In a meeting with members of the local administrations of the 28 Indian states on February 8, 2010, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh highlighted the food insecurity situation which is posing a threat to the country where a sixth of the world's population lives. "For some time past, there was a false sense of security that availability of food has ceased to be a concern," he exclaimed.
In the late 1970s, thanks to the introduction of new agricultural techniques and a strong increase in wheat and rice production, the green revolution enabled the subcontinent to become self-sufficient in cereals and ward off threats of famine, whereas the country had been a net food importer twenty years previously.
Today its agricultural efficiency has decreased, leaving nothing but a lingering false sense of security. While food prices are soaring this year (up 19% in January, according to the newspaper Les Echos) as a result of the worst rainy season India has experienced since 1972, more than one person has shown concern, and with good reason.
Indeed, on average, India produces just 3,000 tons of food per hectare, while other countries produce 6,000 tons. Its rice production, for example, is just a third of China's and around half of that of Vietnam and Indonesia, as the World Bank has highlighted. Up to now, the substantial food stocks that India has at its disposal have enabled it to absorb the growing imbalances between supply and demand. But certain foodstuffs, such as sugar and vegetables, are already starting to run out, forcing the country to resort to large-scale importation – for example, 4.5 million tons of sugar have been imported since October 1, 2009 – twice as much as the previous year's imports in just six months.
In a country where 70% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood and suicides of farmers made the headlines a few years ago, this situation is wholly inadmissible, yet unfortunately widespread. What not just India, but the whole world needs to do, is to modernize production systems, diversify agricultural production and develop irrigation while at the same time supporting local farmers, if the world political and social climate is to avoid degenerating into chaos.