Skip to main content

Wasting food? India ranks 100th among 119 countries in Hunger Index


By Moin Qazi*
India produces enough food to meet the needs of its entire population, and has at its disposal arable land that has the potential to produce food surplus for export. Yet, it is unable to feed millions of its people, especially women and children. India ranks 100th among 119 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2017, where it has consistently ranked poorly. Indeed, the world’s zero-hunger goal appears to be slipping further into the future rather than getting ever closer.
Imagine a land mass greater than China. Now imagine that land is only used to produce food. Then suppose all the crops and produce from those 2.5bn acres are not eaten and left to rot. Imagine all of that – and you get an idea of the amount of food the world wastes every year. It is almost a third of the world’s . In terms of weight, it adds up to around 1.3bn tonnes. The case for action becomes even stronger when we consider that 1 in 9 people are malnourished worldwide.
Despite the fact that every twelfth Indian has to sleep on an empty stomach, the country wastes food worth a whopping Rs 58,000 crores in a year, about seven percent of its total food production. It is lost during harvest, or on the journey from farm to markets- in essence in production, processing, retailing and consumption Lack of cooling facilities is the major reason for crops perishing after harvest.
As you trudge through the mire of any government-run food auction yard, or mandi, you will find piles of supposedly fresh produce lying everywhere, rotting in the sun and competing with mangy dogs and scampering mice for your attention. A lack of education on post-harvest practices often results in poor quality control and food being damaged during handling. Better processing and recycling can feed 11 per cent of the world’s population.
One of the major ways of enhancing food security in India is by simply controlling wastage. . India is the second-largest producer of vegetables and fruits, but about 25-30 percent of it is wasted due to inadequate logistical support, lack of refrigerated storage, supply chain bottlenecks, poor transport and underdeveloped marketing channels. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) puts this figure at around 40 percent, worth around $8.3 billion.
Twenty-one million metric tonnes of wheat, which is almost equal to Australia’s annual production, rots each year due to improper storage. According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce, the country experiences a post-harvest loss of Rs 2 lakh crores annually. Less than 4 percent of India’s fresh produce is transported by cold-chains, compared to more than 90 percent in the UK. Better cold storage, improved infrastructure and education about food handling could help transform this situation.
The World Bank recently stated that nearly 60 percent of the country’s food subsidies do not reach the poor; they are syphoned off by the middlemen. Reforming the faltering public distribution system which mainly supplies subsidised grain to the poor and modernizing other areas, such as computerization of outlets and satellite control over the movement of transport vehicles can go a long way in plugging the leakages.
The Food Corporation of India (FCI) was set up in 1964 to offer impetus to price support systems, encourage nationwide distribution and maintain sufficient buffer of staples like wheat and rice but its performance has been woefully inadequate, in comparison to the needs of the country. Around one percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) gets shaved off annually in the form of food waste. The FCI has neither a warehouse capacity nor the manpower to manage this humongous stockpile of foodgrains.
Every year, the government purchases millions of tonnes of grain from the farmers to ensure that they get a good price for their produce, for numerous food subsidy programmes and to maintain an emergency buffer. The cruel truth, however, is that most of the produce is left out in the open, vulnerable to rain and attacks by rodents or stored in makeshift spaces, covered by tarpaulin sheets, thus increasing the chances of spoilage. Several countries are now using metal grain silos to guard against fungus attacks on the grain stock.
It is estimated that one million tonnes of onions vanish on their way from farms to markets, as do 2.2 million tonnes of tomatoes. Tomatoes get squished if they are packed into jute sacks. Overall, five million eggs crack or go bad due to lack of cold storage. Just three states of India—Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana—grow most of India’s grains and the food has to be transported to far-flung areas.
A study undertaken by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (2013) highlights that the underlying cause of post-harvest loss in the country is due to the lack of infrastructure for short-term storage, particularly at the farm level, as well as the lack of intermediate processing in the production catchments. If there are no proper roads linking fields to markets, farmers cannot easily sell their surplus produce, which may then spoil before it can be eaten. Improving road and rail capacity enables farmers to reach buyers and likewise, fertilisers and other agricultural inputs to reach farmers.
The Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, has uncovered that only 10 percent of the perishable produce has access to cold storage facilities in India. These are mostly used for potatoes to meet India’s robust demand for chips. This, along with inappropriate supply chain management, has resulted in India becoming a significant contributor to food wastage both at pre and post-harvest levels. The study estimates that India needs storage facilities for another 370 million metric tonnes of perishable produce.
Added to the wastage of food, there is a depletion of precious resources involved in its production. According to the United Nations, India is estimated to use more than 230 cubic kilometres of fresh water annually, for producing food items that will be ultimately wasted. To put this into context, this amount of water is enough to provide drinking water to 100 million people every year. Besides this, nearly 300 million barrels of oil used in the process are also ultimately wasted.
Despite being the world’s largest banana producer, India holds just 0.3 percent share of the global banana market. Production is fragmented compared to the large-scale commercial farms of its competitors, with small-hold farmers having little business or technical support.
The cost of delivering energy to remote, rural regions for running storage facilities is also quite steep and this means that even when storage facilities are built, they may not be able to function.
In recent years, numerous initiatives and interventions have been undertaken by the Indian government, and local and international actors to target food loss and wastage across the agricultural value chain. For instance, the Indian government is seeking to streamline and modernise agricultural value chains, through reformation of the PDS to reduce the waste and loss associated with the distribution and storage of foodgrains. The government is also extending support for the setting up of cold chain projects whereby 138 cold chain projects have been installed.
Studies have also indicated that on-farm interventions can also contribute towards reducing food losses and waste. For instance, a pilot study sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has revealed food loss reductions of around 60 percent during field trials, testing low-cost storage techniques and handling practices. Another study, undertaken in Punjab, which focused on the harvesting of ‘Kinnow’ (a citrus fruit), demonstrated how on-farm food losses decreased from ten percent to only two percent when a combination of harvesting techniques was used.
India has developed some modern supply chains linked to food processing companies, such as NestlĂ©, Pepsi, Unilever and Del Monte but these handle only a fraction of the country’s perishable food produce.
India needs to mobilise large-scale investments in cold storage methods, refrigerated transport and other modern logistics to modernise its food supply chain. Apart from this a strong will by the political class and an imaginative thinking on the part of the policy-makers is needed.

*Development expert

Comments

TRENDING

Abrogation of Art 370: Increasing alienation, relentless repression, simmering conflict

One year after the abrogation by the Central Government of Art. 370 in Kashmir, what is the situation in the Valley. Have the promises of peace, normalcy and development been realised? What is the current status in the Valley? Here is a detailed note by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties , “Jammu & Kashmir: One Year after Abrogation of Art. 370: Increasing Alienation, Relentless Repression, Simmering Conflict”:

Repeated failure to appoint Chief, other commissioners undermining RTI Act

By Anjali Bhardwaj, Amrita Johri* The post of the Chief Information Commissioner of the Central Information Commission (CIC) has fallen vacant with the retirement of Bimal Julka with effect from August 27, 2020. This is the fifth time in the last six years that the Commission has been rendered headless. Four posts of information commissioners are also vacant in the CIC. Currently more than 35,000 appeals and complaints are pending in the commission resulting in citizens having to wait for months, even years for their cases to be disposed, thereby frustrating peoples’ right to know. Since May 2014, not a single commissioner of the CIC has been appointed without citizens having to approach courts. The failure of the government to make timely appointments of commissioners is a flagrant violation of the directions of the Supreme Court. In its February 2019 judgment, the apex court had categorically stated that if the CIC does not have a Chief Information Commissioner or required strength

Sunil Gavaskar, G Viswanath rated Andy Roberts best fast bowler they ever faced

By Harsh Thakor  The West Indies pace quartet or battery of the 1970’s and 1980’s truck terror to deliver a knockout punch, like never in cricket history. One was reminded of bomber raiding an airbase or a combing operation. Andy Roberts was the pioneer in orchestrating or propelling the most fiery and lethal pace bowling attack ever in the history of the game. Simply the godfather of Modern West Indies fast bowlers. He spearheaded the pack from the mid 1970’s .Without Andy the talent of Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft would never have blossomed.Michael Holding credits Andy for shaping his great bowling career, by infusing vital elements.

Adivasi land rights question in Telugu states: Digitization process without transparency?

By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao  This paper examines whether the Land Records Modernization Program initiated by the successive governments in Telugu States is beneficial to tribals in the Scheduled Areas in the light of special protective Land laws that are in force there. Digitization process or regularization of land records or land surveys without transparency will result in disempowerment of Adivasis. This can be tested in the case of Adivasis in the Scheduled Areas of Telugu States. British colonialism, through its land revenue policy and elaborate exploitative bureaucratic structure, made land alienable on a large scale especially in tribal areas. 1 Land and the forest produce remain the main source of tribals’ livelihood; but availability of land is restricted by forest reservation on the one hand, and non-tribal encroachment on the other. 2 In the Andhra Area, there were certain laws including the Agency Tracts Interest and Land Transfer Act, 1917 that existed before the inaugurati

Ultimate champion in crisis, arguably best ever skipper: Created history in Aussie cricket

By Harsh Thakor  In the history of cricket few cricketers knit and propelled a cricket team or had such profound influence on the game as Ian Chappell. Ian Chappell was responsible for converting a bunch of talented individuals into a world beating side, giving a dramatic turn to Australian cricket. Few cricketers ever led such a renaissance.

Largest democracy in world has become weakest at hands of fascist Hindutva forces

Note on “The Nazification of India”, a report released By Justice For All: *** This report, the Nazification of India, compares how Hindutva ideology not only is inspired by Nazis and Fascists of Europe, but their treatment of the Muslim minority closely follows developments that resulted in pushing Jews to the gas chambers. Situation is indeed quite alarming. The report says that the largest democracy in the world has become the weakest at the hands of the fascist Hindutva ideology. India today is ruled not just by a political party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but its mother organization the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Because the BJP’s government policies are linked to extra-legal enforcement by RSS paramilitary street power, this report has coined the term “The BJP-RSS regime” to reflect their intrinsic links and collaborative relationship. The Nazification of India report marks the anniversary of the Gujarat pogroms of 2002 against Muslims which propelled the BJP-RSS

BSF's unconstitutional, whimsical order violates life, livelihood of Dalits, minorities

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission: *** I want to attract your attention towards the illegitimate restrictions on the life and livelihood of the villagers of Paschim Sahebganj village under Dinhata - II Block and Sahebganj police station in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal by the Border Security Force personnel attached with Dharala Border Out Post under 138 Battalion BSF. The population of Paschim Sahebganj village is around 1480, where almost 75 percent of the villagers belong from Hindu Scheduled Caste (Dalit) and 25 percent from minority Muslim backgrounds.The main occupation of the villagers is agriculture. About 260 acres of cultivable land in the village that belongs to the villagers is located outside the border fencing, which is heavily guarded by the Border Security Force (BSF). The BSF regulates the ingress and egress of the villagers to their fields through the fencing gates that a

Varanasi social worker who has devoted her life for the ultra-poor and the marginalized

Passion Vista and its partners profile Founder and Managing Trustee Shruti Nagvanshi as  someone whom women leaders look up to: *** Shruti Nagvanshi, a social worker and human rights activist based in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, has devoted her life to reaching out to the ultra-poor and marginalized communities in India. Born in Dashashwmedh, Varanasi on 2 January 1974, she married Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi on 22 February 1992 and has a son, Kabeer Karunik, a Business management Graduate who is also a national level snooker player.

An approach to lake/pond restoration by Ramveer Tanvar, Pond Man of India

By Monami Bhattacharya*, Mansee Bal Bhargava**  Lakes/ ponds are often referred to as an elixir of life, a living ecosystem that adds incremental value to the larger biota. Across the tropical landscape of the country lakes/ ponds are a common sight. Lakes/ponds have always shaped the life and livelihood of those dwelling in and around it. The dependence of the local population on these natural resources of water is noticeable since time immemorial. However, they are fading fast in both rural and urbanscapes from the popular parlance with the advance of humanity. It has been a popular notion to value land more than the waterscape and hence these nurturers of life are under stress in several areas. In many instances, these once beautiful waterscapes referred as the ‘Eye of the Earth’ are mostly now only dilapidated garbage dump yards emitting foul smell with no sign of a healthy ecosystem.

Urban crisis: Impact of erosion of democratic framework on Indian cities

By IMPRI Team  On 13th February, 2023, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi in collaboration with ActionAid Association India arranged a book launch followed by lecture series under the title “India’s G20 Presidency & the Urban Agenda for the Developing Countries”. The event was held in Indian International Centre (IIC) Annex, New Delhi. The event began with the book inauguration session, under the honorary presence of Mr Sitaram Yechury, former Rajya Sabha member and General Secretary, CPI (M), accompanied by Mr Sandeep Chachra, executive director, ActionAid Association India. Session 1 | Book Launch: ‘Cities in Transition’ by Mr Tikender Singh Panwar The book launched was “Cities in Transition”, written by Mr Tikender Singh Panwar, former Deputy Mayor, Shimla and a Senior Fellow at IMPRI. Beginning with brief remarks on his book, Mr Panwar outlined the basic subject matter and the purpose behind writing the book, which he considers as a by-product of his experien