[Answered] Critically analyze India’s current challenges in achieving food security. How do these challenges extend beyond mere food production to encompass broader socio-economic and environmental concerns?

Introduction: Give brief context to the question

Body: Highlight challenges in achieving food security

Conclusion: Way forward

India faces several critical challenges in achieving food security, and these challenges extend far beyond mere food production as shown in the recent National Family Health Survey, 2019-21, 35% of children are stunted, and 57% of women and 25% of men are anaemic. On the other end, due to imbalanced diets and sedentary lifestyles, 24% of adult women and 23% of adult men are now obese.

Challenges in achieving food security

  • Food Loss & Wastage: From manufacturing to consumption, a large proportion of food is lost or wasted at several points throughout the supply chain. This waste has an impact on the environment in addition to the availability of food.
  • Inadequate Food Production: India continues to have difficulties with food production despite significant advancements. Insufficient food production is the outcome of low agricultural productivity brought on by antiquated farming methods, restricted access to contemporary technologies, and inadequate irrigation infrastructure.
  • Unequal Distribution: Accessibility to food and unequal distribution are serious problems. There are parts of India where there is food excess, but there are also places where there is starvation and malnutrition. Poor planning, insufficient infrastructure, and socioeconomic differences are frequently the causes of this inequality.

Challenges that encompass broader socio-economic and environmental concerns

  • Land Fragmentation: Smaller landholdings result from land fragmentation brought on by population increase and land inheritance, which reduces the economic viability of agriculture and may jeopardize food security.
  • Poverty and Affordability: A significant portion of India’s population lives in poverty, making access to nutritious food a challenge. High food prices, coupled with inadequate incomes, result in food insecurity for many.
  • Depleting natural resources: The food production of India is becoming increasingly vulnerable due to the depletion of natural resources and climate change. Nearly half of India’s arable land is now lacking in organic carbon, a crucial sign of healthy soil, as reported in the 2023 soil health survey. The main source of irrigation, groundwater, is running out quickly as in Punjab.

Conclusion

There should be a focus on shifting healthy and sustainable diets with the help of civil society, the health community, and social media influencers. National Mission on Natural Farming can support farmers’ transition towards remunerative and regenerative agricultural practices ensuring an increase in income for farmers. Agriculture support should move from input subsidies to direct cash support to farmers promoting efficient use of inputs. Finally, the need is to strengthen Farmer Producer Organisations FPO to procure directly from farmers and use agri-tech startups to enhance the value addition of agricultural produce in rural areas. Food security is not solely about producing enough food but also about ensuring equitable access, nutritional quality, and long-term sustainability.

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