UPSC MAINS 2019: The state of food security and nutrition in the world

The state of food security and nutrition in the world


Topic: The state of food security and nutrition in the world

Topic in Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Indian Economy


The state of food security and nutrition in the world

State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report:

  • The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is an annual flagship report jointly prepared by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • The report used to inform on progress towards ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition and to provide in-depth analysis on key challenges for achieving this goal in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • The report targets a wide audience, including policy-makers, international organizations, academic institutions and the general public.


The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World:

  • The 2017 edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World monitors progress towards ensuring access to food for all (UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 2.1), and putting an end to all forms of malnutrition (SDG Target 2.2).
  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016–2025 call on all countries and stakeholders to act together to end hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
  • This year’s edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World marks the beginning of a regular monitoring of progress towards achieving the food security and nutrition targets set by the 2030 Agenda.
  • For the first time, the report provides two measures of food insecurity.
  • FAO’s traditional indicator of the extent of hunger, the prevalence of undernourishment, is complemented by the prevalence of severe food insecurity, which is estimated based on data collected from adult individuals worldwide using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES).
  • The FIES is a new tool to measure people’s ability to access food, based on direct interviews. In addition, the report assesses the trends for six nutrition indicators: anemia in women of reproductive age, stunting, wasting, and overweight, obesity and levels of exclusive breastfeeding.


Key findings from the report:

  • In 2016 the number of chronically undernourished people in the world is estimated to have increased to 815 million, up from 777 million in 2015 although still down from about 900 million in 2000.
  • After a prolonged decline, this recent increase could signal a reversal of trends. The food security situation has worsened in particular in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, South-Eastern Asia and Western Asia, and deteriorations have been observed most notably in situations of conflict and conflict combined with droughts or floods.
  • The apparent halt to declining hunger numbers is not yet reflected in the prevalence of child stunting, which continues to fall, though the pace of improvement is slower in some regions.
  • Globally, the prevalence of stunting fell from 29.5 percent to 22.9 percent between 2005 and 2016, although 155 million children under five years of age across the world still suffer from stunted growth.
  • Wasting affected one in twelve (52 million) of all children under five years of age in 2016, more than half of whom (27.6 million) live in Southern Asia.
  • Multiple forms of malnutrition coexist, with countries experiencing simultaneously high rates of child under nutrition, anemia among women, and adult obesity. Rising rates of overweight and obesity add to these concerns. Childhood overweight and obesity are increasing in most regions, and in all regions for adults. In 2016, 41 million children under five years of age were overweight.
  • The number of conflicts is also on the rise. Exacerbated by climate-related shocks, conflicts seriously affect food security and are a cause of much of the recent increase in food insecurity.
  • Conflict is a key driver of situations of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines, while hunger and under nutrition are significantly worse where conflicts are prolonged and institutional capacities weak.
  • Addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in conflict-affected situations cannot be “business as usual”. It requires a conflict-sensitive approach that aligns actions for immediate humanitarian assistance, long-term development and sustaining peace.
  • The 2017 report sends a clear warning signal that the ambition of a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030 will be challenging – achieving it will require renewed efforts through new ways of working.


India – Status of food security and nutrition:

  • In India, cereal production recovered markedly after two consecutive bad seasons.
  • Country level prevalence rates for stunting among children under five years of age for India is 38.4%
  • As with most developmental outcomes, stunting prevalence varies markedly between poor and rich households. The stunting rates for the poorest, middle and richest quintiles are 50, 38 and 30 respectively.
  • India is on course and registered good progress towards achieving the target on reducing overweight in children under five years of age.
  • India’s efforts at improving access to food and good nutrition are led by the National Food Security Act. There are special nutritional schemes for women and children operated through the States.
  • In spite of such interventions, 14.5% of the population suffers from undernourishment, going by the UN’s assessment for 2014-16. At the national level, 53% of women are anemic, Health Ministry data show.
  • The Centre and State governments are woefully short on the commitment to end undernourishment.


Food Security in India:

  • In 2017-18, over Rs 1,50,000 crore, or 7.6% of the government’s total expenditure has been allocated for providing food subsidy under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • This allocation is made to the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
  • Food subsidy has been the largest component of the Department’s expenditure (94% in 2017-18), and has increased six-fold over the past 10 years.
  • This subsidy is used for the implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA), which provides subsidized food grains (wheat and rice) to 80 crore people in the country.
  • The NFSA seeks to ensure improved nutritional intake for people in the country.
  • One of the reasons for the six-fold increase in food subsidy is the non-revision of the price at which food grains are given to beneficiaries since 2002. For example, rice is given to families under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana at Rs 3/Kg since 2002, while the cost of providing this has increased from Rs 11/Kg in 2001-02 to Rs 33/Kg in 2017-18.


Food security Issues faced in India:

  • In spite of surplus food-grains stock, it is also a reality that a vast number of people do not have enough money to feed themselves twice a day.
  • Inadequate and improper storage facilities for grains, which are often stored outside under tarps that provide little protection from humidity and pests.
  • Insufficient cold storage and cold chain transportation system is a major cause for fruits, vegetables and other perishable products to rot.
  • Poor roads and inefficient transport systems can cause massive delays. This in turn causes decay of temperature sensitive produce.
  • Limited reach of Mandis, which are currently the point of aggregation for agricultural produce. This poses problems for small farmers who don’t have proper transport facilities at their disposal and have to travel and average of 12 km to the closest Mandi.
  • Multiple layers of middlemen between the farmer and the end consumer, driving up prices and reducing bargaining power and price transparency for the farmers. These intermediaries have led to a cost inflation of ~250% (over the cost of production).
  • Lack of a well-developed agricultural banking sector, which forces formers to take loans with high interest from commission agents.
  • Lack of education and training on new techniques, technologies and agricultural products.
  • There has been a gradual shift from cultivation of food crops to cultivation of fruits, vegetables, oil seeds, and crops which act also as industrial raw materials. This had led to the reduction in net sown area under cereals, millets and pulses.
  • The use of more and more land for construction of factories, ware-houses and shelters has reduced the land under cultivation and now fertile land for farming, is no longer available.
  • The productivity of land has started showing a declining trend. Fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides, which once showed dramatic results, are now being held responsible for reducing fertility of the soil.


Government of India Programmes and Initiatives:

With a five-fold increase in food grain production from 50 million tonnes in 1950-51 to about 250 million tonnes in 2014-15, India has moved away from dependence on food aid to become a net food exporter. In 2016, the government launched a number of programmes to double farmers’ incomes by 2022. These seek to remove bottlenecks for greater agricultural productivity, especially in rain-fed areas.

They include:

  • The National Food Security Mission, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY),
  • The Integrated Schemes on Oilseeds, Pulses, Palm oil and Maize (ISOPOM), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana,
  • The e-marketplace,
  • As well as a massive irrigation and soil and water harvesting programme to increase the country’s gross irrigated area from 90 million hectares to 103 million hectares by 2017.


Mid-day meal scheme:

  • To enhance the enrollment, Mid-day meal scheme logoretention and attendance and simultaneously improve nutritional levels among school going children studying in Classes I to VIII of Government, Government – aided schools, Special Training centres (STC) and Madarasas and Maktabs supported under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.


Anganwadi systems:

  • Anganwadi is a type of rural mother and child care centre in India.
  • They were started by the Indian government in 1985 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services program to combat child hunger and malnutrition.
  • Anganwadi means “courtyard shelter” in Indian languages
  • To provide rations to pregnant and lactating mothers, and subsidised grain for those living below the poverty line.


Public Distribution System: 

  • During September 2013, Parliament passed the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.
  • The NFSA seeks to make the right to food a legal entitlement by providing subsidized food grains to nearly two-thirds of the population.
  • The Act relies on the existing Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) mechanism to deliver these entitlements.
  • This note describes the functioning of the existing TPDS mechanism and the role played by the centre and states.
  • It also explores challenges in the effective implementation of TPDS and alternatives to reform the existing machinery.


National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013:

Salient features of the Act

  • Coverage and entitlement under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS): Up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population will be covered under TPDS, with uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month. However, since Antyodaya AnnaYojana (AAY) households constitute poorest of the poor, and are presently entitled to 35 kg per household per month, entitlement of existing AAY households will be protected at 35 kg per household per month.
  • State-wise coverage: Corresponding to the all India coverage of 75% and 50% in the rural and urban areas respectively, State-wise coverage will be determined by the Central Government. State-wise coverage has been determined by the Planning Commission on the basis of 2011-12 NSSO Household Consumption Expenditure Survey data.
  • Subsidized prices under TPDS and their revision: Food grains under TPDS will be made available at subsidized prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains for a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act. Thereafter prices will be suitably linked to Minimum Support Price (MSP).
  • In case, any State’s allocation under the proposed legislation is lower than their current allocation, it will be protected upto the level of average off take during last three years under normal TPDS, at prices to be determined by the Central Government. Existing prices for APL households i.e. Rs. 6.10 per kg for wheat and Rs 8.30 per kg for rice has been determined as issue prices for the additional allocation to protect the average off take.
  • Identification of Households: Within the coverage under TPDS determined for each State, the work of identification of eligible households is to be done by States/UTs.
  • Nutritional Support to women and children: Pregnant women and lactating mothers and children in the age group of 6 months to 14 years will be entitled to meals as per prescribed nutritional norms under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) schemes. Higher nutritional norms have been prescribed for malnourished children upto 6 years of age.
  • Maternity Benefit: Pregnant women and lactating mothers will also be entitled receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000 as per scheme to be formulated by the Central government.
  • Women Empowerment: Eldest woman of the household of age 18 years or above will be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing of ration cards.
  • Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels. States will have the flexibility to use the existing machinery or set up separate mechanism.
  • Cost of intra-State transportation & handling of food grains and FPS Dealers’ margin: Central Government will provide assistance to States in meeting the expenditure incurred by them on transportation of food grains within the State, its handling and FPS dealers‟ margin as per norms to be devised for this purpose.
  • Transparency and Accountability: Provisions have been made for disclosure of records relating to PDS, social audits and setting up of Vigilance Committees in order to ensure transparency and accountability.
  • Food Security Allowance: Provision for food security allowance to entitled beneficiaries in case of non-supply of entitled food grains or meals.
  • Penalty: Provision for penalty on public servant or authority, to be imposed by the State Food Commission, in case of failure to comply with the relief recommended by the District Grievance Redressal Officer


Way Ahead

  • Implementing measures to improve agricultural productivity and food storage.
  • Ensuring food availability and accessibility to below poverty line (BPL) candidates.
  • Improving purchasing power through employment generating schemes.
  • Crop diversification, establishing food grain banks and promoting household gardening.
  • Community awareness through IEC activities and social marketing.
  • Monitoring and timely evaluation of nutritional programmes.
  • Community participation and inter-sectoral coordination.


Sample Question:

India’s efforts at improving access to food and good nutrition are led by the National Food Security Act, critically evaluate the statement and discuss the special nutritional schemes for women and children by Government.