New Delhi : With India and its agriculture and food processing sectors facing grave nutritional challenges, industry chamber Assocham on Sunday suggested the government should adopt a two-pronged strategy based on the public-private partnership (PPP) mode to promote nutritious and diversified food production.
In a report, “Bridging the gap: Tapping agriculture potential for optimum nutrition”, jointly prepared with British financial services firm Ernst & Young (EY), Assocham said that while the government in partnership with companies should promote nutritious food among consumers, it should also promote diversified and resilient food production to reduce costs.
“There is a need to focus on a dual pronged approach, where on the demand side, nutritious food is promoted among consumers by bringing companies and the government together on a consumer sensitisation campaign; and on the other hand, diversified and resilient food production is promoted that reduces the cost of production on the supply side,” it said.
“India must bring about both policy and practice level reforms in order to cater to the large unmet need of both macronutrients and micronutrients.
“The nutrition and agriculture programs will need to strengthen both demand and supply side initiatives such as agricultural diversification of farmland, food production, food fortification, strengthening food supply chains, empowering local communities for growing nutritious food and encouraging kitchen gardens,” Assocham said.
India needs to shift its approach towards “responsible farming” where enhancing agricultural production can no longer be seen as the sole objective of the sector, according to the Assocham-EY study.
“Focusing on nutritional adequacy to address India’s malnutrition crisis will have to be considered as a prime objective as the country is home to about 50 per cent of world’s undernourished children,” it said.
The study also suggested the need to shift focus to a “crop-neutral agricultural policy” that reduces the bias toward particular staple commodities while encouraging farmers to respond to the market demands.
According to Assocham, “bio-fortification” would prove to be a more effective strategy in India as it is cost-effective and has the ability to reach the rural population.
“Such initiatives need to be scaled up to ensure that a larger proportion of population can reap its benefits,” the statement said.
“There is a strong need of convergence between the health and agriculture sectors along with gender-based empowerment,” it added.
Developing a nutrition-sensitive approach to agriculture is critical to successfully meet India’s nutrition requirements and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the report concluded.