Report: Food Insecure India Needs Systemic Reforms to Sustain Urban Growth

June 16, 2016

The food system in India must transform to feed its growing cities, argues a new report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Increasing urban employment and rising incomes portend significant growth for India’s $360 billion food market. Yet substantial public and private investments, as well as key regulatory reforms, are needed to update India’s unorganized, fragmented food system.

More than 400 million people live in India’s cities—more than the entire population of the United States—and India is forecast to experience the largest increase in urban population of any country in the world.

“The scale of food and nutrition needed to sustain that is hard to fathom—and India's food system is already failing to deliver food security for all,” said Alesha Black, director of the Council’s Global Food and Agriculture Program. “Now imagine when that population doubles in the next 40 years. India has to transform its food system to feed that urban growth.”

The report, “Investing to Nourish India's Cities,” recommends that India reform government procurement, tariff, and tax policies affecting urban food delivery. It also recommends ways to reduce regulatory complexity and enhance food testing capacity. To improve the supply system, the paper further identifies areas of improvement in transit, warehousing, cold chains, retail, and processing that could improve urban food security in India.

“There is no more fundamental measure of the well-being of a population than its food and nutrition security,” said report author Andrea Durkin, who is also a nonresident fellow at the Council. “India must make targeted public investments and create a path for the private sector to improve the state of urban nutrition and meet growing demand for food in India’s cities.”

This report extends the Council on Global Affairs’ focus on how global agriculture can develop to feed the world’s cities, as presented in its “Growing Food for Growing Cities” report, released at the Council’s annual Global Food Security Symposium. That report recommended that the United States lead efforts to invest in policies, infrastructure, enterprises, trade capacity and research to transform agricultural supply chains in low- and middle-income countries.

Download the report here.

About the Author
Andrea Durkin served as a U.S. government trade negotiator from 1996 to 2004 with the Office of the United States Trade Representative and the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Ms. Durkin has taught international trade and investment policy for the past 11 years as an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University. As principal of Sparkplug, she advises firms in the life sciences, food and agriculture sectors on government relations strategies that drive both commercial success and corporate citizenship.