The bumpy road from food to nutrition security: Slow evolution of India’s food policy
This paper (PFD) in the Global Food Security journal provides a detailed review of the evolution of food policy in India and a way forward in the transition toward nutrition security. Due to the historic success of agricultural policy in ensuring adequate quantities of staples, the food security challenge has evolved towards enhancing food diversity to address malnutrition. However, agricultural policy is still biased towards improving staple productivity. Creating a “level policy playing field” that corrects this bias, would improve incentives for the diversification of production into non-staple foods. Promoting a diversified food system that improves the affordability of nutrient rich pulses, horticulture and livestock products ought to be a high priority for food policy. Enhancing farmers’ ability to diversify production systems requires public and private sector investment in transportation, storage, and market development. Moreover, investments are required to reduce transactions costs for smallholder integration into non-staple food markets. Furthermore, investments that can equip a diverse socioeconomic group of farmers to participate in relevant markets are essential, given the connection between market linkages, economic growth, and dietary diversity. Public policies aimed at creating an “enabling environment”, including encouraging private sector investment, leads to new market opportunities for farmers, thereby promoting diversification. Succeeded enabling environment may improve equity by including the rural poor who are less likely to have access to nonfarm employment in active markets and distribution chains. Policy and investments in market information technologies, product standardization, and food safety regulations can build consumer trust, identify new market demands, and provide meaningful opportunities for farmer response. Finally, food assistance programs need to move towards nutritional improvements, rather than focusing only on staple grain sufficiency as the desired outcome.