A hungry nation proudly exports food


Devinder Sharma writes:

On the day that Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was brimming with excitement over possibilities of enhancing food exports, three UN organisations – Food and Agricultural Organisation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food programme — came out with its annual State for Food Insecurity report. Accordingly, with 217 million malnourished people, India tops the malnourishment chart. As far as child nutrition is concerned, India is placed at the bottom of the global chart. 

The number of hungry and malnourished in India almost equals the entire population of America

While on the one hand India is pushing its agricultural exports, on the other nearly 320 million people go to bed hungry. The number of hungry and malnourished in India almost equals the entire population of America. When it comes to malnutrition, several studies have pointed out that nearly 43.5 per cent of children under five are underweight. India fares worst than even sub-Saharan Africa. According to the 2011 Global Hunger Index India ranks 67 among 81 countries, sliding below Rwanda.The 2012 Global Hunger Index prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute. Welt Hunger Hilfe and Concern Worldwide have ranked India 65th among 79 countries. India’s ranking in the hunger chart therefore sees no change between 2011 and 2012. 

More people are going to bed hungry

With the per capita availability of foodgrains – including cereals and pulses – sliding to 441 grams per day in 2010, from a high of 480 grams in 1991 when economic reforms began, it is quite evident that hunger is actually growing. Although an impression is being given that as incomes are seeing a rising trend, more people have shifted from cereals to nutritious foods like eggs, meat and fruits. This is however not correct. According to a 2010 report of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), the consumption of cereals as well as nutritious foods like fruits, milk and eggs too is falling in urban and rural areas. Despite the rapid economic growth, per capita calorie consumption is steadily on the decline. The 2007 NSSO too had pointed to the same trend in falling consumption of both cereals as well as nutritious products . . .

In other words, hunger is becoming more acute and visible. More and more people are going to bed hungry. I therefore don’t understand the logic of exporting food at a time when millions are living in hunger. The mounting food surplus is essentially because the poor and needy are unable to buy foodgrains even at below the poverty line prices.

Opening up the export of wheat (it is banned at present) India will certainly join the ranks of the major food exporters, and in the process earn some foreign exchange. But the bigger question remains as to who will feed the hungry living within the country? 

There can be nothing more criminal for any hungry nation to export its staple food.

Read the whole article by Devinder Sharma in Ground Reality

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