Perspectives on Food Policies in India

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Perspectives on Food Policies in India

Elsevier Reference Module in Food Science

India has progressed from being a food deficit country in the 1950s to becoming self- sufficient in food. While this can be hailed as a great achievement, the country needs a futuristic vision with a long-term perspective in policy making in order to ensure food and nutritional security for the billion- strong population through an environmentally sustainable, governed by science and evidence-based regulations, and a market- driven, globally competitive agribusiness sector.

To formulate such strategies, a neutral analysis of the implications of the wide array of direct and indirect food policies is a must.

Policies that are skewed and favor few key crops such as rice and wheat distort the markets since these are primarily policy driven while the other crop sectors including animal feed raw materials and horticultural crops are market or demand driven.

Hence, there is a clear need to align the policies with market forces and complement them. Apart from the existing appropriate support mechanisms such as farm credit availability and procurement, other sufficient support measures including marketing opportunities beyond government agencies are certainly needed.

Policies that prevent the involvement of private players in sourcing directly from farmers need to be reviewed.

Investments in agro- processing infrastructure and value addition are some of the factors that chronically affect the agricultural sector where reforms are indeed long due.

It is critical to give due importance to balanced nutrition through an alignment of the food production sector with conducive policies since India's unique strength is its demographic dividend of having a median age of under 30 by the turn of the next decade.

Cheaper carbohydrates will eventually replace the consumption of protein when the prices of the latter rise abnormally. It could possibly be one of the reasons behind the emergence of a diabetes epidemic in the country.

Also, there is a clear need to ensure these policies are holistic, predictable, transparent, inclusive, and help create an enabling environment. In order to achieve progress, the policy-making process must ensure a balanced perspective is maintained through stakeholder involvement, ensuring sufficient representation of groups with or without organized bargaining power (e.g., farmers, private sector, civil society, and government).

All it requires are a vision beyond the vested interests and vote-bank concerns; a strong political will to make concerted efforts to increase investments in R&D and infrastructure across the value chain; and the promotion and introduction of conducive and balanced policies that are based on a holistic understanding of the realities of the agri-food sector on the ground.

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