I had put up these stats of utter neglect in India when it comes to basic commodities in a post in Feb 2006. The statistics from India Today had said that 40% of Indian grain rots every year. Now, comes the official word from the horse’s mouth itself!
A Delhi citizen using his Right to Information asked for the quantification of damage to the food grain. The reply is SHOCKING!
The FCI* informed that 183,000 tonnes of wheat, 395,000 tonnes of rice, 22 thousand tonnes of paddy and 110 tonnes of maize were damaged between 1997 and 2007.
The FCI said in the northern region — UP, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi — the damage incurred was 700,000 tonnes and the PSU spent Rs 87.15 crore (Rs 871 million) to prevent the loss besides spending over Rs 60 lakh (Rs 6 million) to dispose off the damaged food grain.
Any idea on how many Indian kids go to bed without food? 63%. According to UN figures.
The pain is even more acute when you consider that FCI spent Rs 242 crore (Rs 2.42 billion) to prevent such damage and then spent Rs 2.59 crore was spent just to dispose off the rotten food grains!
I have no idea how much more worse it can possibly get? Here is an interesting paper from International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which argues for deregulation of the Food sector. In the past one decade, with emphasis on industry and almost negative view of growth from the agriculture sector perspective.. the time has been spent more on debates and useless arguments as opposed to constructive solutions. The future in India could be really bleak – India could become a chronic net importer of rice and wheat by 2020 if the trends are not reversed!!
The per capita annual availability in India has retarded from 174.23 kg per person per year averaged over the ’90s to 163.33 kg per person per year averaged over 2000-06. In an era where economic growth has, post-liberalisation, shown a quantum jump, the food availability has fallen to the level of the ’60s when India had recorded serious famines.
While a rising population has obviously been a major cause of such decline, the stagnation in yields and a halt in increase of acreage under rice particularly is as much to blame. The report points out that the yield of milled rice in the country increased from 863 kg per hectare in 1966-67 to 2,079 kg per hectare in 2001-02, growing at the compounded annual growth rate of 2.54%. But since then, the growth rate has come down to a mere 0.45%.
In wheat too, the yields secured in 2001-02 of 2,778 kg per hectare have not been achieved since. It is provisionally estimated at 2,742 kg per hectare for 2007-08. The total production too in case of wheat remains at the levels achieve in 2001-02.
Meanwhile along with retardation of food growth, another phenomenon is occuring in India – growth of non-vegetarian diet and consumerism. Like most countries as India becomes affluent – meat eaters also grow. Now here are some statistics that show why such trends are going to harm the future of food security (source: NY Times . Freep)
– 1 litre of Soda (Coke or Pepsi) requires anywhere from 4 to 9 litres of water input
– It takes 2 to 3 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of chicken, 4 to 5.5 pounds of grain for 1 pound of pork, and about 10 pounds of grain for 1 pound of beef.
– These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world’s tropical rain forests.
– Americans are downing close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year (dairy and eggs are separate, and hardly insignificant), an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago. We each consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein. (The recommended level is itself considered by many dietary experts to be higher than it needs to be.) It’s likely that most of us would do just fine on around 30 grams of protein a day, virtually all of it from plant sources.
So, India faces a very stark future scenario! A completely useless food distribution system which is not being opened thanks to idiotic politicians, lower land under agriculture and lower productivity, increasing demand for food grains by factor not directly related to it. As much as it is bad for the food sector in general, it becomes all the more hurtful to the poor who will not be able to afford the one meal some can do even now!
*The Food Corporation of India (FCI) is the principal parastatal agency responsible for marketing food grains within the country and controls nearly 50 percent of the grain markets.
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