Despite being one of the world’s largest producers of essential agricultural commodities such as rice, wheat, milk, and sugarcane, India faces a staggering hunger crisis affecting millions of its population. The alarming situation was highlighted at the Commodity Trading Week in Singapore, where a representative of global agribusiness Bunge stated, “Hunger is the biggest problem in India.”
India ranks as the second-largest food producer globally in terms of calorie content. However, the recently published Global Hunger Index positioned the country at 111 out of 125 nations, categorizing India’s hunger level as “serious.” With a population of 1.4 billion, India accounts for a quarter of the world’s undernourished and hosts over 190 million hungry individuals.
The key challenges contributing to this crisis include poor logistics and supply chains, resulting in almost 40% postharvest losses for some products due to inadequate infrastructure. The lack of a robust supply chain and logistics system hampers the efficient distribution of food, exacerbating the hunger problem.
Logistical setbacks and inefficient food distribution systems are compounded by erratic weather conditions, heavy regulations, and a lack of education and training for farmers. Postharvest losses occur when food grains rot in warehouses or expire due to a lack of cold storage facilities for perishable items.
India’s rising middle class, demanding better quality food, adds to the complexity of the issue. The need for food security becomes crucial as the middle class is expected to seek more food, including higher protein intake.
While India is a top producer of milk and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, vegetables, and fruit, the government has implemented protectionist measures due to volatile supplies and price movements. The bans on exports of onions, sugar, and non-basmati white rice, among others, have been enforced to control domestic prices.
As India approaches upcoming elections, there is hope that the government will address the food ecosystem’s challenges. Analysts suggest that the interim budget might include measures to support the rural and farming community, considering the sector’s disruptions caused by unpredictable weather conditions and incipient inflationary pressures. The hunger crisis in India underscores the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to ensure food security for millions of its citizens.