India claims to be self-sufficient in food production but facts say otherwise -Jitendra

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published Published on Nov 20, 2018   modified Modified on Nov 20, 2018
-Down to Earth

If the government decides to feed all its hungry people, India's tag of a net exporting country will be easliy lost

India is riding high on the agricultural success story it has written over the past few years. Record-breaking food-grain production was registered in seven years in the past decade. From 217 million tonnes in 2006-07, the country’s production jumped to 275.11 million tonnes in 2016-17. Three years of drought, in 2009, 2014 and 2015, did not really bring production down. The government proudly concluded that the country was not only self-sufficient, but had enough to export.

It was, therefore, disturbing that the country had recorded a very high number of farmer suicides and an equally high number of farmer protests in the past two decades. Between 1991 and 2011, over 14 million financially stressed farmers quit farming.
Those who had been on an express agricultural drive, were misled into believing that their efforts were futile as the country’s production was surplus. There was price crash in the foodgrain market which forced them to sell food at throwaway prices, or just let them rot.

The fact that farmers were dumping their produce helped the government build its narrative on self-sufficiency and surplus agricultural production. Media reports and experts advocated for export of foodgrains and for setting up of more processing units to manage surplus foodgrain. India also proudly claims to be a net exporting country. This means, it exports more than it imports.

Government claims trashed

Data shows that the country barely has enough to feed its own people, let alone be self-sufficient or a net exporter. The country is home to 270 million hungry people, the highest in the world. India stands 97th in Oxfam’s Food Availability Index, and 103rd in the 2018 Global Hunger Index.

A country can be called self-sufficient only when it produces enough to meet its domestic needs. The Food Agriculture Organization has created three levels of self-sufficiency—below 80 per cent, indicating food deficit; between 80 and 120 per cent, indicating self-sufficiency; and, above 120 per cent, meaning surplus. India shows self-sufficiency, and joins the second group which includes China, the United Republic of Tanzania and Bolivia.

Government’s own data shows that the country is not self-sufficient. Ramesh Chand, member of NITI Aayog, predicted a demand of 257.70 million tonnes in 2016-17. Chand was part of a working group of the Union Ministry of Agriculture which gave a detailed report on the demand and supply balance from 2012 to 2017. The government could claim to have surplus production if it produced more than that. The country produced 275.11 million tonnes that year. This was barely a few million tonnes more than the assesed demand, not enough to meet the demand during drought.

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Down to Earth, 19 November, 2018,

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