Food Sector Reform: Tackling The Runaway Food Inflation Train
‘Say no to junk food for better health’
This is causing cost push food inflation, partly also via MSPs responding to rising costs in farming. Unless labour and land productivity increases faster, this pressure on food inflation is going to stay. But policymakers can do a lot to bring food inflation from 18% to less than 7%, if not below 4%. The government has huge stocks of cereals, way above what it needs for its commitments under NFSA. At least 20 million tonnes of rice and wheat can be liquidated in the domestic market at pragmatic prices (wheat at Rs 1,400/quintal and rice at Rs 1,900/qtl). This will immediately bring food inflation to less than 8%, as cereals have the highest weight in food. Next, import duties on fruits and vegetables can be slashed to zero or 5%, from the current levels of 30% in most cases. In case of onions, government will have to import large quantities and distribute that in domestic markets at below market prices to break cartels of rent seekers, if there are any. But a more durable solution to perishable commodities lies in exempting them from the APMC Act, and encouraging more efficient value chains that connect farmer groups with processors and organised retailers. We have been too slow and timid in building these value chains. Processing is critical to stabilise prices of fresh perishable products. Even in case of onions, if the government gives priority to promote dehydrated chopped onions (given that onions have 80-85% water), they can be stored easily in large quantities for much longer, and consumers can easily switch to these when the prices of fresh onions go sky-high. This processing technology exists in India and some processors are already exporting dehydrated onions to countries like Japan.
Where to find food trucks in and near Orlando Sept. 29-Oct. 5
Some parents from the city got together to learn more about this phenomenon along with a few solutions for it, too. Setu, a forum where parents get together to discuss ways of improving their parenting skills, had recently organized a discussion on understanding chemistry of nutritious food and junk food. Noted activist Ravikiran Mahajan spoke about the topic, giving many examples from everyday life and decoding them chemically. “We all enumerate and evaluate petrol, but how often do we do the same for the food we put into our bodies, asked Mahajan at the outset. “Children being the future of our country, it is sad to see their diet. With our lives being full of comforts and luxuries, that maintaining our health through right food habits, becomes all the more important,” he said. With this, we are so dependent on medicines that we forget that food can also be medicine. He informed the audiences how our food is full of chemicals that have harmful effects on human health. “Milk, fruits, vegetables, eggs and poultry are all ‘enhanced’ in looks and their shelf lives are elongated by the use of dangerous substances. Sixty even pesticides banned in other countries are widely used in India. These, when combined with habits like sedentary lifestyle, junk food and lack of exercise only add up to the abuse of our own bodies,” he said. He blamed market forces for this development. The corporates are not the only ones busy making money, the doctors and healthcare providers also take money from them and do not interfere in the business, he said. “While we can’t do anything about market forces and mechanisms, we can definitely learn to say no to these products. If there is no demand, there would be no supply.
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