IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

More evidence of India’s food insecurity

25th August, 2020 Editorial

Context: Data from the latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report show that India retains the dubious distinction of being the country with the largest population of food insecure people.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is an annual flagship report jointly prepared by FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO to inform on progress towards ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition and to provide in depth analysis on key challenges for achieving this goal.

Authoritative indicators

  • The prevalence of food insecurity increased by 3.8 percentage points in India between 2014 and 2019.
  • Report has globally accepted indicators of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Target 2.1 to end hunger and food insecurity.
  • The SOFI report, which is published annually, presents the most authoritative evaluation of hunger and food insecurity in the world. Since 2017, SOFI presents two key measures of food insecurity: the conventional measure called the Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU) and a new measure called the Prevalence of Moderate and Severe Food Insecurity (PMSFI).
  • The PMSFI uses the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), a gold standard in food security measurement developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), for estimating globally comparable prevalence rates.

Country data

  • Estimates show that while 27.8% of India’s population suffered from moderate or severe food insecurity in 2014-16, the proportion rose to 31.6% in 2017-19.
  • The number of food insecure people grew from 42.65 crores in 2014-16 to 48.86 crores in 2017-19.
  • India accounted for 22% of the global burden of food insecurity, the highest for any country, in 2017-19.
  • It is also noteworthy that while the PMSFI increased in India by 3.7 percentage points during this period, it fell by 0.5 percentage points in the rest of South Asia.
  • While the per capita dietary energy supply in India increased by 3.8% between 2011-13 and 2015-17, the consumption survey data that became available through a media leak showed that the average consumption expenditure (covering food and other expenses) fell by 3.7% between 2011-12 and 2017-18.
  • Overall, withholding of consumption survey data by the government has meant that SOFI continues to use outdated data for variability of food intake, making PoU estimates for India untenable.

Causes of suffering

  • The significant rise in food insecurity, as shown by these data, is a clear manifestation of the overall economic distress during this period marked by a deepening agrarian crisis, falling investments across sectors and shrinking employment opportunities.


  • It is critical for India to conduct a national survey on food insecurity to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security of different sections of the population.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/more-evidence-of-indias-food-insecurity/article32424037.ece#:~:text=The%20number%20of%20food%20insecure%20people%20grew%20from%2042.65%20crore,country%2C%20in%202017%2D19.&text=Lack%20of%20availability%20of%20data,FAO's%20PoU%20estimates%20for%20India.