Sunday, July 24, 2011


Suman Sahai

The agriculture ministers of the twenty most powerful nations in the world, the G 20, to which India now belongs, met for the first time in June 2011. This high powered meeting held in the back drop of the global food crisis tried to hammer out a strategy for the farm sector that would help to alleviate the world food situation. Prime amongst the strategies proposed was for countries like India and Russia to export their grain reserves. Whereas Russia has traditionally been an exporter of certain grains , specially wheat, India is a net importer especially when faced with a monsoon that is less than adequate.

What quite takes my breath away is the gall of the Americans who pushed for India to lift its ban on exports to meet global demand for food. After the food crisis of 2008, India had imposed a ban on rice exports so as to meet domestic food requirements and avert a crisis that could result from high food prices. This ban, according to the Americans should be lifted. In addition, India should share with the Americans information on the amount of grains stocked and their location so that they can intervene more directly.

Quite apart from the brazen interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation, the Americans in typical fashion, hold one set of standards for themselves and another for the rest of the world. American corn is burnt to produce biofuel , creating a shortage in the international availability of corn. The biofuel fad leads nowhere since without the unnatural subsidies it receives, it is not a viable product. Nor apparently is it good for the environment it attempts purpotedly to save. The Obama administration’s review of the American biofuel program found that more conventional energy was required to transform corn into biofuel than the energy it would save. Why doesn’t America stop its biofuel program and let the corn and wheat that it destroys , re enter the food chain ?

If the American heart bleeds for the hungry and if it wants to help the global food crisis, let it begin to implement its sermons at home. Instead of telling other nations to release buffer stocks of grain meant for the poor and hungry, let America first release all the food stocks it destroys to produce biofuels. Then let it stop the enormous wastage of food . According to the most recent report of the FAO, the US and Europe together waste about a third of the food that is produced in their countries. Once they have cleaned up their own act, may be they will acquire some legitimacy and be able to offer suggestions to others about what they should be doing to resolve the global food crisis.


  1. Dr. Sahai, I agree with your views here. American overseas policies and politics both leave one breathless with indignation! That said, our decision makers in governance also need to update/upgrade their skills and knowledge to some extent. We do have our own style of rebuttal but seeing the bigger picture might actually provide more insights into controlling factors and future opportunities.

    There are many nascent states in Africa with land resources which their governments are willing to put to developmental use under trilateral or bilateral cooperation. Many of these nations are looking to India for help and support (both Technical Assistance and Capacity building). I believe the Ministry of Agriculture is pivotal in building appropriate and adequate fora for such cooperation. Maybe PPP can also help in quickly putting in place sustainable agro-based industries in these countries with buy-back agreements or tie-ups?

    The FAIRTRADE movement has been rather successful, maybe producing crops for India could be too? These could be exported from there to anywhere or imported to India. It could be a solution to our looming food security crisis.

    Of course, I may not be well informed enough to comment about this at all!

  2. Usage: start using Electric Cars man! their rates will lower pretty soon..makes no sense to burn food and drive cars when children are dying out of famine and hunger all over the world whether it be due to the ongoing war for petrol or lack of concern for others(poverty)..

    Wind & Solar both are increasing to fill the Energy Production requirements, consider them Green & Clean.
    Guess b'coz both their sources are no way under the control of Humans lol :)

  3. Food is life. We have unvarying tendency to over produce profitable items due to our greed but under produce what is really needed. We have to replace greed with need. We should grow diverse perennial vegetation. Annual grain monocultures should be replaced with polycultures of perennial grains and oil seeds.
    Wheat raises blood sugar higher than most of the other foods. 4 slices of whole wheat bread raise blood sugar higher than 12 teaspoons of sugar. That’s a simple fact as per the table of glycemic index.
    Almost all wheat in USA is from a dwarf strain, which produces a far greater yield but has contributed to the current obesity epidemic.