The unseasonal rains in April notwithstanding, Punjab, known as the granary of India, expects a bumper harvest. So do most other states, if farmers and agricultural scientists are to be believed. However, this will not automatically translate into good times for farmers and better food security for people because every year more than 7% of food production in India is lost during harvest or on the journey from farm to markets, during production, processing, retailing and consumption — enough food to feed five crore hungry people. This results in the ironic situation that while India produces enough food to meet the needs of its entire population and has at its disposal arable land that has potential to produce food surplus for export, it is unable to feed millions of its people. India has consistently ranked poorly in the Global Hunger Index (GHI). In 2017, it ranked 100th among 119
Inadequate and inefficient rural infrastructure is the main cause for this tragic waste of food. Lack of education on post-harvest practices often results in poor quality control and food being damaged during handling. Twenty-one million metric tonnes of wheat, nearly equal to Australia’s annual production, rots each year due to improper storage. India is the second-largest producer of vegetables and fruits, but 40% of it is wasted due to inadequate logistical support, lack of refrigerated storage, supply chain bottlenecks, poor transport and underdeveloped marketing channels. According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce, the country experiences a post-harvest loss of Rs 2 lakh crore annually. Less than 4% of India’s fresh produce is transported by cold-chains, compared to more than 90% in the UK. Better cold storage, improved infrastructure and education about food handling could help transform this situation.
The Food Corporation of India has neither the warehouse capacity nor the manpower to manage the humongous stockpile of food grains. According to recent studies by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Indian Institute of Management-Kolkata, only 10% of the perishable produce has access to cold storage facilities in India. This, along with inappropriate supply chain management, has resulted in India becoming a significant contributor to food wastage both at pre- and post-harvest levels. Modern supply chains linked to food processing companies, such as Nestlé, Pepsi, Unilever and Del Monte handle only a fraction of the country’s perishable food produce. India needs to mobilise large-scale investments in cold storage methods, refrigerated transport and other modern logistics to modernise its food supply chain. This calls for strong political will and imaginative thinking on the part of the policy-makers.
via Bumper crop expected; wastage, too | Deccan Herald