the second populous country with an estimated 1.2 billion people and third
largest economy by Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Indian economy has grown in the recent decades. However, despite economic
growth and self-sufficiency in food grains production, malnutrition, poverty
and food insecurity still persist in India.
to a report by Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), more than 230 million
people are undernourished, which is 21 percent of the country's population.
India is a home for world's largest number of people affected by
hunger. The country, which is largest in terms of farmers and rural population,
has about one-quarter of the world's food insecure people.
In a report on food security, the United Nations said that the poor
and hungry may have failed to benefit from the overall growth in India.
While the Indian economy has grown in the past decades, the average
daily calorie consumption
per capita has been falling since the 1970's. The daily calorie consumption in
rural India has reduced from 2,266 calories a day in 1972 -73 to 2,020 a day in
2009 to 10. In urban areas, there has been a largely downward trend from 2,107
calories a day in 1972-73 to 1,946 in 2009-10.
Many voluntary reasons lie behind the decline in calorie intake.
Majority of Indians are spending more money on essential expenses like
education, healthcare and transportation. As these costs are growing and
incomes not keeping pace, people are spending less on food. Many people have
voluntarily reduced their calorie consumption even though their incomes have
increased because they don't need as much food.
Majority of the Indians are moving out from physically demanding
agricultural work to more sedentary occupations in factories and services.
Rise in food prices also directly affects the calorie intake. The
negative price effect on cereals, vegetables and fruits also affects calorie
demand negatively. Food prices influence choice of commodities directly through
own-price effects as well as through substitutions induced by cross-price
As a country's economy grows, the trend is that people eat less
rice, wheat and other cereals. Instead they choose high caloric costlier food.
But Indians, including the poor are consuming less cereal and aren't increasing
National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data, despite rising wages, Indians have not been meeting the
recommended calorie requirements set back in 1972 by the planning commission of
2,400 calories per person a day in rural areas and 2,100 calories per person a
day in urban areas.
In the recent years, Indian agricultural markets have witnessed
considerable transformation with large grains in production and productivity.
Calorie intake has been falling across expenditure declines, even
among the poorest Indians. The poverty head count ratio has declined over time,
however the prevalence of under-nutrition individuals has increased. This can
be prevented with improved investments in agriculture as well as more non-farm
employment, which are essential to increase rural purchasing power
sufficiently. More effective delivery of food through Targeted
Public Distribution System (TPDS) at subsidized rate, improving the performance
of agriculture and diversifying produce as well as reducing the vulnerabilities
of farmers could help overcome the decline in calorie intake among Indians.