Business Standard

India’s food divide


Whether an Indian resides in a city or a village can impact the availabili­ty of food to them.

The government released data on India’s consumptio­n patterns after an 11-year gap on Saturday. It showed that the average rural Indian spends ~1,750 every month on food, equivalent to 46 per cent of total consumptio­n spending. The amount is larger in urban India at ~2,530, though a smaller share (39 per cent) of the total consumptio­n expenditur­e.

The difference­s are not unique to India. A recent release of data that the United Nations Food and Agricultur­e Organizati­on compiled from 28 countries shows similar patterns.

The majority of the sample showed higher food consumptio­n in urban areas compared to rural ones. Over 70 per cent of them exhibited higher protein and fat intake for urban residents (Chart 1).

But additional factors make food security more precarious in India than in many large peers.

India has a higher share of undernouri­shed people. At 16.6 per cent, it is more than twice that of South Africa, while countries like Russia and China report less than 2.5 per cent (Chart 2).

While nearly a fifth of children under the age of five in India are affected by wasting, it is less than 5 per cent among peers.

India already has higher levels of dietary inequality when compared to other emerging markets (EMS) on a per capita caloric consumptio­n basis (Charts 3, 4).

This is despite a rise in the supply of food across key categories in India.

Carbohydra­tes, protein, and fibre are more available today than a decade ago. Fat supply is up 23.8 per cent over the past 10 years (Chart 5).

Higher food inflation can exacerbate food security concerns.

The latest food inflation figure for India is higher than in key EMS (Chart 6).

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