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Food Security – Definition, Need and Food Insecurity

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The basic concept of food security is multi-dimensional and means something more than getting two square meals. Food security is described by the United Nations Committee on World Food Security as, having physical, social, and economic access to adequate, safe, and nutritious food that fits their food choices and dietary needs for an active and healthy life at all times. There are three dimensions to food security:

  1. Availability: This includes the confluence of food production within the country, food imports, and stock stored in government granaries.
  2. Accessibility: It refers to food being reachable to each person without discrimination
  3. Affordability: It refers to the presence of enough money to buy sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet one’s dietary needs.

Thus, food security is ensured in a country if a sufficient food supply is available for everyone, has the means to purchase food of acceptable quality and there is no barrier to access.

Food Security

Food Security

Need for Food Security

According to the assessment by the UN, India has nearly 195 million undernourished people, which is almost a quarter of the world’s hunger burden. Approximately, around 43% of young ones in India are undernourished chronically. India was ranked ar 76th out of 113 countries in the assessment by The Global Food Security Index in 2018, based on the three dimensions of food security.

Food security is needed because the poor section of society is more insecure as compared to the person above the poverty line when the country faces national disasters or calamities like earthquakes, drought, flood, failure of crops, etc. Due to drought total production of food grain decreases as it creates a shortage of food in affected areas as well as an increase in the price. At the high price, some people cannot afford the food. If such calamity happens for a long time or in a widespread area then it can lead to starvation.

Massive starvation can cause famine. Famine is defined as widespread deaths due to starvation and epidemics caused by forced use of contaminated water or decaying food and loss of body resistance due to weakening from starvation. The devastating famine that occurred in India was the famine of Bengal. In this famine, thirty lakhs person has lost their lives in the province of Bengal. In this famine agricultural laborers and other casual laborers were affected the most by a rapid increase in the price of rice and their number of death was high. In the 1970s Food security was understood as the availability of basic foodstuffs at all the tie. Amartya sen gives a new dimension to food security as it emphasizes access to food through Entitlements i.e a combination of food one can produce and exchange in the market along with the state.

Accordingly, there has been a frequent change in the understanding of food security. The 1995 world food summit declared food security at the individual, household, regional, national, and global level exist for all people to have access to physical and economic means to meet their basic dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life at all times. Later on, they also came to the conclusion that Poverty eradication is necessary to improve the access to food. 

Need for Food Security in India

Because of the following reason given below food security in India is needed:

  1. Overpopulation: India’s population is continuously increasing at a rapid rate which has increased from 3.6 million tons in 1951 to about 41 million tons in 2015 this is one of the reasons that lead to the need for food security.
  2. Hoarding and Black marketing: This hoarding and black marketing activity have increased the inadequate supply of food because some traders hoard the food grains and create a shortage of food grains to push the prices high and to make an extra profit this leads to an artificial crisis of food shortage in the country.
  3. Corrupt administrative services: As in the country, the government has taken various measures like rationing, price control, zoning, etc to prevent the shortage of food or an adequate supply of food but as the administrative machinery is totally corrupt, it hardly gives benefit to general masses of the country.
  4. Unequal production of food grains: Most of the production of food grains is only by some states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh. So sometimes it is very difficult to transfer food grains from one region to another.
  5. Poverty and Natural calamity: In general, there are usually poor people below the poverty line who are food insecure whereas other people are food insecure just at the time of natural calamity, As at the time of natural calamity there is a shortage of food which leads to rising in price and some people can’t afford it.

Food Safety Index (2021-2022)

Food Security Programmes of India

The following are included in the Food Security Programmes of India:

Public Distribution System: It refers to the major chunk of Government Expenditure on Food Security, which is spent on Food Subsidies, which are mostly implemented through the Targeted Public Distribution System

Mid-Day Meal Scheme: It refers to the wholesome freshly cooked lunch served to children in government and government-aided schools in India.

Integrated Child Development Services Scheme: The main aim is to improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age group of 0-6 years and lay a foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the child.

Food management system and food price policy, to ensure food security in India consists of three major instruments:

  • Procurement at minimum support prices
  • Maintenance of buffer stocks
  • Public Distribution System

Food Subsidy in India

Food Security is assured by the distribution of food grains at subsidized prices through the Targeted Public Distribution System. Protection from price volatility due to inflation. Over the years, spending on food subsidies has increased, and the ratio below the poverty line has decreased.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution is the main ministry for the implementation of food subsidies. Food Subsidy accounts for 95 percent of the total budget allocated to the Department of Food and Public Distribution.

Department of Food and Public Distribution gives food subsidies to the Food Corporation of India and states. These elements in turn procure food grains from farmers at Government notified Minimum Support Prices (MSP).

Three main components of food subsidy are as follows:

  1. The subsidy is given to the Food Corporation of India.
  2. The subsidy is given to states.
  3. Sugar subsidy.

Need for Food Security in World

Conflict, climate variability and extremes, and economic slowdowns were major drivers slowing down progress and the COVID-19 pandemic exaggerated the situation. The prevalence of undernourishment increased from 8.4 percent in 2019 to 9.9 percent in 2020. In the context of population, around 720 and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020.

46 million more people in Africa, almost 57 million more in Asia, and about 14 million more in Latin America and the Caribbean were affected by hunger immensely in 2020. Severe food insecurity estimated increase in 2020 was equal to that of the previous five years combined.

Food Insecurity

In India, there is a large section of people suffering from food and nutrition insecurity. People who suffered the worst are the ones having little or no land, traditional artisans, petty self-employed workers, and the destitute including beggars. In urban areas, food-insecure families are those who are generally employed in ill-paid or ill-treated occupations. workers who are largely engaged in seasonal activities and are paid very low wages are the ones who are food insecure.

The less ability to buy food also plays a role in food insecurity. People who are either poor land-based or have very low land productivity are prone to food insecurity. People who migrate to other areas because of natural disasters in search of work are among the most food-insecure people. There is a large number of pregnant women and nursing mothers, and children under the age of 5 years are the ones who have constituted an important segment of the food-insecure population.

Another aspect of food insecurity is hunger and it is of two types chronic hunger and seasonal hunger.

  • Chronic hunger: It is a consequence of diets that is inadequate in terms of quantity or quality. people suffer from chronic hunger as they have very low incomes and are sometimes not able to get food for their survival.
  • Seasonal hunger: It is related to cycles of food growing and harvesting and this is basically found in rural areas because of the seasonal nature of agriculture

After Independence India has been constantly working at self-sufficiency in food grains. Indian government and policymakers have adopted all policies to achieve self-sufficiency in food grains. India adopted a new strategy in the field of agriculture, which resulted in the ‘Green Revolution.

Also Check: Agriculture and Food Security

Current Framework for Food Security

Constitutional Provision

Indian Constitution doesn’t have explicit provisions regarding the right to food, but the Fundamental Right to Life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution can be interpreted to include the right to live with human dignity; including the right to food and other basic necessities.

National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA)

It marks a paradigm shift from welfare to right based approach. It covers 75 percent of the rural population and 50 percent of the urban population under:

  1. Antyodaya Anna Yojana: This constitutes the poorest of the poor, entitled to receive 35 kg of foodgrains per household per month.
  2. Priority Households (PHH): Households covered are entitled to receive 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month.

Buffer Stock

The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has the main responsibility of procuring food grains at Minimum Support Price (MSP) stored in its warehouses and supplied to state governments in terms of requirements.

Public Distribution System

It has become an important part of Government policy for food management in the economy of the country. It is supplemental in nature and not intended to make available the entire requirement of any commodity.

  1. Wheat, rice, sugar, and kerosene are allocated to States/UTs for distribution
  2. Some States/UTs also distribute additional items of mass consumption through PDS outlets.

Challenges Related to Food Security in India

Detrimental Soil Health

Due to excessive or inappropriate use of agrochemicals. deforestation and natural calamities are significant challenges to food production.

Pest and Weed Attack

10 major invasive pest and weed attacks in the past 10 years in India. Fall Armyworm destroyed almost the entire maize crop of the country in 2018. In 2020, a locust attack was reported in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Lack of Efficient Management Framework

India lacks a strict management framework for food security. The prevalence of fake ration cards and weak grievance addresses are a few examples.

Climate Change

Changing precipitation patterns and the growing intensity and frequency of weather events such as heatwaves, and floods are serious threats to food security.

FAQs on Food Security

Question 1: What is a food security card?


National Food Security Card or FOOD Security Card is a legal document for the state of Telangana that enables a cardholder to acquire rice, sugar, etc commodities at a very economical rate.

Question 2: What is National Food Security Portal?


The main objective behind the portal is to provide a single window access to information and services being provided by the Indian government and other stakeholders.

Question 3: What is the aim of the National Food Security Mission?


The aim of the National Food Security Mission is to improve the productivity and production of wheat, rice, and pulses on a sustainable basis.

Question 4: How is food security ensured in India?


Food security in India is maintained by two components: Buffer Stock and Public Distribution System (PDS).

Question 5: Who announced the introduction of the National Food Security Act?


Pranab Mukherjee announced the introduction of the National Food Security Act.

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Last Updated : 24 Feb, 2023
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