State of food insecurity

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SOFI report

Mains level : Paper 2- Rising food insecurity

Context

The latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, released jointly by five UN organisations in July, reveals that the pandemic and failure on the part of state to combat its effects, has led to a significant increase in the prevalence of hunger and food insecurity in the country.

About the report

  • Estimates on food insecurity presented in the SOFI report are based on two globally-accepted indicators of food insecurity:
  • 1) The Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU), which estimates the proportion of people suffering from chronic deficiency of calories.
  • 2) A more recently developed an experience-based indicator called the Prevalence of Moderate and Severe Food Insecurity (PMSFI).
  • The PoU estimates are based on estimates of per-capita supply of food and distributional parameters estimated using the national consumption surveys
  • On the other hand, PMSFI estimates are based on data collected through surveys that attempt to capture people’s experiences of food insecurity (such as eating less, modifying diet to eat cheaper food etc).
  • No assessment of food insecurity during a pandemic: The PMSFI estimates presented in the report are particularly important because, since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Indian government has not undertaken any official assessment of food insecurity in the country.
  • Not only has the government not conducted its own consumption or food security surveys, it does not approve the publication of results based on the Gallup World Poll.
  • As a result, estimates for India are not published in the SOFI reports.
  • However, these can still be obtained indirectly because the data are presented for South Asia and for “South Asia (excluding India)”.
  • Estimates for India can be obtained by comparing the two sets of data.

What the report says

  • According to the data presented in the report, the prevalence of moderate to severe food insecurity in India rose by about 6.8 percentage points in 2018-20.
  • Data show that there were about 43 crore of moderate to severe food-insecure people in India in 2019.
  • As a result of the pandemic-related disruptions, this increased to 52 crore in one year.
  • In terms of prevalence rates, moderate to severe food insecurity increased from about 31.6 per cent in 2019 to 38.4 per cent in 2021.

Causes of food insecurity in India

  • Economic distress: The problems of hunger and food insecurity are grave in India because of widespread economic distress, high unemployment and high levels of inequality.
  • Dependence on informal economy: A large proportion of the poor is dependent on the informal economy in which incomes are too low and uncertain.
  • Unemployment: Unemployment rates have risen sharply over the last few years, shrinking public investment and the economic slowdown have compounded the distress among working classes and the peasantry.
  • With low and uncertain incomes, families dependent on the informal economy do not have assured access to adequate and nutritious food.

Way forward

  • Monitoring system: There is an urgent need for the government to establish systems for regular monitoring of the food security situation in the country.
  • Universal access to food: It is ironic that the country with the largest stock of grain in the world — 120 million tonnes as of July 1, 2021 — accounts for a quarter of the world’s food-insecure population.
  • Universalising access to the public distribution system is the need of the hour at least during the pandemic.

Conclusion

The increasing severity of food insecurity in India points to the urgent need for measures by the government to ensure the right to food of citizens of India.

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