Covid-19 & Food Security

Why in news?

The agriculture sector needs to be reformed for ensuring food security.

What should be the priority?

  • India has contained the mortality rate from Covid-19 infections at around 3.3% (global average 7%).
  • The real test will come when the lockdown is lifted.
  • Next to saving lives is the necessity of having food to survive.
  • Despite initial disruptions in supply lines, India has somehow managed to feed its population of 1.37 billion.
  • If there is any complaint, it is from the producer’s side that the prices of perishables have collapsed in some parts of the country.
  • But, for the consumer’s side, supply lines were quickly restored and food is easily available in the markets at reasonable prices.

What needs to be complimented?

  • Those in the government managing the food logistics deserve to be complimented for keeping supply lines for essential food running.
  • States must also be lauded for having done a remarkable job of procuring the main rabi crop, wheat.
  • A flawless procedure of issuing tokens to farmers and opening several additional wheat procurement centres is commendable.
  • Also, having a good logistics facility to procure and move the products to states that face a deficit is also commendable.
  • Since the India Meteorological Department has forecasted a normal monsoon, India’s food situation may remain comfortable in FY 2020-21.

How will Agriculture be helpful currently?

  • Agriculture may be the only sector that registers a respectable growth this year.
  • This will help absorb the shock of the coronavirus on extreme poverty and malnutrition.
  • We need to build on the success and resilience of agriculture.
  • This calls for large-scale reforms in agri-marketing as well as in the public distribution system (PDS).

What changes could be made?

  • APMC – The APMC markets can keep doing their business as usual.
  • But the channels for direct buying from farmers/farmer producer organisations (FPOs) can be opened.
  • Buyers – Any registered large buyer must be encouraged by providing them with a license, which is valid all over India.
  • Buyers should be exempted from any market fee and other cesses as they will not be using the services of the APMC market yards.
  • E-NAM – It can flourish if grading and dispute settlement mechanisms are put in place.
  • Private mandis with modern infrastructure need to be promoted in competition with APMCs.
  • PDS – On the PDS front, we need to move towards cash transfers that can be withdrawn from anywhere in the country.

 

Source: Business Standard

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