Food Policy

  • Mumbai has 2.6 million fake ration cards

    the Maharashtra government recently discovered 2.6 million fake ration cards in the state, including 700,000 fake cards in Mumbai. The state government has assured "strict action' against errant

  • Food coupons for BPL families

    in a bid to stop pilferage in the Targeted Public Distribution System (tpds), the Union government plans to introduce food coupons for people below poverty line (bpl). Under the scheme

  • Andhra salt makers want recognition as farmers

    Andhra salt makers want recognition as farmers

    "Why shouldn't salt-making be classed as agriculture?' asks R Potharaju. "Both require land, water and sunshine, and are subject to vagaries of nature,' he reasons. Potharaju is convenor of the

  • Sri Lanka regulates GM food import

    the Sri Lankan government gazetted regulations for the import of genetically modified (gm) food on August 3, 2006, making labelling and pre-import approvals mandatory. The rules will be enforced

  • Agriculture: Don't fix is the government's fix

    It can be said that Union budget, 2007, is high on symbolism and intent. Most people in and close to power acknowledge that something is spoiling booming India s party price rise, agricultural

  • Pricing food in poor India

    The government is being severely criticised for the wheat it is now planning to import. Rightly so. India s season for wheat ended a few months ago. When the crop was being harvested the

  • World Bank urges benefit assessment of bio-fuel

    The World Bank, admitting the competition between food and fuel crops for land and water, has asked the national governments to carefully assess economic, environmental, and social benefits and the potential to enhance energy security. In its World Development Report-2008, it said: "The challenge for developing country governments is to avoid supporting bio-fuels through distortionary incentives that might displace alternative activities with higher returns - and to implement regulations and devise certification system to reduce environmental risks.' It suggested that the potential environmental risks from large scale bio-fuels production can be reduced through certification schemes for measuring environmentalaspects. It suggested a Green Bio-fuels Index of GHG reductions. The World Bank quoted that according to some available estimates, current bio-fuel polices the world over, can lead to a five-fold increase of the share of bio-fuels in global transport energy consumption - from 1% today to around 5% to 6% by 2020. "The grain required to fill the tank of a Sports utility vehicle with ethanol (240 kg of maize for 100 litre ethanol) could feed one person for a year, so competition between food and fuel is real,' the World Bank report said. It added that future bio-fuel technology may rely on dedicated energy crops and agricultural and timber wastes instead of food crops. "Technology to break cellulose into sugars distilled to produce ethanol or gasify biomass is not yet commercially viable - and will not be for several years. And some competition for land and water between dedicated energy crops and food crops will likely remain,' the report said. It further said that second generation bio-fuels using cellulosic technologies were likely to require even larger economies of scale, with investment costs in hundreds of millions of dollars just to build one plant. The report admitted that in industrial countries and till recently in Brazil, bio-fuel programmes were supported by high protective tariffs and large subsidies. These policies have caused land conversion away from food and led to an upward pressure on global food prices, severely affecting poor consumers. With a view to make bio-fuels compete with gasoline, industrial countries gave massive support and subsidies. According to recent estimates, more than 200 support measures costing around $5.5-7.3 billion a year in the US amount to $0.38-0.49 per litre of petroleum equivalent for ethanol and $0.45-0.57 for bio-diesel. In this context, the World Bank report questions - Are bio-fuels economically viable without subsidies and protection? It answers: "The breakeven price for a given bio-fuel to become economical is a function of several parameters. The most important determining factors are the cost of oil and the cost of the feedstock, which constitute more than half of today's production costs. Other often more cost-effective ways of delivering environmental and social benefits need to be considered, especially through improvements in fuel efficiency.

  • Food is a great asset minus fund managers

    Investors can't afford to ignore food. As a hedge against a possible US recession, and direct exposure to rising urbanisation and wealth in Asia, it's an asset class that's tailor-made for the present times. As Jim Rogers of New York-based investment firm Rogers Holdings puts it, "If you're in agriculture, you don't know that there is a recession, you don't care.'' That may be as true for investors in agricultural commodities as it is for farmers, provided the former don't rely on the expertise of fund managers to beat the futures markets.

  • Food demand may double in 50 years'

    Lead author of the World Development Report-2008, Alain de Janvry, has warned that the global demand for food is expected to double within the next 50 years, while the natural resources that sustain agriculture will become "increasingly scarce, degraded and vulnerable to the impact of climatic changes'. Delivering a lecture on "Agriculture in the contemporary world' here over the week-end, Prof. Alain de Janvry said the agriculture sector not only needed greater investments, but should also be placed at the centre of the planning process to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. The lecture was organised by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) here. Prof. Alain de Janvry

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