Pandit ji and Panditayen are sitting in the drawing room. Pandit ji has his nose buried in a newspaper, while Panditayen frowns as she fiddles with a calculator. She jots down some numbers on a piece of paper, then flings down the pen on the table and turns to Pandit ji.
Panditayen: Will you get rid of that newspaper and listen to me? I am losing my mind!
Startled, Pandit ji looks up.
Pandit ji: Why? Is something wrong?
Panditayen: Just about everything! Our monthly budget has gone haywire. Do you know we are spending twice the amount we did last year just on food? Even buying an extra packet of rice seems a costly affair! It’s crazy…
Pandit ji: This is exactly what the news reports say. Not only us, the world is going crazy. The rise in food prices has been dramatic. This year, food import bills around the world are expected to be US $ 215billion more than last year. In other words, more than a trillion US dollars! Millions of people are facing starvation. They cannot afford to buy basic staples like rice and wheat. And experts say the prices shall remain this high for a long time to come…
Mohan, the gardener, enters the room.
Mohan: I have watered the plants, Madam. Can you please give me a bit of my salary in advance? It is only the middle of the month, and my pocket is empty already. The local grocer says price of dal will shoot up again… Is that true? How am I going to cope?
Pandit ji: We are all in a soup, Mohan. But here, take this money and buy whatever you need.
Mohan: Thanks a lot, Pandit ji. Leaves
Panditayen: Oh dear! It’s happening right here. Mohan and his family will starve if food continues to get costlier. He has a little baby…
Pandit ji: No one can survive without food, and no country can sustain itself or develop. It is the most basic and yet, the most vital requirement for every nation. No wonder the two worlds of developed and developing countries are at loggerheads with each other over food security.
Panditayen: Food security?
Food security is the condition in which everyone gets sufficient food. This means there has to be enough nutritious food available to everyone at affordable rates. So, if anyone cannot afford to buy food or have access to it, the person is in a food insecure situation.
|“AVAILABILITY of sufficient quantities of food of appropriate quality, supplied through domestic production or imports; ACCESS by households and individuals to adequate resources to acquire appropriate foods for a nutritious diet; and UTILISATION of food through adequate diet, water, sanitation, and health care”
Food insecurity leaves its ‘victims’ hungry, undernourished or malnourished. And we all know what these lead to – from health problems to reducing productivity to even death.
A stable food situation is when enough is available, the entire population can share it and use it to remain healthy... right? These are the three components of the food economy — food availability, access and utilisation.
In other words, security largely depends on the proper functioning of demand, supply, distribution and consumption of food. So if any of these processes get disrupted, there is food insecurity.
FOOD PRODUCTION depends on availability of natural resources, climate variation, state of the environment, technological development, and so on.
FOOD ACCESSIBILITY may get affected by food prices, changes in purchasing power of the people, market condition, and other such variations.
FOOD UTILISATION depends on factors like eating habits, water-food safety and quality, healthcare.
All these factors vary in importance across regions, social groups, and over time. And all are inter-related. For instance, fall in a crop’s yield due to bad rains will reduce its supply and increase its price. So, a person would sacrifice the share of some other source of expenditure, say healthcare, to buy the food item at the hiked up rate. This is bound to affect her health and reduce her productivity. This would further reduce the supply and increase the prices. And the vicious cycle will carry on.
|“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
(World Food Summit, 1996)
Currently there are more than 850 million food insecure people in the world, and the majority resides in developing countries. As of May 2006, 39 countries – 25 in Africa, 11 in Asia and Near East, 2 in Latin America and 1 in Europe – were experiencing serious food emergencies and needed external assistance.