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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Measuring the nutritional value of food aid flows implies first to have detailed and reliable information on worldwide food aid flows and second to have equally reliable information on the nutritional contents of the commodities delivered as food aid. Food aid is usually defined as the act of the giving money, food, and other resources from one country to another, either direct or indirect through international organizations in return for nothing. Every year, millions of Dollars flow from countries to developing countries with an aim of supplementing annual budgets and promote various projects to reduce poverty in these developing countries. Many countries in Asia such as India are the primary dependent of food aid, India is the Largest Democracy in the world, and has failed to provide proper food security to the people of the country. Inspire of all the Economic growth and development of the country India is still unable to provide food for almost half of the country. Therefore, this research paper is geared to answer the question: What are the factors that have led to India's current dismal state of food security?

India's Food Security problems main contributors are Historical, economic and political factors. The Green Revolution, and India's economic liberalization of the 1990s are two on the most significant period in time that has molded the food security of India in a Historical way. Its economic factors are geared towards it agricultural industry or the important influence on the availability and accessibility of food to the communities of India. The political influence of India's food security can be influenced by the Public Distribution System and influence on the policymaking, the political factor can identify why and how policies are targeting food security enough to make a substantial difference. These factors will show that the policymakers, will need to full back and implement reforms, develop preventative reforms and address, the multiple needs and facets of food security.

The two most recent and influential events that took place in India's food security history was in the 1960s and 1990s when the Green Revolution and Liberalization came into place respectively. They each bought a shift in agricultural, economic and political policies, that affect the supply and demand of the food supply in India. The Green Revolution was a period in which India, and other South Asian countries, started using the high-yield variety (HYV), seeds and other technological methods in agriculture so has to quickly increase the production of food. The seeds promoted mass production of crops by allowing grains on HYV a greater intake on nitrogen. Indi started using the HYV seeds in the 1960s after experiencing severe food shortage and a decrease in food aid. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) helped in the transferring of this technology into the Indian Agricultural practice by paying more attention to it. Before the Green Revolution was introduced to India, agricultural policies were made as a supplement to the economic focus of the second five-year plan (Industrialization). “Under this model, agricultural policy was conceived with a built in pro-urban bias. To provide inexpensive food and basic input for industrial development, the farm prices were kept artificially low and agricultural exports were curtailed trough quantitative restrictions and an overvalued exchanges rate” (Fan et al. 27-28).

The Green Revolution had a strong impact on the increase of food production. “At the All-India level, growth in overall yield of individual crops, have been of major importance to the growth in overall yields and production of food grains, indicating the criticality of continuing with policies for sustaining yield-based and technology-based growth in agriculture of ‘tomorrow.'” The success of the Green Revolution “trickled down” to the poor in the farm of the increased of the farmer income and more food was made available to the poor. These benefits included increasing production, providing more food and nutrient for their own consumption and increasing the surplus of production available for them to sell for cash income” (Hazell 77). The benefits of the Green Revolution speeded unequally across the regions and the classes in India though not equally, thus concentrating in certain areas of the country whose environment and capabilities could make the HYV seeds most successful. There was an unequal impact across India. The spread of the revolution followed a “build on the best” strategy, focusing on areas with good irrigation, few crops, and farmers who could get proper investment (Swaminathan 51). According to Dantwala, the policy-makers were aware of the conflict between the increase in food production and the possible inequalities that the HYV might cause. “the possibility of its inegalitarian effects assuming that these could be clearly perceived at that time had to be weighed against the obvious inegalitarian effects of food shortages and high prices, under which the poor suffer the most” (Dantwala 101). The policies and practices instituted that the Green Revolution were for a short-term based need and, in many ways, were not sustainable for the long-term. The subsidies to the farmers to use the technology was disadvantageous in the long-term. “These subsidies have a mot deleterious effect in terms of reduced public investment in agriculture on account of the erosion of investible resources, and wasteful use of scarce resources like water and power” (Jha el at. 38). Since the high-yield varieties of seeds were limited, reliance on what created a domination of the grain in the market.  

Even though the Green Revolution had produced a very noticeable increased in the quality of food in India, Dantwala calls the agricultural growth “unimpressive” because I barely surpassed the growth of the population, it was a multi-pronged issue. While production is very important to food security there is way more to it than production and the Green Revolution did not address the underlying problems of accessibility and capacity that perpetuate to the food security in India.

In the interest of self-sufficiency, the Indian government continued its practice of strong regulation and intervention in areas of agriculture and trade that helped usher in the Green Revolution. The policymakers decided to use restriction to facilitate food security through large food stocks and low prices. “It cannot be denied that the policy of virtual closure of the domestic market sheltered the agricultural producers from the vicissitudes of important competition, both fair and unfair, and provided price stability, which is essential for growth” (Hoda and Sekhar 317). In 1991, the Indian government switches to a period of Liberalization. India faces a high deficit and turned to the IMF and the world Bank for help. “to tackle the country's fiscal and current account deficit, the government was somewhat bound to the path of macroeconomics and trade interventions. While it could be argued that markets did not need to be created because they were already in place in India, the persistence of a panoply of restrictions on agriculture input and output markets hindered the moot function of these markets and limited the overall competitiveness of the of the primary sectors” (, 235). The loans that India received from the IMF and the World Bank were given with a stipulation for opening up the Indian economy to the world market.

    The 1990's introduced “a series of sweeping macroeconomic and structural reforms in the industry, the exchange rate and foreign trade and investments” (Fan el al. 32). food security is equal to a lack of entitlements, which are “a set of different alternative commodity bundles that the person can acquire through the use of the various legal channels of acquirement open to someone in his position” (Sen 36). A liberalization of export controls, advances in import controls, and progress on ending internal control of the trade through the removal or reduction of tariffs and trade restrictions occurred (Hoda and Sekhar). The reforms were put in place in order to increase the capabilities of domestic and foreign investment and included the approval for FDI.

    Liberalization helped with the expansion of entitlement for the Indian population as far as the growth of the economy was concerned, thus helping with increased wages within the agricultural industry. “The higher rate of economic growth and the consequent rise in per capita incomes resulting from the 1991-93 reforms had a significant impact on food demand. [They] led to the diversification of food demand into non-food grain crops” (Fan el at. 33-34). This decreased in the need for food grains meant a hostile distress on nourishment.

    Though liberalization had its positive effects on India that didn't last for long at least not in certain areas. Just like the Green Revolution, the benefits of liberalization were of a short-term focus. “It appears, therefore, that there were two distinct stages in post-reform Indian agricultural and the country's overall economic performance: the first, between 1991 and 1996, which saw higher growth rates of total and agricultural GDP, and the second, between 1997 and 2003, which saw a deceleration in the pace of growth” (Fan el at. 39). The food production growth declined during the 1990s, as a result retrogressing the positive of the Green Revolution. “The situation has worsened in the current decade: production of food grain grew at only 1.2 percent annually between 1990 and 2007, whereas population growth was around 1.9 percent” (Swaminathan 51. Though there was an increase in the private sector because of the trade that benefited the agricultural industry, the public sector within the agricultural industry was at a lost, as a result hurting the production of agriculture. “The decline in public investment in agriculture and slowdown in the growth of farm inputs has resulted in a decline in the growth rate of agricultural output in the 1990s” (Rao 63). According to Rao, this could only be blamed on the rise in farm subsidies, which drains the state's resources.

    Because the Indian government failed to understand liberalization and fully embrace and implement it, many of the countries policy promises were broken. “The growth rate in gross domestic product (GDP) had come down significantly; the rate of inflation was high, persisting around 10 percent for four consecutive years; and the expenditure on social sectors including the poverty alleviation programs slowed” (Rao 200). There was an imbalance created within the economy of India because India's intervention to liberalize the agricultural trade flow wasn't accomplished by determinant marketing reforms on the domestic front. The reforms created within the 1990s did not address the most significant areas of the economy, thus resulting in the incapability of preserving growth later on. “The lack of reforms in the areas of infrastructure, domestic marketing, and investments has been seen as one of the main reasons for the slowdown in both agricultural GDP and total GDP after 1997.” Liberalization as a pro-consumer bias has an impact on the poor rural communities of India in a highly negative aspect. “Trade liberalization, agricultural reforms and other sectoral and structural adjustment measures have served to marginalize the poor in rural areas, to reduce the availability of productive farmland for cultivation for the local market and to undermine food security” (SAPRIN 207).

    Both the Green Revolution and Liberalization were reforms that were implemented to serve as a mean to an end in the case of a food crisis. In the case of the Green Revolution “The political economy of food compelled our policy-makers to periodically look back to agriculture, whenever the spectre of hunger loomed large or donors (under PL 480) twisted our arms” (Mungekar 142). The macro nature of these crises then led to macro-reforms, focused on short-term successes without taking into account the long-term effects on the country. Liberalization was the anti-agriculture policy because industrialization was more a priority than anything else. The policymakers did not want to implement reforms, which could be seen as the government's way of reluctantly embracing liberalization.

   Economics played a central role in determining the food security of India because it helped to dictate the adequate supply and accessibility of food, as well as the citizens' ability to obtain food. The economic policy of India's agricultural sector is probably the most important factor. “Thus, changes in income, production, and productivity in agriculture are vital not only to the people directly dependent on this sector but also to the entire country” (Vyas 264). Agricultural reforms affect each and every person in India seemly half of the workforce belong to the industry and half the products with the consumer's budget is within the agriculture sector. The are several adverse impacts that the Economic had on the Food Security in India, such as Landless Farmers, Decline in Food Demand, High Cost, and Urban Bias.

    Landless farmers are the rural workers in India that depend on agriculture. The Indian agricultural structure can be defined as “small-scale agriculture in which large numbers of farmers have almost no marketable surplus.” (Vyas 265). The production that the landless farmers have to make an income for has reached its limit, and there is no more land to expand upon and water and land investment is also at a low, thus making it inadequate for the landless farmers in the certain area.

    The price for food skyrocketed in accordance with the rise in prices internationally during the 2008 global financial crisis. The increased in MSPs was putting pressure on the policymakers to increase prices so as to face the increase of the “financial ‘discipline' coupled with a resource crunch” (Vyas 269). The high prices of food created a decreased in food demand, with the increase in unemployment and price, “The statistics point to a severe compression of incomes and purchasing power for the majority of the population in India that more than canceled out the rise in demand on the part of the minority getting richer” (Patnaik 91). Rao agrees with Patnaik and also stated: “higher energy requirements of the rural poor due to heavy manual labor; payment of wages in kind by the large farmers in the form of cooked food; [and] the poor state of health and environment resulting in low efficiency of conversion of food into energy” (Rao 126), are also other factors that contribute to the decline in demand. The decline in demand thus shows that the food insecure are eating less when they should, in fact, be eating more to maintain their bodies. They face the lack of entitlement due to higher prices, making them even more insecure.

    The High Cost of the food was associated with the minimum support price(MSP) this is a tool that is used in agriculture to stabilize the price of commodities. It's the floor price at which farmers call to sell their products. The MSP is only set for certain commodities, which the government gives and assurance that they'll purchase at the MSP price if the market price falls below this level in post-harvest (Vyas). The MSPs are recommended by the Commission for Agricultural Cost and Price (CACP) using the cost of cultivation, availability of grains, and a check for inflation in its calculation (Jha el at. 55). While the MSP does protect farmers from price fluctuations, it has had many negative impacts as well. A few problems with its implementation are that it is declared late, it is only applicable to a few staple foods, and it is mostly based on wholesale prices, of which farmers get very little (Gahukar 278). Procurement price is basically the same as MSP, it is the price at which the government will buy grains from the producers. The differential between MSP and procurement prices makes procurement and distribution more challenging. MSPs was risen thus resulting in an increase in the price of food. “With higher MSPs there is a significant worsening of the welfare of 80 percent of the population in rural areas and of all urban dwellers”, (Hoda and Sekhar 454), due to entitlement rights.

    Dantwala says, “policy-makers in India have kept food prices high and displayed a big farmer and anti-urban and anti-poor bias.” This is in response to the criticism about farm prices being held down by the government via zonal restriction and import of food. However, Patnaik disagrees he said the diversion of food to feed livestock rather than people has contributed to food insecurity. This practices he says is anti-poor because it's wealthier people who demand animal products when the rural poor really need food grains (Patnaik). In developing countries such as India, the middle class, and high-class individuals are the one who are able to buy the bulk of domestic grains while the lower class are deprived of even sufficient minimum needs.

    In order to reduce the negative impact of economic policies on the food security in India, the reforms need to focus on the reduction in cost for food and the struggles that are imposed on the poor to gain food at the high cost it's at. The policymakers should take a second look at the MSPs and subsidies to re-evaluate its effectiveness. The continued growth in India if it trickles down will help increase the entitlement right of the citizens and their ability to gain food. An increased in the public sector will help in the provision of supplemental programs and policies to aid in development especially with the rural areas. “Among the categories of investment, agricultural research, education, and rural infrastructure are found to be the three in which public spending is most effective in promoting agricultural growth and poverty reduction in both countries. This implies that there is a great deal of potential for more growth and poverty reduction if the level of public investments in these categories is raised” (Fan and Throat 138). A land reform to help the landless farmers should also be included in the agricultural policy and also a stability of food prices.

    One of the main reason why there's an inability in food security being addressed properly in India lies in the poor planning and implementation of the reforms politically. “The failure of agricultural strategy – and its economic policy content – to make any impact on rural poverty and unemployment or equitably distribute the gains from technological change has been variously attributed to sociopolitical factors such as the lack of political will, the elitist composition of political leadership and bureaucracy – no less than that of its critics – structural inequalities in the ownership of land and other assets, a bias in favor of big farmers, etc.” (Dantwala 112).  After looking at the historical and economic factors that contributed to the food insecurity in India, self-sufficiency has been persistent despite the strong arguments against it, because the policymakers have been so against how the policy should affect agriculture and food production. “While there has been no problem with physical availability – in fact, there has been a glut in domestic supplies of foodgrains in the recent past – government programs to provide economic access to food are still evolving” (Hoda and Sekhar) Rebranding the agricultural policy drives most of the political effect in gaining food security, and the increase in food supply since the 960s was one if the biggest steps that India made in the right direction.

    The constituencies that benefit from the policies implemented during liberalization, such as he subsidies and MSPs, have kept successive reforms that reverse with these policies so that they could increase food security from being implemented. By continuing these policies, the Indian government increased the deficit to the foodgrain surplus. “Lavish MSPs paid to producers encouraged excessive grain procurement and stocks, resulting in higher storage and transport costs for the government. Increasing the handling cost of the stockpiles, in turn, forced a rise in PDS prices, which hit the poorer consumers” (Fan el at. 40). Farm lobbying led to the inflation of the MSP, resulting in pricing issues. The large scale farmers for wheat and rice has driven most of the agricultural policy, especially the type of foodgrain available in the PDS. Subsidies can be some of the most effective policies in creating interest groups because their benefits are only beneficial to a certain group. This can be seen in cases of input subsidies, “Part of the subsidies are going to inefficient input producers (fertilizer plants) and suppliers (canal authorities and electricity boards) who have vested interests in perpetuating subsidies and concealing inefficiencies in the production and supply of input.” (Vyas 275). Subsidies were created by the policymakers with good intention, so as to aid and protect the agricultural producers, however, since the implementation of the subsidies there has been a change in circumstance resulting in ineffective subsidies and creating more problems.

    Interest groups make policymakers wary on implementing reforms that may work against the constituencies. “In a democracy where more than two-thirds of the electorate has its roots in agriculture, reducing domestic support for farming is always a daunting task for governments” (Hoda and Sekhar 303). Interest groups are created to explore the negative effects that the policies have on food security, however, they failed to implement substantial changes. “Lack of effective policy dialogue and interaction is emerging as a constraint confronting NARS [National Agricultural Research System] at the policy level.” (Jha and Pal 173). These interest groups in the agricultural research system of India undermined the potential contribution of new technology.

One of the benefits of liberalization is that the government had implemented safety net programs in order to support the poor and gain them more entitlement. another great program that was implemented was the Public Distribution System (PDS), the PDS was put in place in the 1980s when India implement self-employment and wage program.  The Integrated Rural Development, National Rural Employment Programs and the Rural Landless Employment Generation Program, are the safety net groups created for employment. These programs gave the poor employable assets and provide job training. The Employment Guarantee Scheme was designed for a period of time to guarantee work for those in need of a job. Some actors have also played a part in restricting the possible impact of these developmental programs. Poverty and food insecurity still remain despite these efforts because of “the economic and political power structure which has vested interests in maintaining the status quo” (Dantwala 145). The instigation of safety net programs indicated a big step in the right direction for the policymakers and the society of India.

The Public Distribution System was a procurement and distribution system created by the Indian government in order for food commodities. “It ensures the availability of essential commodities such as rice, wheat, edible oils, and kerosene at below-market prices through a network of outlets or fair price shops” (Chadha 444). The program was created after the Bengal Famine in 1943. It main focus was on urban areas and it depended on upon food distribution on food import, it was implemented to as a mechanism for price stabilization. However, since the program was created it focus has shifted to pro-poor. The PDS was criticized because it was believed to have excluded the people in need of benefits. The central government set the limits on their poverty estimates, “depends very much on the state governments' willingness and ability to identify the poor perfectly” (Jha el at. 165). This shifted the focus of the PDS across regions that lead to an unequal distribution of benefits. There has been a decreased in the usage of the PDS since its targeting shifted. Decentralized programs could be more effective at correctly targeting those in need as well as limiting the leakages from the system. This can happen by putting the PDS under more control and the communities can address needs in areas. “Decentralized procurement and allowing a greater role for the private sector would moreover be likely to reduce overall costs and improve efficiency in the foodgrains markets.”  

A food stamp program would be a great positive alternative to PDS. The maintenance cost would decrease drastically because procurement and distribution of the grains would be under the responsible of the government. Long-term food security can be greatly improved by putting reforms into place that will be enhanced the purchasing power and thus the capacity of food insecure. Reforms and expansion of employment programs, improved education are great direct efforts like the PDS to improve the food security of India.

India is in fact in a dismal situation with the mount of food insecure people living in the country but there have been some steps in the right direction. The Green Revolution, Liberalization and he safety net programs have made positive impacts on food security, and the poverty level of the country. Food security is a multipronged issue that requires the multipronged approach. Food security is a greater issue than just providing basic human needs and rights. Politicians need to refocus their efforts on the large scale in India and make food security a top priority instead of just pushing into reforms from a crisis. This change in the government's attitude towards food security can instill pro-food security thus ensuring that food insecure individuals don't go on living without the proper nutrition.  

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