Food security: Can India learn from Brazil?

by Dave

A better policy approach in Brazil compared to India is direct cash transfers, to the poor to purchase food rather than have subsidized food available at government-shops with its accompanying problems of shortages, adulteration, sale in a secondary market. Government role in food security should ideally be restricted to funding to the poor, not provisioning and implementation for which the market mechanism can be deployed. Competition is essential to drive down costs and improve quality. Due to political compulsions, this is not always the case.

The Success of Brazils Zero-hunger Program

Financial Express

Brazil has large farmers and also small farms. It has tried to manage its dual system of agriculture through two separate ministries – Ministry for Commercial Agriculture and Ministry for Family Farms. These two ministries have well defined policies.

In Brazil small family farms largely cater to the needs of domestic food security, while the commercial farms produces mostly for exports. According to the special advisor to the Brazilian President, Maya Takagi, the productivity of small family farms is increased through government support. Despite occupying 24% of the area, family farming is responsible for 38% of production and generate 74% employment. To meet the needs of food security, Brazil has a programme to supply foodgrains to cheap restaurants, community kitchens and food banks. In 2008 147,000 small family farms in Brazil benefitted by an investment of $ 284 million and in 2009 the funding has increased to $ 326 million. The incentives for small family farms in 2009-10 is slated to increase to $ 8 billion

Since 2003, Brazil has launched its food security programme called ‘Zero Hunger Programme”. The budget for this programme in 2009 is $ 10.8 billion. The Brazilian government purchases food from small farmers and cooperatives against remunerative prices for meeting the needs of the Zero Hunger Programme.

In India the government hesitate to increase the issue prices of foodgrains distributed through public distribution system (PDS) as this may cause hardship to the poor. But Brazil has sought to resolve this issue by increasing the income of the poor through what is called the Cash Transfer Programme.

Brazil does not have the problem of food production. It has the problem food distribution and increasing the poor people’s access to food. In 2001 about 21% of the households amounting to 10 million or 27% of the population amounting to 46 million people were poor earning less than $ 1 per day. About 47% of the Brazil’s poor live in the north-east region, 30% of them live in the south-eastern region, 10% of them live in the southern region , 7% of them live in the northern region and 6% of them live in the central-western region. Hunger was increasing in metropolitan areas. The situation has improved with the launch of Zero Hunger Programme and Cash Transfer Programme.

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