Next Story

Is India Facing Thali Trouble Again?

Send Push

New Delhi: The year 2024 is anticipated to be a season of hyper food inflation. A recent CRISIL report pointed to sharp inflationary pressure on our thalis.

As per the report, in November, the month-on-month cost of a home-cooked vegetarian thali rose by 10%, while the cost of a non-vegetarian thali rose by 5%. The figures are indeed alarming. Furthermore, when analysed in the context of food security, the picture gets grimmer.

Meanwhile, the GDP data has confirmed a slowdown in the growth of the agriculture sector.

The CRISIL report says that the prices of pulses – a major source of protein for vegetarians – have jumped by 21%.

Last month, the prices of tomatoes increased by 58% and onions by 35%.

With the next Rabi harvest season months away, this situation may bring a new wave of food inflation, placing additional pressure on the agri-processors and traders as well.

And these are not mere figures. Let’s examine what the government is doing and not saying.

The government’s implementation of strict food control measures, such as export bans, stocking limits, and weekly food stock disclosure, shows that it is worried about another spell of food inflation.

In January 2023, wheat prices reached 25% and they are still high due to tight supply.

In order to stabilise the prices, the government has already started talks with Russia to buy wheat at a discount to boost supplies and curb food inflation. It is also set to cut wheat import duty by 15-20%.

Russian wheat could be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s best solution to address food troubles at home.

Separately, the government’s promise to provide free foodgrains to 80 crore people for five years can only be made possible if India manages to import cheap foodgrains.

Also read: Modi Govt’s Development Model: The Poor Forced to Eat Less, While the Rich Make Merry

Why inflation should be the top election priority

In 2016, food inflation reached a nearly two-year high. In December 2019, it reached a five-year high. In 2023, India was ranked among the countries with the highest food inflation.

A year after Modi came to power, prices of Arhar dal skyrocketed. It breached Rs 200 per kilogram mark. The surge exposed the Dal scam, prompting government raids on hoarders and illegal stocks.

However, over the years, no action has been taken against the perpetrators of the Dal scam. But an effort was made to institutionalise their modus operandi through the farm laws.

Following the Reporters’ Collective’s investigation, which revealed that major food corporations were involved in NITI Aayog’s covert agenda for farm liberalisation, it became evident that the government aimed to support, rather than prevent, food hoarders.

This year, the prices of onion and tomato skyrocketed. Tomatoes became more expensive than petrol. And now, there is double-digit inflation in dal and wheat (dal-roti) prices again.

So, having had a tryst with food insecurity and inflation, why isn’t the government acting concretely so these situations don’t emerge? The answer to this question remains unspoken. Meanwhile, India’s position on the hunger index keeps plummeting each year.

All the money allocated by Operations Greens or the TOPs (tomato, onion, potato) programme seems to have disappeared in thin air, and despite landing on the moon, we have failed to have a defined protocol for beating food price inflation at home.

Food price inflation is the biggest test for the Modi government – a test it has so far failed to pass.

If you do not want to imperil your nutrition in the coming years, then it is about time we prioritise food inflation as the top election priority. In the end, we can’t be fed election promises on an empty stomach, can we?

Indra Shekhar Singh is an independent agri-policy analyst and writer. He was the former director, policy and outreach, at NSAI. He also hosts The Wire’s agriculture talk show, Krishi ki baat/Farm Talks. He tweets @indrassingh.

Loving Newspoint? Download the app now