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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 03 October 2023

CONTENTS:

  1. Turning challenges of food insecurity into opportunity
  2. Capturing the Rains

Turning Challenges of Food Insecurity into Opportunity


Context:

Food loss can have profound implications for food security and nutrition, affecting key aspects such as food availability, access, utilization, and stability. Globally, food insecurity, hunger, and environmental degradation are exacerbated by the wastage of food.

Relevance:

GS3- Food Security

Mains Question:

Citing the various causes of food loss in India, discuss the steps taken in this regard. What can be done to further the efforts to ensure food security in India. (15 marks, 250 words).

Statistics related to food loss:

  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), approximately 14% of the world’s food is lost from post-harvest until just before the retail stage in terms of economic value.
  • In India, annual losses of 4-6% for cereals and 5-12% for vegetables have been reported.

Causes of food loss:

Food loss arises from various causes at different stages of the supply chain and due to socio-economic factors.

  • In India, inadequate storage and transportation infrastructure, along with post-harvest losses, contribute significantly to food loss.
  • The complex supply chain with multiple intermediaries exacerbates the problem at various stages.
  • This pervasive issue has critical economic, social, and environmental implications, hindering India’s progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
  • Notably, nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish experience the highest levels of food loss.
  • Moreover, it is estimated that 8 to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions result from food ending up in landfills, contributing to climate instability, reduced crop quality, and disruptions in the supply chain.

Steps taken in this regard:

  • Collaborating with FAO, IASRI-ICAR has estimated the FLI for India, using national-level surveys conducted by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries.
  • India stands out globally as the only country with a robust system of regular surveys monitoring food losses, laying the foundation for the development of the FLI methodology.
  • FAO collaborates with the government and relevant bodies to identify and solve these challenges. Approximately 4.5% of India’s food is lost, according to FAO’s report.
  • On the fourth International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste (IDAFLW), the FAO emphasizes the adoption of the Food Loss Index (FLI) methodology to monitor losses throughout the entire supply chain, from production to consumption.

Way Forward:

  • FAO emphasizes the critical need to measure post-harvest losses across the country, aligning with SDG 12, Target 12.3, and SDG 2 — Zero Hunger. Identifying specific channels of significant losses through disaggregated data at subnational levels will support targeted interventions and necessary aids.
  • Improved data is crucial for effective decision-making, promoting innovation, best practices, and optimizing resource allocation.
  • Addressing India’s food loss challenge requires a comprehensive effort from various stakeholders, including the government, farmers, food processors, retailers, and consumers.
  • Enhancements in localized infrastructure, storage, transportation, processing, packaging, market linkages, and awareness campaigns are critical.

Conclusion:

Reducing food loss not only conserves resources but also lessens the environmental footprint associated with food production and disposal. FAO believes that India, as a leader for the Global South, can take the lead in addressing this global challenge, demonstrating a way forward to achieve efficient, inclusive, sustainable, and resilient agrifood systems for better production, nutrition, environment, and overall well-being, leaving no one behind.


Capturing the Rains


Context:


For the first time since 2018, India has registered a shortfall in the monsoon. The country received 82 cm of rainfall from June to September this year, nearly 6% below the normal 89 cm. From April onwards, signs pointed to a subdued monsoon, with the looming presence of El Niño.

Relevance:

GS1-

  • Water Resources
  • Important Geophysical Phenomena

Mains Question:

What are the reasons for shortfall in Indian Monsoons recently? What can be done to withstand this erratic nature of monsoons? (15 marks, 250 words).

Status of monsoons in India:

  • The cyclical warming in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean typically leads to reduced rainfall in India, especially in the northwest.
  • In contrast, the Indian monsoon between 2019 and 2022 was notably affected by the cooling La Niña, associated with above-normal rainfall.
  • Consequently, expectations for a normal monsoon in 2023 were restrained.

State-wise status of monsoon in India:

  • Despite these predictions, this year’s monsoon was far from ordinary. Approximately 9% of the country experienced excess rainfall, while 18% faced deficient rainfall. The rest received normal rainfall.
  • August, the second-most crucial monsoon month, recorded a third less than its normal rainfall.
  • Unexpectedly, several states in north India, anticipating minimal rainfall, were inundated due to multiple episodes of record rainfall.
  • In July, heavy rainfall in Chandigarh, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh led to floods and landslides, causing cities to grapple with serious flooding for several days.
  • Cloudbursts were reported in Himachal Pradesh in August, attributed to so-called western disturbances, normally not expected to play a significant role in the monsoon. These occurrences underscore the wide-ranging impacts of anthropogenic warming.
  • Conversely, drought-like conditions prevailed in Maharashtra, with extreme water stress reported in Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and Karnataka.
  • In Karnataka, tensions escalated with neighboring Tamil Nadu over sharing water from the Cauvery River.

Prediction of monsoons:

  • The India Meteorological Department forecasts a ‘normal’ northeast monsoon from October to December, with ‘normal to above-normal rainfall’ in large parts of northwest India and south peninsular India.
  • Signs indicate increased rains in various parts of south India.

Conclusion:

The spatial and temporal variability of the monsoon emphasizes the necessity of investing in more resilient infrastructure capable of withstanding the increasingly unpredictable aspects of the global climate. Recent trends highlight the importance of enhancing forecast models that can better predict significant weather changes a week or two in advance, directing more resources and expertise towards this endeavor.


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