December 9, 2023

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination



THE CONTEXT: Recently, Soaring tomato and onion prices in Indian households raised concern as prices jump has put a question on the management of food in Indian economy. As food and nutritional security are the key to attain the sustainable development goals. In this respect, this article analyse the issue of food management to achieve food and nutritional security from the UPSC perspective.


  • Agriculture contributes about 18.8% to India’s gross value added (GVA) and is the largest employer of the workforce.
  • Due to Green Revolution, India has transitioned from a country dependent on food imports in the early 1960s to a major exporter of several agricultural commodities now.
  • Despite this tremendous increase in production, the per capita availability of food grains has remained stagnant.
  • There is an urgent need for reorientation of the long- term direction of agri-food systems to not only enhance farm incomes but also ensure better access to safe and nutritious foods.
  • Additionally, the agri-food systems need to be reoriented to minimise cost on the environment and the climate.
  • The worsening picture of nutrition calls for a transformative change in Indian agriculture.
  • However, several steps to improve affordability and access to nutritious food have been taken in recent times.


  • The main objectives of food management are procurement of foodgrains from farmers at remunerative prices, distribution of foodgrains to consumers, particularly the vulnerable sections of society at affordable prices and maintenance of food buffers for food security and price stability.
  • The nodal agency which undertakes procurement and storage of foodgrain is the Food Corporation of India (FCI). The distribution of foodgrains is primarily under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) and other welfare schemes of the Government and is governed by the scale of allocation and its offtake by the beneficiaries.
  • The 1995 World Food Summit declared, “Food security at the individual, household, regional, national and global levels exist when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.
  • The concept of Food Security evolved over time from ‘freedom from hunger’ in the early 1940s into broad concept encompassing four dimensions:


  • It is a physical determinant, which is ensured if adequate food is available at peoples’disposal.
  • Food production provides the base for food security as it is a key determinant of food availability.
  • Food and nutrition security are intimately interconnected, since only a food-based approach can help in overcoming malnutrition in an economically and socially sustainable manner.


  • Food security exists when all people always have physical and economic access to sufficient food to meet their dietary needs for a productive and healthy life.
  • It is achieved if a household has sufficient resources to obtain an appropriate diet. The economic access of a household to adequate food depends on its purchasing power.
  • To ensure access to food for all, the mere availability of food in the country is obviously not sufficient. Food inflation is an important parameter by which we can gauge the economic access to food.


  • Food utilization is the proper biological use of food, requiring a diet providing sufficient energy and essential nutrients, potable water, and adequate sanitation.
  • It depends upon the biological and social environment and proper health care.
  • Effective food utilization depends in large measure on knowledge within the household of food storage and processing techniques, basic principles of nutrition and proper childcare.


  • To be food secure, a population, household or individual must always have access to adequate food. They should not risk losing access to food because of sudden shocks (e.g., an economic or climatic crisis) or cyclical events (e.g., seasonal food insecurity).
  • The concept of stability can therefore refer to both the availability and access dimensions of food security.
  • Stability describes the temporal dimension of food and nutrition security, respectively, which ensures the food supply at household level remains more or less constant during the year and in the long-term.


  • Nutrition is fundamental for good health and development during the early years of life.
  • Optimal nutrition and correction of nutritional deficiencies during the early years are of
    particular significance and can have enduring adverse effects beyond childhood, or die.
  • Malnutrition refers to deficiencies or excesses in nutrient intake, imbalance of essential
    nutrients or impaired nutrient utilization.
  • The double burden of malnutrition consists of both undernutrition and overweight and obesity, as well as diet-related non-communicable diseases. Undernutrition manifests in four broad forms: wasting, stunting, underweight, and micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Malnutrition restricts the cognitive and physical development that consequently leads to poor educational and economic attainment perpetuating poverty.
  • The SDG 2 (‘End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture’) clearly mentions the concept of ‘nutrition’.


  • It indicates chronic undernutrition and the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.
  • Children are defined as stunted if their height-for-age is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median.


  • It indicates acute undernutrition and is associated with a higher risk of death if not treated properly.
  • It is defined as low weight-for-height. It often indicates recent and severe weight loss, although it can also persist for a long time.
  • It usually occurs when a person has not had food of adequate quality and quantity and/or they have had frequent or prolonged illnesses.


  • It reflects inadequate food availability and as weight is easy to measure, hence, this is the indicator for which most data have been collected in the past.
  • The mortality risk is increased in children who are even mildly underweight, and the risk is even greater in severely underweight children.


  • Micronutrient deficiencies are a lack of vitamins and minerals that are essential for body functions such as producing enzymes, hormones and other substances needed for growth and development.


  • Government of India has been proactive about ensuring access to food to its citizen. For which Government of India has implemented various schemes.
  • The interventions of the Government have been in line with the recommendations of the Committee on Doubling Farmers’ Income, which had identified improvement in crop and livestock productivity, diversification towards higher value crops, better resource efficiency, enhanced cropping intensity, improvement in real prices received by farmers and shift from farm to nonfarm occupations as being significant sources of growth.


  • National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) marks a paradigm shift in the approach to food security from welfare to rights-based approach.
  • NFSA covers 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population under: (i) Antyodaya Anna Yojana: It constitute the poorest of-the-poor, are entitled to receive 35 kg of foodgrains per household per month. (ii) Priority Households (PHH): Households covered under PHH category are entitled to


  • It is a Central Sector Scheme to supplement the financial needs of land-holding farmers.
  • The financial benefit of ₹6,000 per year is transferred into the bank accounts of farmer families through DBT. It is one of the largest DBT schemes in the world.
  • Many studies and findings indicate that the PM KISAN scheme has helped farmers towards productive investment in agricultural activities. This, through a multiplier effect, has contributed to the overall improvement of the farm sector.


  • AIF is a financing facility operational from the year 2020-21 to 2032-33 for the creation of post-harvest management infrastructure and community farm assets, with benefits including 3 per cent interest subvention and credit guarantee support.
  • AIF scheme has the facility of convergence with any other scheme of the State or Central Government and can prove to be a milestone in investment in the agriculture sector.


  • Several expert groups have identified horticulture as a high-growth area and a source of buoyant income and improved resilience for farmers.
  • It aims to promote horticulture covering fruits, vegetables, root and tuber crops, spices, flowers, plantation crops etc., was introduced in 2014-15.
  • The interventions include introducing improved varieties and quality seeds, incentives for plantation crops, cluster development, and post-harvest management.


  • The Government of India launched the National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) Scheme in 2016 to create an online transparent, competitive bidding system to ensure farmers get remunerative prices for their produce.
  • Under the e-NAM Scheme, the Government provides free software and assistance of ₹75 lakh per APMC mandi for related hardware, including quality assaying equipment and the creation of infrastructure like cleaning, grading, sorting, packaging, compost unit, etc.


  • The Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN), a Centrally Sponsored Scheme provides one hot cooked meal per day in Government and Government-aided Schools from 2021–2025.
  • The Ministry of Education is carrying out the Scheme.
  • The primary goals is to address two of the most pressing issues facing the majority of children in India, namely hunger and education.
  • It does so by enhancing the nutritional status of eligible students in Government and Government-aided schools and encouraging low-income students from disadvantaged sections to attend school more frequently.


Important Statistics

  • According to UN-India, there are nearly 195 million undernourished people in India, which is a quarter of the world’s hunger burden.
  • Roughly 43% of children in India are chronically undernourished.
  • According to NHFS-4, 38% of children below 5 years are stunted, 21% are wasted and 36% are underweight.
  • According to NHFS -5, The level of stunting among children under five years has marginally declined from 38% to 36% in the country since the last four years. Stunting is higher among children in rural areas (37%) than urban areas (30%) in 2019-21.
  • Compared with NFHS-4, the prevalence of overweight or obesity has increased in most States/UTs in NFHS-5. At the national level, it increased from 21% to 24% among women and 19% to 23% among men.
  • People Below Poverty Line in India decreased to around 22% in 2011-12. The Poverty percentage was calculated using the Tendulkar methodology.
  • India has one-third of the world’s stunted children: Global nutrition report.
  • According to FAO estimates in ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI), 2022” report,  India has high undernourishment (about 16% of the population), wasting (about 17%), stunting (about 31%) and low exclusive breastfeeding practice (only 58%).
  • Global Hunger Index (GHI): India ranked an abysmal 107 out of 121 countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2022. Globally, the progress against hunger has largely stagnated in recent years, with a global score of 18.2 in 2022 as compared to 19.1 in 2014, there is only a slight improvement. However, the 2022 GHI score is still considered “moderate”


  • This is mainly due to a lack of improvement in agricultural productivity owing to inadequate resources and markets needed to obtain agricultural stability.


  • Lack of adequate knowledge due to poor education amongst mothers regarding nutrition, breast-feeding and parenting is another area of concern.
  • For the poorer section of society, lack of adequate education and job opportunities has led to significant economic backwardness that turned into inaccessibility.


  • Low quality of grains and the poor service at PDS shops has further added to the problem.
  • Another important point which might promote food insecurity high cost of food grains which poor sections cannot afford.


  • The Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) has the disadvantage in the sense that those people who are the right candidates for deserving the subsidy are excluded on the basis of non-ownership of below poverty line (BPL) status, as the criterion for identifying a household as BPL is arbitrary and varies from state to state.
  • The often inaccurate classification as above poverty line (APL) and below poverty line (BPL) categories had resulted in a big decline in the off-take of food grains.


  • Although a number of programmes with improving nutrition as their main component are planned in the country, these are not properly implemented.
  • For instance, a number of states have yet to introduce the Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDMS). In states such as Bihar and Orissa where the poverty ratio is very high, poor implementation of nutritional programmes that have proven effectiveness has a significant impact on food security.


The main pathways from agriculture to nutrition are through:

1). Food production

2). Agricultural income

3). Women’s empowerment

A combination of resource efficient methods, dynamic cropping patterns, ICT based climate-smart agriculture can enhance agricultural productivity and sustainability.

  • Enhancing area under cultivation: To ensure food and nutritional security there is need to enhance area under cultivation. It can be achieved through watershed development programme improvement in productivity of various crops, enhancement of groundwater recharge, change in net sown area and irrigated area, increase in cropping intensity and reduction in soil loss.
  • Resource use efficiency: There is need to increase resource efficiency through adoption of appropriate technologies. The development strategy for agriculture should prioritise smallholder agriculture in order to promote sustainable livelihoods and for reduction of poverty in India. There is need to promote use of environment-friendly automated farm machinery tools suited to small scale operations.
  • Increasing Sustainability in Agriculture: Sustainability in agriculture can be done by turning to Organic and Natural Farming. The government has been promoting organic farming in the country through the schemes such as Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY). There is need to proper implementation of these initiatives.
  • Improving Infrastructure and Access to Markets: The informal actors like local traders and input dealers are more prominent in the marketing channels of the smallholder farmers. However, if farmers’ access to markets are improved through better connectivity to nearby mandis, it will help farmers fetch better prices for their agricultural produce. A combination of enhancing rural infrastructure to improve connectivity, Information & Communication Tech-nology (ICT) to provide timely information about prices, aggregation and storage facilities can help small and marginal farmers in overcoming the marketing bottlenecks.
  • Sponsoring research and dissemination of knowledge to farmers: Extending assistance for research and dissemination of knowledge to farmers in collaboration with institutions under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, state agricultural universities and other institution can help develop a sustainable farming operation.
  • Fortification of rice: Rice fortification is found to be a cost-effective strategy to increase vitamin and mineral content in diets with low turnaround time (TAT) and a step towards nutritional security and helps in fighting malnutrition in the country. Government has introduced a scheme for the distribution of fortified rice, containing prescribed micronutrients (Iron, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12) in order to address the problem.

THE CONCLUSION: While Indian agriculture has performed well, the sector needs re-orientation in the backdrop of certain challenges as the health of a country’s agri-food systems determines the health of its people. For a safe and food secure future, the agriculture landscape has to undergo tremendous transformation and shift from the philosophy of ‘green revolution’ led productivity to ‘green methods’ led sustainability in agriculture.


Q.1 Define food security along with its dimensions. Discuss the challenges and steps taken by government in this regard.

Q.2 The real challenge to India’s Agricultural sector is poor food management rather than food production .How it affects food and nutritional security? Explain.

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