Food security does not need this ‘surgical strike’

News: Recently, the Government of India announced a sudden ban on export of wheat when the government was looking out for ways for augmenting India’ wheat exports.

Two schools of through for ensuring food security in India

One school of thought argues that food security has to be ensured through domestic production.

Other school of thought suggested that food stocks be run down in India and that needs of food security be met through world trade and the Chicago futures market as part of the liberalisation policy.

About Indian Public Procurement System

Since the mid-1960s, India’s public procurement system has been the backbone of food policy in India to ensure food security

In summer 2022, procurement of wheat by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has been very low.

Why has there been low wheat procurement in India?

The wheat production this year has been lower than estimated on account of high heat and other factors.

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What are the issues with increasing India’s export?

Those western countries which have asked India to meet the shortfall, are already much larger exporters of wheat. They have themselves not increased their exports in the current context.

The stock of wheat in the central pool has been much lower than last year. Although, it is comfortably higher than buffer stock norms. But lower procurement in year can lead to food security in problems.

Other challenges

Over the last two years, costs of production have risen sharply. The important causes are the spiralling price of fuel, higher input costs and yield losses.

The flip-flop on export of wheat is one example that this government lacks a coherent policy of food security.

The Way Forward

During the two COVID-19 years, the Public Distribution System (PDS) played a stellar role. It kept people out of starvation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it should not be dismantled.

The PDS and open market operations can be used to cool down food price inflation. At present, most States have high inflation rates and States with better PDS, such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, have low inflation rates.

The government ensures adequate distribution through the food rationing network. Further, the open market operations should be undertaken to ensure stable prices.  If needed, rice can be distributed in lieu of wheat.

Food security is both an immediate and long-term concern. A well-functioning PDS can control prices and offer relief to consumers.

The government should overcome the shortfall in public procurement by increasing the procurement price and buying more. The government should provide remunerative prices to farmers to promote production. The National Commission on Farmers has highlighted the issues of inadequately announced minimum support price (MSP) for wheat.

Source: The post is based on an article “Food security does not need this ‘surgical strike” published in the “The Hindu” on 23rd May 2022.

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