In the eyes of the western world, and those privileged Indians living in the big cities, India is a booming economy and on the verge of becoming a superpower in the world. It is unimaginable for them to even think that millions of their fellow Indians are starving everyday and going to sleep hungry every night.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 194 million Indians are going hungry daily, and India is wasting food worth about $14 billion a year, according to government figures.
You may ask why is this condition prevailing when India is one of the world’s largest food producers? The problem is that it is failing to tackle waste during production, processing, retailing and consumption and needs to increase funding for internal initiatives and partnering on best practice and technology with overseas investors.
India is ranked 100 among 119 countries in the 2017 Global Hunger Index, with 14.5 percent of the population undernourished.
High Production And High Wastage
There is an increasing amount of awareness about the fact that millions are going hungry in India while food goes to waste, with even the FAO stressing that one third of food produced globally for human consumption is wasted every year.
It was highlighted at the World Economic Forum, that food production is not the main issue as India needs 225-230 million tonnes of food per year to feed its population – and farm output in 2015-2016 hit more than 270 million tonnes.
Former agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, had even once told parliament that 40% of the value of annual production was wasted, as crops were left to rot in the sun without storage or transportation, or eaten by insects and rats.
An official with the Food Corporation of India (FCI), said one of the main reasons for food waste is damage caused by a lack of infrastructure which it is trying to overcome by investing in building new cold storage facilities over the next five years.
Change Old Strategies And Use New Technology
The Indian government, however, has said it is trying to stop food losses and address hunger in various ways, including changing distribution strategies and using technology.
The Ministry of Food Processing Industries and private sector companies are coming together to provide pre-cooling and chilled storage from the farm to the consumer, and already have 228 projects underway.
Shobhana Pattanayak, Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, said that the government distributes the excess food grains through PDS or Public Distribution System.
The PDS system works in this manner- the government buys food stuff from farmers and distributes it at the subsidised rates to poor people, selling wheat and rice at Rs 2 and Rs 3 a kg compared to the market price of 12 and 13 rupees.
However, because of corruption at every level in the country, the quality and system can be erratic as many a times food grains are siphoned off by middlemen who sell it at a higher price than the market rate.
Sagheer Ahmed, professor at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Aligarh Muslim University, says lack of storage is a big reason for wasted food grain along with no proper system for processing perishable fruits and vegetables.