Soybean & Nutritional Security in India
India’s farm sector has come a long way after the end of colonialism in 1947. Regressive taxation and no impetus to land development led to stagnation in our country’s farm sector for almost 2 centuries. In fact no major breakthroughs had been achieved in our farms since the end of medieval ages. At the time of Independence, almost 40% of farmers used wooden ploughs and bullocks, a technology that had been around even before the commencement of Iron Age, 2000 years back.
low dietary intake because of poverty and low purchasing power
poor utilisation of available facilities due to low literacy and lack of awareness
After Independence, Food security was one of the biggest challenges that we faced. There were several dimensions to this problem. No wonder of 5 years plans laid special emphasis on agriculture.
The Green Revolution in 60’s ensured that the increase in food production stayed ahead of the
increase in population. The country has moved from chronic shortages to an era of surplus and export in most food items. The country is self sufficient in food grain production and currently there is a buffer stock of over 60 million tonnes. However even this failed to solve the problem. The reason for this situation are many;Food security is primarily a matter of ensuring effective demand rather than a problem relating to food supply. With such realisation, inter-relationship between poverty, hunger and food security is gaining international recognition and serious attempts are being made to define and identify people at risk. It is, therefore, important that every household should either have capacity to produce adequate food for all the members or have purchasing power to acquire it. It has to be appreciated that a country may be food surplus but all its citizens may not be enjoying food security as some may have no purchasing power.
Nutrition security is different from food security as it is about a community’s access to essential nutrients, not just calories.Problems of under-nutrition are intergenerational; when under-nutrition is not adequately addressed, children will grow into undernourished adults and their children will experience the same problems. This affects not only families, but also local economic development.
Success of green revolution was primarily confined to increase in production of wheat and rice. In Fact high production on these crops had a negative impact on cultivations of pulses and oil seeds. ramifications of which can be still felt in high prices of these commodities.
My father, Shri Mahadev Shahra and my elder brother Shri Kailash Shahra saw ‘Soybean’ as an perfect solution for the impending crisis. Soybeans are not only a great oilseed but also an optimum source of protein. With minimal capital inputs, it can serve the dual purpose of nutritional security and improvement in buying power of marginalised farmers. Ruchi Soya has in fact entered into a JV with a Canadian research major for raising our farm productivity to the international levels.
This three decade old vision still has the potential to bring about revolutionary changes in our food consumption patterns. With adequate support from farmers and policy maker, the dream of true nutritional security for India can certainly be turned into a reality.