TEETERS ON BRINK OF FOOD CRISIS
By Rajeev Ranjan Roy, New Delhi, April 1, 2008 (IANS)
is not the galloping prices of essential commodities alone that
is worrying policy-makers. Availability of food grain is also becoming
a major problem as a result of falling productivity and lower buffer
stocks, experts maintain. The statistics available with the ministry
of food and civil supplies also reflect the precarious situation,
with the buffer stock of both wheat and rice below the minimum level
set by the government.
government needs to be serious to avoid any food crisis," said
P. Chengal Reddy, secretary general of the Consortium of Indian
Farmers Association (CIFA) - a forum that seeks to protect the rights
of farmers at the national level. "The fact that the share
of agriculture in the country's gross domestic product (GDP) has
sharply reduced to 18.5% in 2006-07 from 36.4 % in 1982-83 paints
the real picture," Reddy told IANS.
statistics available with the ministry of food and civil supplies
also reflect the precarious situation, with the buffer stock of
both wheat and rice below the minimum level set by the government.
The stocks of these two commodities available in government warehouses
were 19.2 million tonnes in January against the minimum norm of
20 million tonnes. This is a sharp decline from the level of 24.4
million tonnes in January 2004.
apart, the rate of growth of food grain production actually decelerated
to 1.2% between 1990 and 2007, lower than the annual average population
growth of 1.9%, official data showed. Similarly, the per capita
consumption of cereals declined from a peak of 468 grams per day
in 1990-91 to 412 grams in 2005-06 - a decline of 13% - while for
pulses it came down 27% from 42 grams to 33 grams.
chances of having a food crisis can't be ruled out if the government
does not take corrective measures by increasing the productivity
of farmers," said Devinder Sharma, a food and agriculture policy
analyst. "Since 1987 there has been a yearly increase of two
million tonnes in domestic food grains productivity against the
requirement of seven million tonnes. The gap will spiral out of
control if timely interventions are not made," Sharma said.
situation in the global market is also adding to India's problems
with the Food and Agriculture Organisation successively estimating
a lower production in the past couple of years. This resulted in
prices shooting up further as soon as India entered the market.
In wheat, for example, the weighted import price was $204.7 per
tonne in 2006-07 and shot up to over $400 per tonne the next year.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had sought to raise alarm bells during
his speeches in recent months and said the farm sector was not only
becoming less productive but also dragging India's overall economic
growth. "The next decade is going to be one in which our food
security will be under stress," the prime minister had told
the National Development Council while finalising the Eleventh Five
Year Plan (2007-2012).
the moment, officials in-charge of managing India's food stock -
like Food Corporation of India (FCI) chairperson Alok Sinha - feel
India may not have entered into a crisis situation and hope for
a much higher procurement this season. "There is no food grain
shortage as of now," said Sinha, whose agency is the official
procurer of food grain for the government coffers. "We have
5.5 million tonnes of wheat in the buffer stock against the requirement
of four million tonnes."