By Sunil Madan and Badri Narayanan Goplakrishanan
Access to safe and nutritious food has been a fundamental concern of governments since ancient times. As far back as the Zhou dynasty in China, emperors who failed to address famines risked losing their legitimacy to rule. Also, during the Cold War, the United States strategically decided to implement initiatives to increase food accessibility for its allies. In ancient times, it was common practice for the Romans to seize food from areas with ample resources, such as Egypt. Following the death of Cleopatra in 30 BCE, Egypt was vulnerable to the Roman conquest, and the Romans took advantage of this opportunity. For centuries, they conquered the kingdom and exploited its resources, particularly its abundant grain supply. Due to its vital role in supplying grain, the region became known as “The Breadbasket.”
These examples underscore the critical link between food access and national security. It was highlighted again on October 9th, when the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the World Food Program the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its efforts to combat hunger. The Committee explicitly noted the relationship between hunger, conflict, and peace, praising the WFP for its role in improving conditions for peace in areas affected by conflict and for its leadership in preventing hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.
India’s population has reached 1.408 billion and is expected to surpass China this year. Agriculture is essential in ensuring that India achieves its national food security goal. With over 70% of the population engaged in agriculture-related activities, it is the backbone of India’s economy. National Food Security can be ensured by strengthening the agricultural sector with improved farm practices, increased production yields, and better access to market opportunities.
National Security Advisor of India Ajit Doval stressed the importance of food security for national security during his speech at the 34th convocation of the GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology. He pointed out that China, despite having less land for farming than India, produces more food grains. Doval urged more efforts to increase farm productivity, saying that addressing national security is crucial.
According to the Global Food Security Index 2022, India has a prevalence of undernutrition of 16.3%. Further, 30.9% of children in India are stunted, 33.4% are underweight, and 3.8% are obese. India’s Human Development Index is 0.65.
As per International Food Security Assessment, 2022–32, GFA-33 USDA, Economic Research Service, India, because of its population size, tends to influence food insecurity trends distinctly, estimated to 333.5 million or 65 percent account of the food insecure population in 2022-23. By the next decade, the number of food-insecure people in India is projected to decrease to 24.7 million or 1.7 percent.
India’s population, with the expectation that inflation will relax and supply chain issues will resolve, food production and affordability are expected to increase primarily through price support and procurement and consumer food availability through subsidized and extra grain distribution. This further leads to fewer food-insecure people in India. The predicted higher income prospects are projected to result in a marked improvement in the country’s food security metrics.
National Food Security plays a vital role in economic development, poverty alleviation, and the population’s security by supplying nutritional sustenance and improving the livelihoods of vulnerable people in India. With improved agriculture production and distribution mechanisms, National Food Security helps India’s economy to achieve more significant growth and stability, thus contributing to National Security.
The Government of India has initiated several programs, such as the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013, to help tackle hunger and malnutrition. This legislation ensures access to affordable and good-quality food by subsidizing food grains to those below the poverty line. This Act is considered one of the central Government’s most important steps to ensure National Food Security in India. This act ensures access to subsidized food grains for about 810 million people and provides meals for pregnant women, children below six years, and lactating mothers under National Nutrition Mission. The Act has helped reduce hunger and malnutrition among vulnerable populations and improve access to food for those struggling with poverty.
The National Food Security Mission is another critical program that has been instrumental in increasing agricultural production and improving soil productivity. The mission was launched in 2007 as a Central Sector Scheme (CSS) to increase food production and productivity through area expansion and productivity enhancement interventions in rice, wheat, pulses, oilseeds, etc. In addition, to ensure the proportional availability of food items in different states, the Government of India launched National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) platform as an online marketplace for farmers to trade their products without geographical boundaries. Additionally, the Government introduced the National Food Processing Mission to promote agri-based industries for efficient use of farm produce and reduce post-harvest losses.
The Government has also taken several steps to ensure the availability and accessibility of food resources through increasing agricultural production and improving distribution networks. The Government has implemented various policies such as Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for Agricultural products, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) to provide crop insurance against natural calamities, and National Horticulture Mission, etc. to bring improved Agriculture Production and Distribution.
National Food Security is critical for National Security as it ensures that no citizen is deprived of access to food and nutrition, thereby allowing them to actively engage in economic activities and other socially beneficial pursuits. These measures and others have helped India achieve National Food Security and National Security by supplying access to a nutritious diet at affordable prices. This has eventually led to improved economic growth, poverty alleviation, and better health outcomes in the country. National security also depends on the balanced distribution and consumption of food commodities nationwide. Further, National Food Security is vital for achieving National Security as it has far-reaching implications for economic prosperity and social welfare and ensures everyone can access nutritious food to meet their daily needs.
What are the Challenges of Food Security in India?
Several factors, including poverty, inadequate infrastructure such as inaccessible roads, lack of modern storage technologies, and limited access to credit, challenge food security in India. Poor agricultural practices like over-cultivation and excessive use of pesticides have led to decreased soil fertility. The extreme weather conditions due to climate change have also caused crop failures and food shortages. Other challenges include inefficient supply chain networks, poor market infrastructure, and fragmented landholdings, which impact production and distribution systems.
To achieve National Food Security in India, it is essential to address these issues efficiently. This can be done by investing adequately in agriculture production systems and research, improving storage facilities for perishable commodities, providing efficient transportation networks for distributing food products across the country, and encouraging farmers to practice modern agriculture techniques.
To achieve National Food Security, it is essential to increase agriculture production and distribution. The Government should prioritize agricultural development by investing in modern irrigation systems, agricultural research, improved market infrastructure, and efficient transportation networks for distribution. This will help increase the food supply and reduce its price in the market, thus making it accessible to everyone.
Investments should also be made in awareness campaigns so that people can understand the importance of National Food Security and National Security and how they are interconnected. National Food Security helps build resilience against global shocks such as pandemics, wars, or natural disasters by ensuring an adequate food supply is available during crises.
Finally, National Food Security has the potential to contribute to India’s economic stability significantly. Increasing agricultural production and improving distribution networks would lead to increased employment opportunities and improved incomes for farmers, which would eventually result in higher GDP growth and better living standards for citizens.
National Food Security ensures the availability of adequate food for everyone in the country and thereby helps in achieving overall inclusive development. Overall, National Food Security is crucial for National Security in India as it provides its people stability, growth, and assurance of food resources. National Food Security is also essential for India’s economic growth since its population depends on agriculture production and distribution for their livelihoods. Thus, National Food Security should be given due importance by all stakeholders so that National Security can be achieved.
(The authors Sunil Madan is from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University, and Badri Narayanan Goplakrishanan is fellow and former head, trade, commerce, and strategic economic dialogue, NITI Aayog, Government of India.)