increased use of technology. It would lead to better quality of agricultural employment and much higher farm income. The Corporate Social Responsibility law of India should be suitably amended to encourage businesses to increase investment in this area.

b. Put a significant monetary value on water for irrigation: We would need to incentivise for filtering waste water and its reuse in agriculture through drips. This recycled water should be made available for free for the first one decade which could be achieved by channelling the current subsidies that keep fresh water and electricity free. In the meanwhile, Government should consider putting a value for fresh water used in agriculture, like in Israel. It has, even more, value than electricity and fertilisers and yet we refuse to put any taxes on it. Once, water won’t be available for free, it would automatically usher in the dream of our honourable Prime Minister about “More crop per drop”.

c. Reclaim degraded lands and avoid further degradation: India has got only 2.4 percent of the global land area that supports 18 percent of world population. In spite of such precarious situation, we have 146.8 million hectares of degraded land, and it is increasing. Out of this, around 100 million hectares could be reclaimed for agriculture. Such reclamation would be critical for our future food security and investments towards it should attract tax concessions. The government could consolidate such degraded land and invite private sector investments for reclaiming these lands to produce strategic food crop with a 50-year lease.

d. Promote Indian private sector investment outside the country: The Indian Government must plan to gradually push out water thirsty crops from water-stressed states of India. Tax incentives for imports and country specific diplomatic support should be provided to Indian companies to invest in agriculture in tropical countries which receives adequate rainfall. It will create rural employments in countries like Africa and allow a smaller but more efficient farmer base in India to produce more strategic crops for Indian citizens without depleting the ground water.

Many of us now realise that an unsustainable way of life threatens our food security, our planet and our businesses. Hence, we should have one agenda, one challenge: we have to produce more with less and ensure that it is done in a way that sustains people and the environment. Optimising land and water use is the first and most crucial step towards a solution. Increased production must meet growing demand, but with fewer negative consequences for people and the environment. The change we seek is a market process driven by the private sector. However, civil society organisations and governments play an essential role in enabling and encouraging change.

Author info

Dr Shatadru Chattopadhayay's picture

Managing Director Solidaridad Network Asia

Add new comment

Republish

Republish this content

NE United beat Chennaiyin by 3-0 goals

Chennaiyin FC goalkeeper Gennaro Bracigliano fails to make the save as Massamba Lo Sambou of NorthEast (far Left) United FC scores the second goal during match 42 of the Hero Indian Super League between NorthEast United FC and Chennaiyin FC held at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, Guwahati, India on the 27th November 2014. Photo by: Shaun Roy/ ISL/ SPORTZPICS
27 Nov 2014 - 7:27pm | Lakhinandan Gogoi

The North East United FC down Chennaiyin FC by 3-0 goals in the 42nd Hero India Super League match in Guwahati on Thursday.

Much to the delight of thousands of people in the packed Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in the evening, Durga Boro scored the first goal in the 10 minutes. Moussamba posted the second goal in a style in the first 21 minutes. He was Moussamba, who did it again in just 4 minutes later.

NorthEast United FC comprised Rehenesh; Kondwani Mtonga, Massamba Sambou, Miguel Garcia, Joan Capdevilla; Koke, Felipe de Castro, Zodingliana Ralte, Boithang Haokip; Seminlen Doungel, Durga Boro.

Substitutes are: Alexandros Tzorvas, James Keene, Luis Padilla, Isaac Chansa, Leo Bertos, Milan Singh, Do Dong-Hyun, David Nghaite, Redeem Tlang, Alen Deory

Chennaiyin FC have Gennaro Bracigliano; Harmanjot Khabra, Jairo Suarez, Bernard Mendy, Dhanachandra Singh; Bruno Pelisari, Eric Djemba-Djemba, Denson Devadas; Balwant Singh, Jean Eudes Maurice, Jeje Lalpekhlua

Substitutes: NP Pradeep, Jaison Vales, Jayesh Rane, Sukhwinder Singh, Francesco Franzese, Dane Pereira, Marco Materazzi, Cristian Hidalgo, Shilton Paul, Khelemba Singh Meetei.

 


Durga Boro of NorthEast United FC scores the opening goal during match 42 of the Hero Indian Super League between NorthEast United FC and Chennaiyin FC held at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, Guwahati, India on the 27th November 2014. Photo by: Shaun Roy/ ISL/ SPORTZPICS


John Abhraham felicitating One Milionth ISL fan Ankita Devi (R) during match 42 of the Hero Indian Super League between NorthEast United FC and Chennaiyin FC held at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, Guwahati, India on the 27th November 2014. Photo by: Saikat Das/ ISL/ SPORTZPICS

 

NEUFC's 3 crucial  matches:

December 1: Match 46 FC Goa vs NorthEast United FC

December 4: Match 49 Kerala Blasters FC vs NorthEast United FC

December 10: Match 56 NorthEast United FC vs Mumbai City FC

Will NRC be a meaningless exercise?

3 Jan 2018 - 6:53am | AT News

NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader Tarun Gogoi said the ongoing process to update NRC will be a meaningless exercise if the Centre ensures safe passage of the Citizenship(Amendment) Bill,2016 in Parliament.

Addressing a press conference here on Tuesday, the three time chief minister said thr NDA government and Assam BJP leadership have been working overnight to clear the Bill in question where the grant citizenship to the illegal Hindu settlers whose names would not be there in the updated NRC. "Then why NRC is required? Crores of rupees have been spent. Won't it be a meaningless exercise?," said Gogoi.

The former chief minister further is unhappy with thr first NRC draft alleging lack of interest from the part of the government.

"NRC draft started during my true. Nearly 80% draft was prepared when I was chief minister. This government has done only 20%. That too completed where many political leaders and prominent citizens are missing. This is because of half hearted effort of the present government," said the government.

RS poll: Congress on dilemma

27 Jan 2014 - 10:46am | AT News

Uncertainty seems to have griped the Assam Congress legislators over the third choice candidate for the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls.

Sources told Assam Times that closed door meets in Delhi and Dispur have failed to end the dilemma over the party’s third choice candidate.

Education minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma is understood to have called on Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi at his Koinadhara residence on Monday morning and discuss the stalemate.

On Sunday night Gogoi meet forest minister Rockybul Hussain and MLA Debabrata Saikia.