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More evidence of India’s food insecurity

More evidence of India’s food insecurity


  • As per the latest data from the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report 2020 the number of people all over the world affected by hunger and all forms of malnutrition are going to increase.
  • Being home to a quarter of the world’s hungry India is not an exception and missed its target set under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of reducing the proportion of undernourished by 2015, and the World Food Summit (WFS) target of halving the absolute number of hungry.
  • In India, as compared to 2014, there are 6.2 crore more people living in with food insecurity in 2019.


  • The report is produced jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
  • SOFI 2020 report presents the estimates of the extent of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition around the world. It includes a special focus on transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets.
  • It analyses the cost and affordability of healthy diets around the world, by region and in different development contexts.


SOFI presents two key measures of food insecurity

Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU)

  • It is a conventional measure.
  • It is an estimate of the proportion of the population whose habitual food consumption is insufficient to provide the dietary energy levels required to maintain a normal active and healthy life.
  • Its estimates are based on food balance sheets and national surveys of consumption.
  • These estimates are often based on outdated data and are revised when better data become available.
  • The indicator will measure progress towards SDG Target 2.1.

Prevalence of Moderate and Severe Food Insecurity (PMSFI)

  • It is a new method.
  • It is a more comprehensive measure of the lack of access to adequate and nutritious food.
  • It is based on annual surveys that collect information on experiences of food insecurity.
  • The Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), a gold standard in food security measurement developed by the FAO, is used by PMFSI for estimating globally comparable prevalence rates.
  • The indicator will measure progress towards SDG Target 2.1.


  • As per the report, India has 194.6 millions undernourished people in the world.
  • The higher economic growth has not been translated into higher food consumption in India.
  • India’s situation can worsen due to Covid 19 pandemic and severe cutbacks in the Union budget on key programmes on child nutrition and mid-day meal scheme.
  • In 2014-16, 27.8% of Indian suffered from moderate or severe food insecurity. The proportion of this rose to 31.6 percent in 2017-19.
  • The number of food insecure people grew from 42.65 crore in 2014-16 to 48.86 crore in 2017-19.
  • India has 22% of the global burden of food insecurity (the highest for any country) in 2017-19.
  • In the rest of South Asia PMSFI reduced by 0.5 percentage points but for India it is increased by 3.7 percentages.


  • Indian neighbors like Nepal and Bangladesh have performed remarkably well.
  • Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Afghanistan, too, have made progress in reducing hunger.
  • Nepal reached the MDG target and has almost reached the threshold of 5% undernourished in its population.

Other Countries

  • Asia remains home to the greatest number of undernourished (38 crores). Africa is second (25 crores), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (4.8 crores).
  • According to current estimates, in 2019, 21.3% (14.4.crore) of children under 5 years were stunted and 5.6% (3.8 million) overweight.
  • The report highlights that a healthy diet costs more than ?143 (or $1.90/ day), which is the international poverty threshold.
  • 300 crore people globally can’t afford a healthy diet (more than the combined population of the two most populous countries in the world, i.e. China and India).


  • The government of India neither conducts official FIES Surveys nor accepts estimates based on FAO-GWP surveys.
  • FAO-GWP surveys are being conducted in India but India does not allow publication of estimates based on these surveys.
  • In India, conventional measures of poverty and food consumption are not available for recent years and the main reason for this is the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) consumption expenditure survey data for 2017-18 has not been released.
  • FAO’s approach of supply wise data on per capita food availability to measure changes in average per capita calorie intake is become untenable for India because it has a large and growing disparity between the supply side data and data from the consumption surveys.
  • India’s per capita dietary energy supply has been increased by 3.8 percent but the average consumption expenditure is reduced by 3.7 percent.


  • Indian economy is in a deep crisis and the agrarian crisis, falling investments across sectors and shrinking employment opportunities are significantly increasing the food insecurity.
  • The unemployment rate in the present is higher than in the last four decades. Demonetization and introduction of the Goods and Services Tax can be considered the causes of economic distress during this period.
  • Due to Covid-19 and its lockdown many Indians lost their livelihood, many industries got shut down and poor faced the food insecurity, hunger and starvation.


India is going to witness the increase in number of food insecure people. While India is still facing the basic challenges in just accessing food, challenges are even more important in terms of accessing healthy diets. The health and socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 are further deteriorating the situations. India should conduct national surveys on food insecurity to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security of different sections of the population and release the earlier reports like NSSO’s consumption expenditure survey data to get the clear picture for the solutions.

Source: The Hindu