Chandigarh: India’s food security is under threat and it could become a net importer by 2020 if the country doesn’t fix stubbornly stagnant production trends, says a new study.
A monograph by agricultural economist H.S. Shergill —Economics of Food Self-Sufficiency—says India’s average per capita availability of cereals declined by 11% to 390.0g in 2005-06 from 442.5g in 1996-97. The study says foodgrain production in India has failed to match the rise in population as well as income rates.
It says that beginning 1996-97, while the Indian population grew by 17%, and per capita real income grew by 55%, cereal production rose by only 10.18%. The mismatch between increase in cereal production and population growth explains the decline in per capita availability of foodgrains.
WIDENING GAP (PDF)
The monograph—published by the Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh in May/June —states that wheat production has stagnated at 69.35 million tonnes (mt) from 1997-2006, while the population grew from 942 million to 1.1 billion. This implies that the per capita availability of wheat actually fell by 14.6%, falling from 73.62kg to 62.87kg.
Quoting figures from the Economic Survey of the Indian government, Shergill says in the study that the per capita per year production of cereals has also declined by 5.9% from 178.64 kg to 167.93 kg.
Shergill, who was earlier a professor of economics at Panjab University in Chandigarh specializing in agriculture economics, says that it is now more than 15 years that food production has not kept pace with demand, and the phenomenon has become evident now.
“The negative trends in per capita production and availability of cereals is likely to continue in the near future,” Shergill says.
He says that all estimates of cereal availability point towards the fact that foodgrain availability will not match demand by 2020. Sourcing his findings on 10 different studies by different scholars, Shergill says the average demand of cereals including wheat, rice and other grains would be 258mt by 2020, while the estimated availability would be only 240mt. Though all estimates vary from each other in making projections, the monograph says that there is a clear and common message conveyed by all of them.
“The message is that by the year 2020, India will be deficit in cereal production and may have to depend on food imports on a regular basis as was the case during the first two-and-a-half decades after independence.” Though all studies vary with each other in postulating production estimates, the variance can be explained by different assumptions regarding the underlying parameters of the demand, Shergill says. He uses an average of all existing estimates to conclude that “maintaining food self-sufficiency in India will be really difficult in the coming years”.