Sample Material of Our IAS Mains GS Online Coaching Programme
Subject: General Studies (Paper 3 - Technology, Economic
Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
Topic: Issues of Buffer Stocks and Food Security
Issues of Buffer Stocks and Food Security
The Food Corporation of India is the main agency for
procurement, storage and distribution of food grains. In addition to the
requirements of wheat and rice under the Targeted PDS, the Central Pool is
required to have sufficient stocks of these in order to meet any emergencies
like drought/failures of crop, as well as to enable open market intervention in
case of price rise.
What are Buffer Norms?
The Buffer norms are the minimum food grains the Centre
should have in the Central pool at the beginning of each quarter to meet
requirement of public distribution system and other welfare measures.
Objectives of Buffer Stocks:
The buffer stocks are required to Feed TPDS and other welfare
schemes, Ensure food security during the periods when production is short of
normal demand during bad agricultural years Stabilize prices during period of
production shortfall through open market sales.
The FCI has been constructing storage capacity for holding
buffer and operational stocks of food grains at nodal points in the country. The
storage capacities available with FCI are mainly used for storage of food grains
and partly for other commodities and general warehousing.
Any changes in the Buffer Norms in pipeline?
Yes, with the bulging procurement as well as the demand, the
government had asked the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy
Research (NCAP) to study the buffer norm and make recommendation on increasing
it if the demand has gone up. A technical group was also studying the report of
The government is reviewing the norms for keeping buffer
stocks of wheat and rice required at a particular time of the year to feed the
public distribution system and welfare schemes.
The demand for wheat and rice distributed through welfare
schemes is expected to rise with the implementation of the food security law.
The government was looking at three issues which would
determine the buffer norms.
"The government's role in procurement and marketing of the
grains, protecting the farmer's interest by setting a minimum support price and
the subsidy we are giving to private traders for bulk purchase under the Open
Market sale Scheme (OMSS)," . Buffer norms for wheat and rice have not been
revised since April 2005.
According to the norm, the minimum quantity of grains
available with the government should be 4 million tonne (mt) of wheat and 12.2
mt rice on April 1 every year. But as on April 1 this year, the Food Corporation
of India (FCI) was holding 24.2 mt wheat and 35.5 mt rice.
The government anticipates that by July1, stock holding of
grains will touch 93 mt including wheat stocks at 60 mt.
"The government had kept buffer norms at a time when grain
production in the country was low, which is not the situation now. As per our
projection till 2040, we will have grain (wheat and rice) production touching
253.24 mt compared to the 2013-14 projection of 192.02 mt,".
According to FCI officials, the expenditure incurred by the
government on holding one lakh tonne wheat per annum was 25 crore and 32 crore
"It is high time that the country evaluated how much buffer
stock we need and liquidate excessive stock. This will tame food inflation,
reduce food subsidy and bring rationalisation to grain market," said Ashok
Gulati , chairman, CACP.
The National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy
Research (NCAP) has submitted its recommendations on buffer norms a few months
ago. "We feel that buffer norms have to increase with rising production and
population," said Ramesh Chand, director, NCAP. He said the Food Security Act
will now ensure that the government will need around 64 million tonne wheat for
the scheme as against 56 million tonne currently required to run the public
Food security is a condition related to the ongoing
availability of food. Concerns over food security have existed throughout
history. Yet it was only at the 1974 World Food Conference that the term 'food
security' was established as a formal concept. Originally, food security was
understood to apply at the national level, with a state being food secure when
there was sufficient food to "sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and
to offset fluctuations in production and prices".
A new definition emerged at 1996 World Food Summit; this time
with the emphasis being on individuals enjoying food security, rather than the
nation. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food security
"exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to
sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food
preferences for an active and healthy life".
Food Security is determined by the availability of food, the
access to food and the absorption (or nutrition) of food in the system. These
three conditionalities for food security are closely inter-related and thus
availability and access to food can increase absorption or nutritional levels
among the households.
It is seen that in spite of India having achieved self
sufficiency in cereals it is still lagging behind in the production of pulses
and oilseeds. It is also observed that there has been a significant increase in
the production of fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat, poultry and fishery
products. However per capita availability of these are still far lower than
international and national norms and standards. The trends in availability
appear not to be improving as required solely on account of the stagnation of
the agricultural sector. An attempt has been thus made to identify the major
constraints and deficiencies in agricultural growth and specific suggestions
have been put forward for improving the performance of the agricultural sector
and to enhance the growth rate so that it is capable of meeting the food and
nutritional requirement that have been projected in the next decade. Among the
specific suggestions made to lift the agricultural sector from its present
slowdown and stagnation, we have highlighted increased public investment and a
serious review of subsidies provided to farmers. To boost infrastructure,
expansion of credit, and essential inputs, land and water management,
agricultural research and extension, effective marketing and price policies, the
diversification of agriculture, the strengthening of institutions catering to
these needs, strengthening the mitigation strategies for tackling climate
change, and the strict regulation of land use and diversion of land for