Saturday, February 12, 2011

galloping growth and hunger in india

NYTimes | The 50-year-old farmer knew from experience that his onion crop was doomed when torrential rains pounded his fields throughout September, a month when the Indian monsoon normally peters out.

For lack of modern agricultural systems in this part of rural India, his land does not have adequate drainage trenches, and he has no safe, dry place to store onions. The farmer, Arun Namder Talele, said he lost 70 percent of his onion crop on his five-acre farm here, about 70 miles north of the western city of Aurangabad.

“There are no limits to my losses,” Mr. Talele said.

Mr. Talele’s misfortune, and that of many other farmers here, is a grim reminder of a persistent fact: India, despite its ambitions as an emerging economic giant, still struggles to feed its 1.1 billion people.

Four decades after the Green Revolution seemed to be solving India’s food problems, nearly half of Indian children age 5 or younger are malnourished. And soaring food prices, a problem around the world, are especially acute in India.

Globally, floods in Australia and drought in China have helped send food prices everywhere soaring — on fears the world will see a repeat of shortages in 2007 and 2008 that caused food riots in some poor countries, including Egypt.

While India’s agricultural problems are part of this bigger global puzzle, in many ways India’s food challenges are more entrenched and systemic than those faced elsewhere.