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Pakistan tops South Asia in protein intake

Sep 29, 2012

The Global Food Security Index points out that much more remains to be done to ensure food security and quality in India as also in the rest of South Asia.

According to the Global Food Security Index 2012, India and South Asia, in general, are vulnerable to food price shocks due to a high incidence of poverty and food expenditure relative to other outlays.

This study ranks India at the 66th position, much below its neighbour China at the 38th position.

Even as the study attributes India’s high political stability as the primary driver of its first place rank in food availability within South Asia, the lack of a diverse diet and low protein quality constrain India’s score in food quality and safety, placing it at the third spot among the five South Asian countries the study covers.

The study also underlines low quantities of quality food protein in India’s food supply.  While the average per capita consumption is 47 grams of quality protein in Pakistan and 38 grams in Sri Lanka, it is only 37 grams for India – equal to the consumption in Nepal and higher than Bangladesh where it is about 34 grams per person.

The Global Food Security Index conducted by the Economicst Intelligence Unit (EIU) and commissioned by American chemical company DuPont, ranks 105 countries in accordance to their relative level of food security in three internationally established categories -- affordability, availability and quality and safety.

According to EIU regional Director Pratiba Thaker India is a moderately ranked country globally, which in food security jargon means that it has some strengths, but it also has some areas that to work on, like infrastructure and storage facilities to facilitate the produce reach markets on time and, in turn, assure farmers good returns.

Thaker adds that India should encourage consumption of more protein-based food and ensure that it has enough expenditure on research and development. Production of protein based food should be encouraged by spreading awareness among the farmers as well as the consumers, she says.

In India, the average diet is largely starch-based, reflective of a largely vegetarian food culture. Which is why, the report’s authors argue for the need for an increase in the amount of protein from vegetables as compared to the protein harnessed from animals.

The study also reveals that while the food consumption as a share of household expenditure averages 49.5 per cent in India, the average for South Asia is 52.3 per cent – a stark difference in respect to high income countries where it is just 20 per cent.

The index reveals that India spends just one per cent of its agricultural Gross Domestic Product on research, placing India near the bottom of the 26 lower middle-income countries.  Institutions dedicated to providing food safety net programmes help protect the poor from the vulnerability arising due to food related shocks, the study argues.

Peter E Kenmore, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative opines that farmers in India will have to adapt to the changing scenario in the agricultural sector.  “Food for national welfare schemes like the mid-day meal programme for school children should be sourced locally. It will not only benefit the farmers but also reduce the procurement cost,” he said.

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