ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Concerns on Food Security

India's food security is likely to worsen given that demand is likely to grow faster than supply. Integration into world trade will probably worsen matters. PDS is one answer, but targeting remains a problem. A long-term solution can come only from R and D in agriculture. Report on a national seminar on food security in the context of economic liberalisation.

Improving food security ought to be an issue of great importance for a country like India where one-third of the population is estimated to be absolutely poor and one-half of children malnourished in one way or another. However, the process of economic liberalisation and WTO agreements have cast a shadow on this basic national agenda. Increase in food prices, shrinkage of area under foodgrains and increasing food subsidy have emerged as major concerns with regard to food security. The recent policy changes in the public distribution system (PDS), announced by the central government through the budget speech of the union finance minister, has generated a heated debate in the country during the last few weeks. These and related issues were discussed in a national seminar organised by the Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS), Hyderabad, and Institute for Human Development (IHD), New Delhi. Sponsored by the ministry of consumer affairs and public distribution of the government of India, the seminar was held at CESS, Hyderabad, during March 25-27, 2000. It was attended by some 70 academicians, policy-makers and social activists that included C H Hanumantha Rao, G S Bhalla, M S Ahluwalia, Abhijit Sen, Pedro Medrano of the World Food Programme, M D Asthana, K R Venugopal, Sheila Bhalla, Biplab Dasgupta, N Krishnaji, D Narasimha Reddy, K N Murthy, M H Suryanarayana, Madhura Swaminathan, Shikha Jha, G K Chadha, Ravi Srivastava, Amitava Mukherjee and the veteran peasant leader K V Krishna Rao.

It is by now well known that the question of food security has a number of dimensions that go beyond the production, availability and demand for food. Ultimately, it is a question of the ability to access food for all the people at all times to lead a healthy life. As such the seminar discussed the issue of food security in this broader framework but focused on the following areas used on the presentation of papers: (1) future scenario in relation to the demand for and supply of food; (2) international trade as a means to ensure food security; (3) the role of public distribution system (PDS); (4) state level perspectives on the question of food security; (5) micro-level experiences; and (6) the role of research and development.

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