“Growing income and urbanisation drive diet changes while supply has not kept pace with rising demand for diverse foods,” professor Pingali said while addressing the gathering at a seminar held at MS Swaminathan Research Foundation.
Hence, despite having more money in hand to spend on food, which in turn has changed the diets, it has not been for the better, he added.
According to him, there was a vast disparity due to unbalanced diet patterns, leading to both undernutrition and obesity in India. This topic is featured in the book, ‘Transforming Food Systems for a Rising India’, which he co-authored along with Anaka Aiyar, Mathew Abraham and Andaleeb Rahman.
He added that Indian states have to now tackle the twin challenges of undernutrition and obesity. “We need to commercialise and diversify for income and supply.
Changing demand has brought about opportunities for diversification and new markets, but smallholder farmers still do not get the benefits.
Making them more productive and competitive requires moving beyond staple grain technologies,” said professor Pingali, who is a professor at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, and the founder-director of Tata-Cornell Institute.
His co-author Anaka Aiyar, health economist and a post-doctoral Fellow at Tata Cornell Institute, said there was a need to refocus public policy to increase system and nutrition diversity, and tackle the burden of malnutrition. “We need to have a State-specific approach in policy for nutrition sensitive food systems in India,” she said.
MSSRF chairperson Madhura Swaminathan pointed out how the price of wheat and rice have come down due to the green revolution and the Public Distribution System maintained low costs.
However, the expenditure on staples without PDS would go up, she cautioned.
Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director-General for Programmes, World Health Organisation, experts in agriculture, nutrition and health, and students took part in the seminar, added a statement from the foundation.