Role of food scientists & technologists in Ensuring the Food Security

dr-irfan-khan

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Introduction

Currently, India is facing the worst scenario of food inflation which is claimed highest since 1998. Currently, India’s economy is in trouble due to an extra burden of food inflation along with petroleum products. Inflation is becoming out of control nowadays and it may create food security issues in the near future. In the recent past, the Indian government took the initiative to distribute food grains free of cost to the needy. There is no doubt; that the initiative will somehow alleviate the food security problems temporarily. But is it a true or sustainable solution to actually address the food security issues?

On the other hand, the Russia-Ukraine war has deeply affected the world’s food market which will be for sure paid for by every country directly and indirectly. In the near past, the pandemic situation of the corona has already broken the base of the economy throughout the world. Somehow, developed nations such as the United States of America have maintained the losses but underdeveloped and developing countries have been affected badly. Recently the Indian government have put some cap on the export of wheat grains due to
comparatively low wheat production than the previous year so as not to allow domestic inflation and also to maintain the accessibility of food among the people. Because, wheat and wheat flour is used as raw material starting from basic home chapatti to processed bread, snacks etc. A person can withstand the high price of petroleum products but he/she could not afford the high price of foods due to their low per capita income.

What is food security?

According to the United Nation’s Committee on World Food Security, “Food security implies that every people, at all times should have physical, social and economic access to safe and nutritious food for a healthy life“. 

That means “Food security” is the solution toFood Insecurity“.

Food Insecurity is a problem, which means every person, at all times, does not have equal access to food for healthy living. The problems of food insecurity deepen after the pandemic situation of covid-19. TheHunger Indexof any country depends upon the food security issues associated.

The World Bank addresses the rising problems due to food insecurity. As of July 17, 2023, food price inflation remains high throughout the world. Approximately throughout the world countries i.e. low, middle and high-income countries are facing the problems of food inflation that put extra burden on people’s life. According to the latest world bank report, the most affected countries are South Asia, Central Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and South Africa

What is Global Hunger Index (GHI)?

Global hunger index is the physical parameter to measure the global hunger or degree of food insecurity among the population at national, regional and global scales. It is calculated with the help of four indicators as follows:

  1. Undernourishment: Contributes 1/3 of GHI 
  2. Child Stunting: Contributes 1/6 of GHI 
  3. Child Wasting: Contributes 1/6 of GHI 
  4. Child Mortality: Contributes 1/3 of GHI 

India ranks 107 out of 121 countries (2022) with a GHI value of 29.1 which is a serious status for any country. To combat the situation, strong and right actions should be taken within a stipulated time. In my understanding, there are several factors which are responsible for serious GHI in India, given below:

a. Sudden Demonetisation in India without proper planning breaks the spine of the Indian industrial sector, particularly the micro and macro scale industry which benefits a significant population of the country. 

b. Outbreak of Covid-19, globally affected the world’s economy including India.

c. Implementation of GST without proper planning, also breaks down the industrial sector

d. Unsustainable Indian Agriculture: Most Indians earn their livelihood in agriculture and allied sectors. Due to not having good support policies for the farmers i.e. the Govt. does not assure the farmers of a minimum support price. 

*Recently, a big protest was run by Indian farmers i.e. “Kisan Andolan” against the Agricultural laws (Krishi Kanoon) passed by the Indian government. 

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Food Security: A Vision of food scientist

Professionals from different fields can explain food security issues from different viewpoints. But as food technologists and scientists, we have to analyse what kinds of measures, we can take to strengthen the situation after harvesting the crops.

A food scientist can assure the food quality after harvesting so that we could reduce the post-harvest losses in cereal grains, fruits and vegetables i.e. by applying the latest technologies, we could preserve the food commodities. The only thing, food scientists & technologists can do is they should invent cost-effective farmer-friendly novel post-harvest technologies to reduce post-harvest losses. Once a technology is developed, the farmers should provide the training through extension programmes by visiting the villages and telling them about the technology, its use and its benefits.

This is my personal experience that in India, many where the food technology departments are running without any extension activity and even they don’t have any such plan for the coming future. Most colleges and universities are running just for monetary
purposes and actually are playing with the future of students. It is extremely and humbly requested to the responsible authorities kindly audit and give the ultimatum to such colleges and universities to fulfil their standards as per regulatory agencies. If not, then it should take necessary action against them. Otherwise, we would not build good institutions for the next generation.

 Ultimately, there is a need that, for the newer technologies developed in the food technology department must be told to the nearby people so as to get benefits by starting their own starts ups. In this way, we could justify the subsidies and investments given by the govt. of India to the academic institutions for the welfare of society ultimately.

Awareness of the latest technologies

In India, awareness is the major problem i.e. farmers are unaware of the latest post-harvest technologies and even up to some extent the central and state-funded institutions are not actually playing their role in identifying and addressing the problem at the farmer’s end. Now, is high time to start such programmes and be aware of the farmers with the latest cost-effective post-harvest technologies so that they could put their efforts to reduce post-harvest losses and ultimately could get better revenue from their crops.

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Generally, the food can be preserved for a long time in several ways:

1. Either by removing excess moisture content through drying unit operations. nowadays, scientists and engineers have developed low-cost dryers operated with solar systems for farmers. This is just an example of a low-cost farmer’s friendly dryer. Today, it is a need to invent and design economic farmer-friendly machines so that farmers can start food processing at their doorsteps and make more money.

2. The food can be preserved by freezing technology by decreasing the enzymatic activity thereby decreasing microbial growth. So, it is a need to develop low-cost freezing technology or to design a cool chamber with zero energy. This way farmers could extend the shelf life of their products and can sell them when they will get a favourable market price. 

3. We can increase the shelf life of agricultural produce by making cost-effective novel packaging materials that can help in reducing post-harvest losses during storage and transportation. 

No doubt, India has great potential to overcome the above-mentioned problems and pave a new path of success by revolutionising the food and agriculture sector with the latest technologies, especially in fighting the challenges of post-harvest losses and thereby food security.

REFERENCES

  1.  Global stats on food security issues. World Bank.

 

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