Food security policy formulation: What can India learn from other countries?

News: India has transformed itself from a food-deficient country characterised by the ship-to-mouth situation of the 1960s, to the present day, when vulnerable sections of the population have enhanced access to food.

Many challenges still remain, and this is where India can learn from international experiences.

Must Read: Food security in India and its challenges – Explained, pointwise
What lessons can India learn from other countries?

Sri LankaHasty and irrational policy decisions can lead to problems for the citizenry.

Chemical fertilisers have played a key role in boosting agricultural production in Sri Lanka. But, the dependence on chemical fertilisers to boost agriculture production has serious long-term implications. Hence, the Govt of Sri Lanka recently decided to replace chemical fertiliser and shift to organic farming.

But, the ban on the import of chemical fertilisers led to a sharp decline in food grain production and severe inflation in their prices.

Moreover, scarce foreign reserves (due to decline in tourism because of COVID) were used to clear the government’s debts.

Thus, an ill-conceived policy led to food shortages and inflation in the country.

Pakistan: To overcome the food crisis in Pakistan, a central minister made a novel suggestion to people to reduce their consumption of wheat and sugar.

Such advice is not feasible when it is made to people suffering from malnutrition and hunger. At best, it can be considered as a short-term measure and not a long-run solution.

Venezuela: – Irrational policies may lead to economic disasters even in resource-rich countries. The economy of Venezuela, an oil-rich country, was severely affected due to its irrational policy of distributing highly subsidised food grains and providing unemployment relief. Consequently, people preferred to remain idle.

The foreign entrepreneurs left the country due to the non-availability of workers and remunerative prices. The decline in food imports due to the depletion of foreign reserves led to food inflation.

To appease the people, the government started printing currency notes recklessly, which led to hyperinflation.

Zimbabwe experienced similar hyper-inflation due to the reckless printing of currency notes

Uruguay: Diversification of agriculture is the key. Uruguay, for instance, focuses on enhancing dairy products along with traditional crops. There are about four cows for every person in Uruguay. Dairy products like milk, curd, butter and ghee are exported in large quantities.

Therefore, cattle are important in a tropical country with a pastoral culture.

Morocco: Excessive dependence on chemical fertilisers is not advisable. Phosphorous is a significant input in the production of chemical fertilisers.

About 70-80% of known world resources of phosphorous are available only in Morocco. The country may control the production of fertiliser by manipulating the price of phosphorous.

What is the way forward?

One, is to learn from the policy mistakes of the other countries as mentioned above.

Second, organic content of the soil needs to be maintained, because low organic content in soil reduces it to sand. In Punjab, it is below 0.5%. At least a quarter of cultivated land in India is likely to become desert in 10-15 years if this process continues.

Organic content can be enhanced by adding leaves from tree or animal waste. Thus, there must be a mandate to maintain a certain proportion of area under trees and adequate cattle herds.

Thirdly, to have environmentally friendly and sustainable agriculture, excessive dependence on chemical fertilisers has to be reduced in a phased manner.

Source: This post is based on the article “Food security policy formulation: What can India learn from other countries?” published in Down to Earth on 3rd Jan 2022.

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