Food Security

The proposed Food Security Act has the potential to raise global food prices and significantly increase India’s food subsidy bill. The government intends to table a piece of legislation which aims at ensuring food security for 75 % rural households and 50 % urban ones, covering both below and above the poverty line families. If there is a drop in procurement, it has to make imports to meet the commitment in the legislation. It may cause a sharp rise in the global food prices. In the past, India imported at high prices. Global food prices are closely linked with production around the world. India had entered the global market in 2009 when it had to import at high prices. The costs involved in implementing the security plan pose a challenge. Monitoring and implementing provisions of the proposed Act will be a huge obstacle for government machinery. It will put a great strain on government agencies. This year a record amount of grains has been procured but in the past 10 years it was below expectation. The total requirement to implement the plan will be about 61 million tonnes. In 1972-73, Indira Gandhi nationalised the wholesale trade in food grains but because of market chaos, the decision had to be reversed.All this ignores some facts. The delivery system in India is so bad that distribution to the proposed number of families may not be possible. Besides, food security covers only food grains. Man does not live by cereals alone. A mosaic of complexities arises from varying food habits, varying quantity of intakes in different economic classes and finally the problem of ensuring that food provided is nutritious. Pricing is another factor. Malnutrition is as serious as starvation. The proposed Act will be a step in the right direction but only a step.

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