Higher Food Prices and Nutrition Security
- 30 Jul 2020
- 4 min read
Why in News
Recently, the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition in New York has conducted a study titled “Pandemic Prices: Covid-19 Price Shocks and their Implications for Nutrition Security in India”.
- It analysed prices of cereals (wheat and rice) and non-cereals (onion, tomatoes, potatoes, five pulses and eggs) in 11 tier-1 and tier-2 cities from 1st March-31st May 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
- Following the lockdown, all food groups witnessed a rise in prices, but the rise in prices was higher for non-cereals compared to cereals.
- After the lockdown was lifted, prices of cereals and non-cereals stabilised quickly while those of protein-rich pulses continued to remain high.
- Data Analysis:
- Wheat and Rice: Retail prices were either stable or cheaper than weeks preceding the lockdown and last year.
- Potato, Onions and Tomatoes: The prices went high initially but later on stabilised. Onion prices went as high as 200-250%.
- Eggs: The prices fell initially (because of fear of coronavirus through poultry) but increased by March-end and then stabilised two months later.
- Pulses: The prices rose during the lockdown and continued to remain higher than the pre-Covid-19 levels.
- The relative stability in cereal prices and enhanced prices of pulses will most likely distort spending and consumption decisions resulting in a staple-based, protein-deficient diet hampering the food security in the country.
- The relatively higher prices of more nutritious food make it difficult for the poor and marginal population to access such nutrient-rich food.
- As a result, the proportion of such foods in the diets goes further down and is replaced by less nutritious and calorie-dense foods.
- It will worsen the nutritional status of women and children across India, and more so in the impoverished regions of the country.
- The study also criticised the amendment to the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 which deregulated cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potatoes.
- The government can ensure the provision of supplementary protein by timely interventions to stabilise the increase in prices.
- Policies that insulate non-staple supply chains from price shocks and fluctuations are necessary.
- Abolishing outdated restrictions to address farm sector bottlenecks is very important.
- Food and nutrition security is ensured if all of the citizens of a nation have enough nutritious food available, all of them have the capacity to buy food of acceptable quality and there is no barrier on access to food.
- The right to nutritious food is a well-established principle of international human rights law. It has evolved to include an obligation for state parties to respect, protect and fulfil their citizens’ right to food and nutrition security.