A profound quote attributed to William Gibson, science fiction writer stated that “The future is already here – it is just not evenly distributed.” This refers to the limited access to technology and advancement driven by wealth and geography. This could be interpreted differently, as we have challenges and problems of the present which are also not evenly distributed and this could be our future too.
Food security is one of the major challenges the world is facing today. Millions of people lack access to safe, nutritious and affordable food. Food grains are staple food for many people in India, especially those who live in poverty because food grains are relatively cheap and provide a basic source of nutrition. India’s food grains production reached a record 315.7 million tonnes in 2021-22 stated by the Economic Survey 2022-23 which is a positive development for food security.
In the North-East region (NER) of India comprising eight states, rice is the most important food grain crop which is grown on a large scale followed by other food grains, such as maize, millet and wheat, although to a lesser extent. These food grains are an important source of nutrition and income for farmers in the region and contribute to the overall food security of the region. The government is giving emphasis on diversification towards higher value crops like fruits and vegetables. Diversification towards high value crops can have both positive and negative impacts on the ability of poor people to access food.
On the positive side, increased production and availability of fruits and vegetables can help to improve the overall food security of the population, as these crops are rich in nutrients and play an important role in providing a balanced diet. In addition, increased production of high value crops can create new economic opportunities for farmers. However, there are also potential negative impacts to consider. For example, the shift towards high value crops may lead to decreased production of food grains, which are a staple food for many poor people in India and provide a relatively cheap source of calories.
Additionally, the higher costs associated with growing and marketing high value crops may make them less accessible to poor consumers. Overall, the impact of diversification towards high value crops on the ability of poor people to access food will depend on a range of factors, including the availability of food grains, the income levels of poor people, and the overall functioning of the food system.
To know the impact of crop diversification in the North East region of India, the study was carried out which found that, the share area under food grain crops shift towards fruits, vegetables, oilseeds and fibre. This is a matter of concern and should be monitored carefully. While increase in area under high value crops would raise production provided with many benefits.
But a decline in food grain production could increase the price of food and make it more difficult for poor people to access adequate amounts of food. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the share of area under food grains does not decline to the extent that it undermines food security for vulnerable populations. It is important for the government to take a comprehensive approach to addressing food security and to consider the potential impacts of policies and programs on poor people and other vulnerable groups.
Markov chain analysis was applied to study direction of changes in the cropping pattern of the North East region of India. The Markov chain analysis determines the retention of share of area from the previous year. In the table, the diagonal values represent the retention of share of area from the previous year for the particular group of crops. The column shows gain in share of area from respective crop and rows show the loss in share of area from respective crop from previous year. Food grain crops and fruit crops were the major crops of the region.
Food grain crops had retained 86.24 per cent of the share of area from the previous year and fruit crops had retained 74.27 per cent of the share of area from the previous year. When the leading crops of the region is considered, food grain crops lost its 5.10 per cent share of area to oilseeds, 4.49 per cent share of area to vegetables, 2.09 per cent share of area to fruits, 1.30 per cent share of area to fiber and 0.29 per cent share of area to sugarcane.
Table: Transition probability matrix of changes in cropping pattern for North-Eastern India
Source: Based on author’s calculation.
(The writer is a PhD Scholar (Agricultural Economics) at the School of Social Sciences, College of Post Graduate Studies in Agricultural Sciences, CAU (I), Umiam, Meghalaya)
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