On Wednesday, a day after extending its nationwide lockdown, India relaxed restrictions on sectors deemed essential, including the agriculture industry that employs more than half of the Indian population.
Prabhu Pingali, professor of economics and director of the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition, says that the decision will help deal with the massive shock the lockdown has imparted to India’s food system.
“India has witnessed a massive shock to its food system due to the nationwide lockdown. The country’s food security program, which provides rice and grains to over 800 million people, has no reported disruptions, so providing people with adequate calories should be no problem.
“However, access to a balanced and nutritious diet is an issue. Unlike in the United States, food supply and agricultural operations were not exempt when the shutdown order was given. Consequently, supply chains have choked up across the country and harvesting operations have come to a standstill, limiting the supply of fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, and livestock products.
“On April 15, the government finally designated agriculture as an essential operation, which should provide some relief. However, persistent bureaucratic hurdles in inter-state movement of commodities and interference with the functioning of food markets will continue to be major challenges for rapidly improving access to fresh, nutritious food, especially for the poor.”