The paper “Bridging the gap: Tapping agriculture potential for optimum nutrition” further noted that in order to combat macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies, Indian policymakers need to ensure that people have easy access to low-cost and nutritious food.
“There is a need to focus on a dual-pronged approach, where on the demand side, nutritious food is promoted among consumers by bringing companies and the government together on a consumer sensitisation campaign; and on the other hand, diversified and resilient food production is promoted that reduces the cost of production on the supply side,” said the study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (Assocham) and professional services firm EY.
“The nutrition and agriculture programmes will need to strengthen both demand and supply side initiatives such as agricultural diversification of farmland, food production, food fortification, strengthening food supply chains, empowering local communities for growing nutritious food and encouraging kitchen gardens,” the report elaborated.
The study also highlighted there is an urgent need to spread awareness among the community on the importance of a balanced and diverse diet.
Production versus nutrition
It also stressed that improving agricultural production, especially in the shift towards responsible farming, can no longer be the sole objective.
“Focusing on nutritional adequacy to address India’s malnutrition crisis will have to be considered as a prime objective as the country is home to about 50% of world’s undernourished children,” it stated.
The Assocham-EY report also suggested a shift in focus to a crop-neutral agricultural policy that would reduce bias toward particular staple commodities, to encourage farmers to respond to market demands.
It added that bio-fortification would be effective in India as it is cost-effective and has the ability to reach the rural population.
“Such initiatives need to be scaled up to ensure that a larger proportion of population can reap its benefits,” said the report.
“Developing and strengthening a nutrition-sensitive approach in agriculture is critical for the country to successfully meet the nutrition requirements of the country and achieve the (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.”
Assocham encompasses over 400 chambers and trade associations.