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FOOD INFLATION

WHY IN NEWS?

  • With sky rocketing inflation figures, the government is wielding every weapon in its arsenal to tame food prices.
  • The latest decisions on sugar and onion mean energy security and farm incomes rank lower in priority.

LATEST DECISIONS BY GOVERNMENT TO TAME INFLATION:

  • So far the government has moved on multiple fronts.
  • Sugar mills were asked not to use cane juice to make ethanol, to ramp up production of sugar due to a lower anticipated crop following poor rains.
  • This means a temporary setback to India’s target of achieving 20% blending of petrol with ethanol by 2025.
  • It also banned onion exports till March next year at a cost to onion growers after an earlier decision to impose a minimum export price failed to check consumer prices.
  • Then it halved stock limits on wheat, pushing traders and retailers to release additional stocks in the market.

CURRENT STATUS OF PULSES IN INDIA:

  • Consumers in India use a whole variety of pulses, including tur (pigeon pea), masoor (lentils), chana (gram), urad (black gram), and moong (green gram) as a staple.
  • The most recent data from the consumer affairs department shows that except for lentils, the year-on-year price rise in other varieties ranges from 19% for gram to 41% for tur.

  • In some major cities the price rise is more pronounced.
  • For instance, retail tur prices in Delhi have shot up by about 50% to ₹173 per kg now compared with ₹118 last year.
  • The price rise is worrying as pulses are an important source of protein for many families.

CURRENT STATUS OF FOOD PRICES IN INDIA:

  • Data from the consumer affairs ministry shows retail prices of rice and some pulse varieties like tur are significantly higher, about 17% and 41% respectively on-year.

  • Cooking oil prices are significantly lower compared with last year, as prices fell by 15- 27%.
  • But vegetable prices have been volatile.
  • Other than onions, tomatoes are now 24% costlier than last year.

CAUSES OF INCREASING PRICES:

  • DECREASING SHOWN AREA: Data from the agriculture ministry shows that the area under rain-fed kharif pulses this year was 11.5% less than the five-year average.
  • DROP IN PRODUCTION: Production is likely to drop to 7.12 million tonnes as per the first advance estimates released late last month, compared with 8.16 million tonnes last year, and the previous best of 9.6 million tonnes in 2016-17.
  • ERRATIC RAINFALL: Production was also impacted by below-normal rains in major growing states such as Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
  • Worryingly, planting of winter grown pulses is also lagging year-on-year—by as much as 12% for gram—as of 24 November.

IMPACT ON  FARMERS:

  • Over the past year, crops of wheat, rice, cane, soybeans, spices, pulses and vegetables have been hit by heat waves, rains, floods and pest attacks.
  • The loss is worsened by export curbs—farmers could have partially recovered losses via exports and higher domestic prices.
  • A hit to farm income also means tepid growth in non-farm wages and low rural demand.
  • More importantly, it is a reminder that in the age of climate crisis, food security can never be taken for granted as production surpluses can quickly turn into deficits.

TAMING FOOD INFLATION:

  • It requires increased spending on agriculture research and development (especially by the public sector and multilateral development agencies).
  • There is a need to strengthen and rejuvenate the global agri-research system under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) which is heading towards disarray.
  • Promote sustainable farming practices to enhance efficiency and reduce production costs.
  • Invest in transportation and storage infrastructure to reduce food wastage and spoilage.
  • Improve distribution networks to ensure that food reaches consumers efficiently.

WAY FORWARD:

  • Sustainable and increased production of foodgrains is crucial for ensuring food security, improving soil health, and providing affordable sources of nutrition for the population.
  • Efforts to address challenges, promote research, and support farmers through policies and initiatives play a vital role in enhancing pulses production in India.

SYLLABUS: MAINS, GS-3, AGRICULTURE

SOURCE: LIVEMINT

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