Viewpoint: Sowing the Seeds of Food Security

18 OCT,2020 | MEDC


 

World Food Day, observed on October 16, is an opportunity to reaffirm our global commitment to healthy and affordable diets to all Indians through bold vision and swift action. No delay is now permissible especially since Covid-19 has clearly exposed the vulnerabilities in global food security, compounding previous levels of hunger with unemployment, supply chain disruptions and falling incomes. According to some estimates up to 200 million people could slip back into poverty in India, thus impairing food security on a massive scale. This goes along with other irreversible global trends like climate change,which does not bode well for a smooth global food supply chain. A reliable vaccine for Covid-19 is still some distance away and so the bulk of our resistance to the pandemic will have to come from our own natural immunity … which depends heavily on the food that we eat. There is growing evidence that what we eat fundamentally impacts how we experience Covid-19. 94% of deaths from Covid have been of those with some underlying metabolic or other chronic disease, nearly all linked strongly to poor diet quality. Unless we are in some way able to guarantee a diet of some minimum quality to the majority of Indians, we risk inviting Covid into almost every household in the country. Given the stagflation situation of the economy, this is the last thing we can afford at this juncture. To change this trajectory, the food systems of the future should be healthy, reliable and equitable. They must balance the need for sustainable economic development and increasing demand for food with the conservation of natural resources and the environment. A patchwork approach will not work here. A holistic tactic will have to be deployed if we are to succeed in transforming the global food system to nourish people under the abnormal conditions that Covid has imposed upon us. Various stakeholders including the government, the private sector, food producers, agro-businesses and many others will need to come together to deliberate on a cost-effective course of action. The government’s approach to food security needs to be a highly collaborative one involving ministries both upstream and downstream in dealing with the complex interrelated issues that arise. Over the past six months, we have been reminded of the importance of a strong and vibrant food supply system. Indeed, it was largely the agricultural sector that was able to sustain our economy over its rollercoaster ride of the past few months. Probably the most vital thing Covid-19 has taught policymakers is to empower everyone to access the basic minimum diet they need to maintain good health in the national interest.Food security is a key socioeconomic issue that we cannot afford to take lightly.

*Photo Credit: Google 

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