A crucial year for food security
Agricultural reforms will take time because most parties and governments lack the capability to take on vested political interest
Rising food inflation and imports and falli­ng exports are costing India huge money. According to the department of commerce, agri-commodities imports have gone up by Rs 1,98,734 crore between 2014-15 and 2015-16 whe­re as in the same period the country has lost export ma­rket of agri-commodities worth Rs 2,58,324 crore.
Due to ineffective agriculture and food security policies, the country is losing about Rs 4,57,058 crore a year. The impact of food inflation on other sectors of the economy as well as on public health and nutrition are not factored in.
The political leadership has taken a drastic step like demonetisation to address the problem of black mo­ney. Can we expect a similar action and political will to address issues of farm and food security?
No country can ensure its political sovereignty wit­h­out food security. There is a close relation between food security, economic growth, and law and order in the society. The economic growth is directly related to food inflation. Higher the food inflation, lower will be the economic growth because high food inflation reduces consu­mer spending on non-food economic activities. In In­dia, we are also adding abo­ut 15 million people every year. They will need food to survive and perform. Food intake less than required by the body will lead to widespread sickness due to malnutrition, stunting and disease due to imbalanced diets. Considering these facts on ground, let us be clear that there is no hope that food inflation will come down in coming years, unless we have some serious rethinking about our food production, food supply chains, lifestyle and consumption habits.
The biggest challenge for the policymakers and for governance is going to be improving productivity and preventing food losses to ensure food security for the masses.

India’s food needs
It’s good to hear that India is food secure. No doubt we have managed our food su­p­plies to a great extent, but now India is at the crossroads. It’s high time we re­cognise the ground reality.
In a country of 1,270 million, where per capita income is lower than the world average and where 30 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line; about 45 per cent children suffer from malnutrition; majority of child mortality is due to stunting, lactating mothers not getting enough diet to feed their new-borne; food inflation is and will always remain a big political issue in every election. The management of food inflation will be the cornerstone of good governance claims by any party.
Agricultural reforms will take time because no government has the capability to take on vested political interest. Policy makers are habitual of offering political freebies to win polls, but they are not keen to look at productivity and efficiency as criteria for policy reforms.
In case we want economic success, the farm sector needs due attention by political establishment. A long-term consistent policy is a pre-condition to ensure minimum food security. There is need to develop a food security plan.

Food security plan
The national food security plan will act as a blueprint for all and will also encourage private investment. This should include growing demand for food, feed, fibre and fuel. The plan must address supply chain issues, including farm-based inputs for other sectors. This should give clear direction to all stakeholders for next 10-15 years, which can be evaluated on a yearly basis for any corrections based on experiences on ground. Many political leaders and policy makers will claim that all is fine and we are in a comfortable situation. If that is so, why we are losing our export markets.

Food requirement by 2025
According to an FAO study, the food energy requirements for South Asian population will be about 2,700 calories/ ca­pita /day in 2025. In case of pul­ses, acco­r­ding to the WHO requiremen­ts, India will need about 35 million tonnes of pulses by 2025.
The edible oil demand will be about 17 kg per capita per year, which means India will need about 23.8 million tonnes of edible oils by 2025.

Fragmenting landmass
Indian agriculture is dominated by small farmers, having small landholdings. The average size of the lan­dholding was 2.30 hectares in 1970-71, which declin­ed to 1.32 hectares in 2000-01. The absolute nu­mber of operational ho­ldings increased from 70 million to 121 million. If the trend continues, the average size of holding would be 0.68 hectares in 2020, and would be reduced to 0.32 hectares in 2030.
On the other hand, by 2025, per capita farm land available will be just 0.1 hectares per capita. In other words, it is just 100 ftx100 ft plot per person to meet the daily needs of food, fuel, fodder and fibre round the year. With increasing population, this area will further shrink.
Soil is a serious issue
At the same time, available estimates with the agriculture ministry reveal that 120.72 million hectares of land is degraded due to soil erosion and about 8.4 million hectares has salinity and water-logging proble­ms. Besides, huge quantities of nutrients are lost du­r­ing the production cycle.
Annually, India is losing nearly 0.8 million tonnes of nitrogen, 1.8 million ton­n­es of phosphorus and 26.3 million tonnes of potassium. Reasons why the deteriorating quality and health of soil is something to be checked. The problems are aggravated by imbalanced application of nutrients and excessive mining of micronutrients, leading to deficiency of macro- and micronutrients in the soils.

Water requirement
According to the minister of agriculture, by 2025, India will have about 1700 m3 of water per person and 84 per cent of this water will be used for irrigation purpose. This is at stress level. At the time of Independence, India’s population was less than 400 million and per capita water availability over 5000 cubic meter per year (m3/yr).
In 2007, India’s population was about 95 crore and per capita water availability had fallen to about 2,200 cubic meters per year. With the population crossing the one billion mark, water availability has fallen to 2000 m 3/yr per ca­pita.By 2025 per capita water availability is proje­c­ted at 1500 m3/yr or just 30 per cent of the availability levels in comparison to what was at the time of Independence.
By 2025, the water requirement for irrigation would be 790 billion cubic metre, and our total reservoir capacity would be 300- 350 billion cubic me­tre. This per capita water availability will further fall to 1500 cubic metre per year by 2025 due to increasing population. It means 4,000 litres of water per day per person to meet all our need for food, feed, cleaning, industrial and non-industrial activities like recreation, etc. Animal also need water to survive, which we have not factored in.
At theme time, economic growth and individual wealth are shifting diets from predominantly star­ch-based to meat and dairy, which require more water. Producing 1 kg rice requires 3,500 litre water, 1 kg meat some 15,000 L, and a cup of coffee about 140 L. The water requirement for per litre of milk production is about 2000 litres. This dietary shift will have the greatest impact on water consumption over the next 10 years, and may continue well into the middle of the 21st century.