The Global Food Policy Report 2016: Implications for India
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IFPRI’s 2016 Flagship Global Food Policy Report provides an overview of major food policy developments and events over the past year with a particular focus on how food systems around the world can contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The report is split into nine chapters covering a range of subjects related to agricultural development and food security, including topics on: sustainable food systems and climate change, nutrition and diets, food policies, value chains, health and sanitation. Considering the relevance of these topics to the Indian food system and the fact that India contains the largest amounts of smallholders and undernourished people globally, the report is extremely relevant for Indian policymakers and contains numerous references to recent developments in India.

The report provides numerous references to studies undertaken in India that investigate the relationship between Smallholders and Climate Change. For example, in chapter two, a study is referenced that is published in Global Environmental Change that finds that smallholders in Gujarat are poorly positioned to adapt to changing monsoon patterns. Specifically this study finds that smallholders with fewer assets, higher risk aversion, and less access to irrigation and weather information are less able to respond effectively to a delay in the monsoons than farmers with greater assets. This study was also covered in the India Food Security Portal.

However, the chapter also provides a number of examples of successful adaptation and mitigation techniques adopted by smallholders in India. For instance, 30 million smallholders have adopted weather-indexed insurance in India in recent years, enabling some farmers to become more resilient to climatic shocks and to shift toward more profitable farm production systems. Similarly, zero-tillage agricultural systems are another approach that has started to spread in India and that offers multiple benefits to Indian smallholders. Two studies referenced find that smallholders that adopted zero-tillage systems in the Indo-Gangetic plains became almost carbon neutral in the span of three years (from 2009 to 2012), as emissions from farming activities were counterbalanced by carbon sequestration. The same studies showed that the incomes of farmers increased by almost US$100 per hectare per year with zero-tillage systems, mainly because of lower input and production costs. This study was also covered by the India Food Security Portal and more detail is available here.

In the report, IFPRI’s Director General Shenggen Fan and IFAD’s president Kanayo F. Nwanze argue that linking smallholders to high-value markets in India can help to increase the profitability of smallholder enterprises and connect rural and urban areas thereby improving smallholder resilience. An example of a successful rural-urban linkage given is India’s dairy grid, also known as Operation Flood. As part of this initiative, small dairy farmers were linked to urban consumers in a chain of production, procurement, processing, and marketing. This value chain initiative involved 13 million participants, including almost 4 million women, providing them with access to urban markets. Simultaneously, consumers also benefited as they gained access to larger quantities and better-quality dairy products. The full study can be accessed here.

Chapter four on ‘Harnessing Value Chains to Improve Food Systems’ argues that improving and enhancing agricultural value chains is crucial to the establishment of prosperous and resilient food systems. The Chapter highlights two value chain interventions in India, one from the demand and one from the supply side, that have improved local food systems. The first intervention is an ongoing project developed by eKutir in eastern India to work with local entrepreneurs as well as retail outlets and distribution channels to provide increased production of vegetables and increased access to a varied diet for poor households. By addressing constraints in the market distribution of vegetables, the project aims to reduce loss of perishable products and make the value chain more sustainable. The second intervention is a partnership between PRADAN, a nongovernmental organization, and iKure, a social enterprise, to promote vegetable and pulse consumption using seed provision and communication schemes. Through promoting a diverse diet, the intervention seeks to address undernutrition.

The last chapter provides a regional overview of food policy developments in 2015, including South Asia. This section highlights that despite the severe drought in rainfed areas and hailstorms in irrigated areas, India continues to make significant strides and has launched multiple initiatives in combatting undernutrition, increasing agricultural production and expanding social and inclusion programs. This includes a new sanitation program, the Clean India Mission, which addresses unhygienic conditions that are linked to diseases and constrain improvements in nutrition and health outcomes covering 4041 towns. Last year also marked a milestone in regional cooperation as Bangladesh, India, and Nepal began to cooperate in order to accelerate the release of new cultivars across all three countries, rice and pearl millet in the case of India. The release of these cultivars is likely to lead to increases in long-term agricultural production. In 2015, India also launched an irrigation program (Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana) with a planned investment of 500 billion rupees (about US$7.67 billion) over the next five years with the objectives of expanding the cultivated area under irrigation, improving water use efficiency, and promoting the adoption of water-saving methods across 50 million hectares. In addition, India recently launched two new social security schemes (Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana) as well a financial inclusion program (Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana) to provide universal access to bank accounts. In this regard, over 187 million bank accounts have been opened over the past 14 months. This initiative is considered a prerequisite for direct cash transfers for food and fuel to targeted beneficiaries, and is expected to increase private investment in agriculture as a whole.

At the end of the report, a number of tables are presented that cover general data on government spending on agriculture in India. The most relevant figures here illustrate how spending on Indian agriculture has increased from US$7.7 billion to US$57.25 billion per year (according to 2005 purchasing power parity), equivalent to around 6 percent of total government expenditure. In conclusion, the chapter highlights that the short-term outlook for India’s food system is positive due to low oil prices, falling global food prices, increasing public investment, and an improving business environment. However, the report stresses that India’s agricultural sector would benefit from reforms that increase transparency in governance, consolidate different programs, and attract private sector investment in infrastructure. The report notes that market and climate risks are likely continue to present a challenge to the Sustainable Development Goals and solutions to these challenges may require a new blend of technologies, policies, and institutions.

To read the full report please and associated links click here

To access an interactive map presenting the latest datasets used in this report and at IFPRI in general click here.

By: Bas Paris

Photo credit:Flickr, Bioversity International