Monday, April 30, 2012


China's food production has achieved amazing growth rates in the past which showcases its prowess in modern agriculture technology. Though its population is growing at a moderate level, the food production has always kept ahead of population increase every year. But for occasional droughts and floods, there does not seem to be any major hiccup in food availability and even under such conditions the country is in a position to spend liberally on imports using the vast foreign exchange reserves it holds. Therefore it does not come as a surprise to see the targets for food production hiked recently for achieving a 100% growth in just three years! With a tight control over the economy and very little personal freedom, it may not be a surprise if the country gets to the post easily. Here is a take on this claim by China regarding its dream for doubling food production by the year 2015. 

"China has issued the 12th Five-Year Plan for its food industry, aiming to have output of 12 trillion yuan ($1.9 trillion) by 2015, the National Reform and Development Commission and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a joint statement. During the previous 5-year period (2006-2010), China's food industry generated an output of 6.1 trillion yuan, accounting for 8.8 percent of the country's total industrial output during the same period. To realize its output goal, the plan calls for a restructuring of the food industry. The plan sees food conglomerates as a major driving the force in the sector, accompanied by small and medium-sized enterprises.Chinese officials say they are making stronger efforts to address China's long-term food safety concerns amid rising public outcries that the country's food products can't be trusted. Scandals in the food sector are a nerve-racking issue for the Chinese authorities; numerous measures to enforce standards have failed to have the desired effect, meaning food safety remains a major public concern. Inefficient inspection methods -- an issue partly attributed to supervisory powers being shared between different government organs -- have been widely cited as a main cause. According to the plan, China will raise the threshold for businesses in the food sector and establish a sound monitoring system for food safety in addition to a different mechanism that attributes food safety responsibilities to businesses involved. Earlier this week, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that China would not tolerate any move that sacrifices the health of the population to achieve profit-taking".

The statistics put out by Chinese may need closer scrutiny because of its obsession with glorifying the communist philosophy though independent international agencies have the means to verify production statistics scientifically. Interestingly the production increase is projected in terms of value , not in volume and there is always the inflation element that can vitiate the actual production figures. Even then the production increase will be substantial if Chinese are able to achieve the target. World needs to be worries about the quantum jump in food production in China because of its likely impact on global food prices. If Chinese chooses to export large quantities, the global food prices are bound to crash affecting the economy of many agricultural produce exporting countries, most of them being poor ones. Post-2015 era will be interesting to watch.


Sunday, April 29, 2012


Though organic foods are gaining popularity across the world, the real reason for a paradigm shift in the consumer perception of normal foods marketed to day may not be based on reasons which are being touted by the organic food industry. There appears to be a grouse on the part of the general food industry that consumer is being hijacked by the protagonists of organic foods through unsustainable claims like superior nutrition and other benefits. Here is a commentary on this perceived feelings of food industry in general about the situation prevailing to day in world markets.

As consumers we are increasingly disconnected from how our food is produced and supplied. New ideas and belief systems related to food are exploiting this disconnect and nowhere is this more true than organic food. In his new book, Organic Production and Food Quality: A Down to Earth Analysis Professor Robert Blair uses the latest scientific research to separate the truth from unproven beliefs. 'Organic Production and Food Quality' is the first comprehensive book on how organic production methods influence the standard of our foods, while comparing this to the perceptions of consumers and the demands of the global food industry. Based on the latest scientific findings and the results of food monitoring programs in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand Blair explores issues consumers raise about organic food including quality, safety and "healthfulness" compared to conventional food. "The internet is rife with unsubstantiated claims from the organic industry, and the media tends to have a negative impact on consumer perceptions about food," said Blair. "Thanks to food scares such as BSE or the controversy over GM foods more and more consumers began buying organic food. This resulted in a radical shift in food retailing, the expansion of the organic industry and the supply of organic foods at farmers' markets, supermarkets and specialty stores." In contrast the recent announcement by the UK Food Standards Agency that organic foods are nutritionally similar to conventional foods may reverse consumer perceptions, as will the higher cost of organic food when budgets are tight. Blair agrees with the conclusions of the UK FSA, as does an important sector of the European organic industry.

It has to be admitted that organic foods possibly can never be nutritionally superior except in a technical sense because the way the organic crops are raised is founded on the philosophy that they should be safer for the consumer as synthetic chemicals are rarely permitted for increasing production or protecting them. It is not that conventional agriculture cannot deploy the same techniques used by organic food farmers but the cost is bound to rise making the products much more costly. Let the organic food industry restrict its promotional efforts to focus on safety rather than nutrition. This is a fair way of clearing the confusion that prevails among consumers.


Saturday, April 28, 2012


Lot has been said and written about the villainous role played by the processed food industry in raising a nation of children with distorted body shape due to over consumption of fat and calories served by the former. No matter what any body says the industry seems to be least bothered because of its "money power" that has kept national governments under the thump! Every time a proposal is mooted to impose stringent regulatory control over the industry, the strategy has been to coddle up to the government promising voluntary action to curb the manufacture of patently unhealthy but organoleptically mouth watering foods, only to break the same with neither remorse nor fear of retribution. Here is the latest instance of the destructive way the industry deals with issues that concern the health and lives of citizens in that "great" country, all call as the United States of America!

In the political arena, one side is winning the war on child obesity. The side with the fattest wallets. After aggressive lobbying, Congress declared pizza a vegetable to protect it from a nutritional overhaul of the school lunch program this year. The White House kept silent last year as Congress killed a plan by four federal agencies to reduce sugar, salt and fat in food marketed to children. And during the past two years, each of the 24 states and five cities that considered soda taxes  to discourage consumption of sugary drinks has seen the efforts dropped or defeated. At every level of government, the food and beverage industries won fight after fight during the last decade. They have never lost a significant political battle in the United States despite mounting scientific evidence of the role of unhealthy food and children's marketing in obesity. Lobbying records analyzed by Reuters reveal that the industries more than doubled their spending in Washington during the past three years. In the process, they largely dominated policy making -- pledging voluntary action while defeating government proposals aimed at changing the nation's diet, dozens of interviews show. In contrast, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, widely regarded as the lead lobbying force for healthier food, spent about $70,000 lobbying last year -- roughly what those opposing the stricter guidelines spent every 13 hours, the Reuters analysis showed.

While the above case pertains to USA, the experience is not different in other countries where the food industry has a free run with no modicum of respect for the regulatory agencies whose activities are tailor made to the needs of the big industry. Take the case of India where a clear dichotomy exists and it is the small enterprises which are "punished" for minor violations while the big fish never gets caught, no matter. how serious the violation is! Standards and specifications are manipulated such a way that only manufacturers with deep resources can "manage" them while the small players become the victims of the system. One thing is very clear that India always likes to be a country with strong rules on paper but with weak implementing infrastructure, few personnel and callous approach to safeguard the health of citizens!


Friday, April 27, 2012


The Food Truck phenomenon has spread far and wide in the United States and customers are increasingly patronizing these mobile eating joints almost bordering on frenzy! Sociologists, psychologists, economists and health experts are baffled by this trend while established restaurants are fretting and fuming because of its impact on their bottom line. After witnessing literally the explosive growth of Food Trucks during the last couple of years, regulatory authorities are lately waking up to the potential for food poisoning and food related afflictions due to this lightly regulated catering system. Many civic authorities are trying to tighten the monitoring regime for these trucks though in practice it poses enormous logistical problems. These are highlighted in a recent report emanating from the west coast of the US. 

"Food trucks have rapidly become a delicious mealtime staple around San Diego County, with new trucks and locations popping up on a daily basis. This semester, USD has even decided to jump on board the movement with the installment of Torero Tu Go, the West Coast's very first campus-run food truck. These gourmet meals on wheels range in specialties from prime grass-fed burgers, fresh pasta, modern Asian cuisine, seared ahi tuna, all the way to New England lobster rolls. Food lovers of all types can follow their favorite trucks on Facebook and Twitter to find their exact location each and every day. Currently there are nearly 1,100 food trucks and coffee carts roaming throughout the entire San Diego County, and the numbers continue to grow. Despite their hungry and grateful customers, food trucks have been subject to scrutiny and skepticism. The trucks are subjected to surprise health inspections on a yearly basis where the overall quality of both the food and truck itself are examined. In addition to the upkeep of the truck, inspectors also consider the temperature of the food storage, whether there is a proper hand washing area and whether or not all surfaces are sufficiently cleaned."

With established chefs and food connoisseurs getting into Food Truck business, there seems to be a perception among eating out diners that the foods served here are much better in terms of quality while very little concern is evident about the safety aspects. Probably a fool proof system of safety monitoring will have to be evolved in the coming days to pre-empt any unwanted health fiasco due to deficiencies in hygiene and sanitation. Since the United States has more than 50 states with different local laws a national consensus will have to emerge regarding regulating this nascent industry.



Any consumer while eating a cone ice cream might be thinking of similar wraps like the cone in which ice cream is filled, in the cases of other foods also. Of course cone ice cream has an outer wrapper which needs to be peeled before having a go at the cone part. But as a concept edible wrappers or packaging materials is no more Utopian as there are a few stubborn players harping on them through development of such edible wraps for some food and beverage products. How far such developments will go or how much time it will take for the main stream industry to use them widely after development is a question that has no answer right now. While the development efforts are going on in full swing how the safety regulators are going to react to this new paradigm is another uncertainty. After all packaging is meant to protect the contents from undesirable chemical, physical and microbiological changes and there is always the possibility that the outer surface of such packs may have contaminating agents requiring them to be cast away. Against such a situation how can an edible packaging material be eaten unless protected with an inedible but functional wrapper? A difficult question that must be addressed before introducing edible wraps in a big way. Here are some of the nuances on the subject which provides interesting reading.

Leading the way (in publicity terms, at least) is the Dumbledore of food technology, Harvard wizard Dr David Edwards whose previous innovations include an "breathable" chocolate delightfully called Le Whif. He has now turned his attention to WikiCells - an edible membrane made from a biodegradable polymer and food particles - that can imitate "bottles" found in nature, such as grape skins. So far, Dr Edwards and his team at Harvard's Wyss Institute have created a tomato membrane containing gazpacho soup, an orange membrane filled with orange juice that can be sipped through a straw, a grape-like membrane holding wine and a chocolate membrane containing hot chocolate. He believes pretty much any flavour is possible. He recently told Harvard's campus newspaper Harvard Crimson that his team was working on a prototype bottle that had an eggshell-like hard coating in addition to the membrane that could be peeled off or eaten whole. "In the near term, we will be encountering WikiCells in restaurant settings," he told the paper. He then plans to expand WikiCells into shops and supermarkets. Meanwhile, Indiana-based MonoSol is hot on Dr Edward's heels. Its water-soluble casings are already widely used to make squidgy pods of washing detergent. The company has been developing tasty edible films that are strong enough to act as packaging until they come into contact with water and dissolve. Products in the pipeline include individual servings of hot chocolate and other drinks that you slip straight into cups, and single servings of flavoured porridge. The company currently is punting the product to major food brands and it could be on the shelves in a year or two. Closer to home, Leicester-based Pepceuticals last month won a £1.3m European research contract to develop an edible coating for fresh meat, which the company says could increase shelf life, reduce waste and do away with the need for oil-based plastic vacuum packs. It cites research that shows UK consumers spend more money on meat than any other food item, but waste an astonishing 570,000 tonnes each year. "The potential to apply an antimicrobial film in the processing factory should significantly prevent the deterioration of the fresh meat product, and save waste. It will revolutionise the look and feel of the traditional meat counter," the company claims (pdf)

A possible alternative could be use of functional bulk packs containing multiple units made with edible packaging materials for easy dispensing at the retail point. Then comes the question as to the consequences of carrying these 100% consumable products by the consumers to their home, storing them and consuming after a few days. These are issues that must be addressed before the concept can be put into practice. Probably edible wraps may fit into the format of fast food outlets which can dispense food preparations in edible bowls and plates. Such a step may reduce the need for reuse of plates after one service and avoid the consequent risks inherent. Taking the cone ice cream example, keeping the cone and ice cream separately and serving them together at the serving counter is frequently practiced. To expect long shelf life food products to be packed in edible materials for wide distribution may remain a pipe dream unless some dramatic break-through takes place to circumvent the logistical and safety problems cited above.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Corruption is supposed to be the "monopoly" of developing countries like India and if one looks at the global corruption index most of the top rankers are developing countries. Those rich countries and international mega investors never fail to complain about the difficulty in setting up business in these countries because of the never ending hassles in getting the necessary clearance from the bureaucratic machinery and it here that "speed money" is spent to hasten the process of approval. It is a never ending question whether bribery is a product of the investment environment or the rich investors tempt the administrative set up with liberal financial incentives in the form of bribes! According to jurisprudence both bribe giver as well as bribe taker are culpable from the law angle but the ground reality is that the administrative red tapism spawns corruption as those want to work honestly are not allowed to do so by the convoluted set up that exists in many countries. Here is a case of world's largest retailing company attempting to win over the bureaucracy in Mexico through surreptitious under the table payment for obtaining necessary license for operating in that country!

"The Times said that in September 2005, a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an e-mail from Sergio Cicero Zapata, a former executive at the company's largest foreign unit, Wal-Mart de Mexico, describing how the subsidiary had paid bribes to obtain permits to build stores in the country. Wal-Mart sent investigators to Mexico City and found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million, but the company's leaders then shut down the investigation and notified neither U.S. nor Mexican law enforcement officials, the Times reported. According to the Times, current Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke and former CEO Lee Scott, who now sits on the company's board, were among senior executives allegedly aware of the situation. Wal-Mart said in a statement on Saturday it was "deeply concerned" about the allegations in the Times report and began an investigation into its compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) last fall. The company also said it had disclosed the probe to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. "Many of the alleged activities in The New York Times article are more than six years old. If these allegations are true, it is not a reflection of who we are or what we stand for," said David Tovar, vice president of corporate communications at Wal-Mart".

In the eyes of the law, giving bribes may be illegal but from the practical view if industry is hampered by putting unnecessary hurdles in the way by the working system in a country what is wrong in spending extra amount to overcome such hurdles? Who is responsible for it? Of course the country's government which does nothing to enforce transparency and expediency in its legal framework. Look at India how the governments, irrespective of the political color behaving over the last 44 years playing "hide and seek"with its citizens in enacting a law for punishing corrupt government officials! As recently as last year the politicians of all hue and color did not take up the Lokpal Bill seriously allowing it to die a natural death umpteenth time! Can a company like Walmart be blamed if they are forced to pay hefty sums to the political-bureaucratic mafia for allowing them to work without hiccups? It is time that such stories are not blown up out of proportion and the industry need not be apologetic about the same.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Government of India (GOI) appears to be gloating over the performance of the farmers in achieving a record production of food grains this year, as being predicted by its expert forecasters. Whether this has happened because of GOI or in spite of it, is a million dollar question. Interestingly if there were shortfalls, GOI would have blamed failure of rains or trotted out some other excuse while farmers' success story is promptly touted as its own with no sense of shame!  A closer look at the statistics of production at the disaggregated level will reveal a different story. While wheat and other cereals except coarse grains have shown higher production, it is alarming to see the production of pules and oil seeds dipping to dangerous levels with decreased production to the extent of 10-15% and the aam aadmi cannot but shiver looking ahead what is in store for him in the coming months vis-a-vis the the availability and cost of these vital foods. If GOI cannot bring about a positive change in the nutrition quality of grains produced by increasing the production of oil seeds and pulses, it has no right to claim that it is working for the interests of aam aadmi! If this is not a failure of GOI agricultural policies, what else it can be? Here are the details of this sad story coming out of GOI's own backyard!

"The government's food grain storage woes have turned more acute, with food grain production for 2011-12 estimated at an all-time high of 252.56 million tonnes, almost 3.1 per cent more than that the previous year's production. This may help provide a minor boost to India's economic growth in the previous financial year, estimated at 6.9 per cent. While releasing the third advanced estimates of agricultural production in 2011-12, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said storing such huge quantities of grain was a concern. "The overall food grain production is good. The only problem is storage," Pawar told reporters, adding the issue was being addressed by the food ministry. Pawar had recently urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to call a high level meeting of all stakeholders to discuss the storage problem. He had said if the issue was not resolved, it might affect the morale of growers. According to official estimates, the country's food grain stocks are expected to rise to 74 million tonnes by June-end, compared with the available storage capacity of about 64 million tonnes".

The situation becomes more pathetic when it is conceded that the MSP policy of the government is attracting farmers to dump their grains at the doorsteps of FCI which has no idea where the newly procured grains are going to be stored! It is known during the last few years that precious little has been done to establish a sound storage infrastructure for long term and safe storage of procured grains. Every citizen in this country has to hang his head in shame when it is universally known that the food grains stored in FCI grain storage structures are of very low quality with substantial portion unfit for human consumption!. In stead of finding ways and means to remedy this situation, the great policy paralysis and bureaucratic inertia at the government level is continuing to bleed the nation grievously. It is time that government takes proactive steps to address these woes through concrete action rather than indulging in bald and meaningless proclamations without any substance.


Monday, April 23, 2012


Providing food for the poor who have no access to affordable food materials both for calorie as well as nutrient requirement is indeed a laudable mission and Government of India (GOI) must receive full kudos for conceiving the giant Public Distribution System (PDS) with good intentions. Unfortunately all good intentions do not get translated into reality and to day's condition of the PDS is best described as pathetic for which the same government is responsible. In stead of learning lessons from a program which has gone haywire, GOI seems to be trapped in the quagmire committing more mistakes, intentionally or otherwise, pushing the country deeper into economic bankruptcy  Many suggestions have been made from time to time by well meaning experts regarding the direction in which PDS must be "rerouted". However GOI seems to be obsessed with garnering votes through a scheme for supplying the food grains practically free which can only expand the "pilferage" of grains by the politician-mafia nexus that operates to day with total impunity! An alternate proposal put forward by some experts calls for a transparent distribution system through issuing coupons or so called food stamps with which beneficiaries can get their entitlement from any retailer nearby. Here is a take on this new option suggested by them.

"If the government has transferred responsibility to the private sector in education, a fortiori, it also ought to put its faith in the private food trade when it comes to food subsidy. Curiously, the Food Security Bill before Parliament is all about government bureaucracy and government departments, with implications of administrative expenses overshooting the operational expenses. To be sure, food coupons are not the panacea to the vexed problem of targeted subsidy, but it is infinitely better than a PDS system that leaks like a sieve. Warts and all, the coupon system at least ensures a minimal role for bureaucracy and completely does away with state procurement, besides doing away with the problem of food rotting in the open, exposed to the elements. If students can be redirected, as it were, to private schools, the poor should be called upon to go to a kirana store in the vicinity, armed with food coupons given by the government. In fact, the initiative on the education front needs to be emulated across sectors — food, health and defence personnel; kirana store has been used more in a metaphorical sense herein. The crippling burden on government hospitals can be managed to a great extent through health coupons a la an insurance policy that is the open sesame for entry into cleaner and more effective, albeit infinitely more expensive, private hospitals".

The massive annual subsidy estimated at 70-80 thousand crore rupees coming out of the national exchequer is nothing but a wastage of resources by this economically turbulent country and to think that most of it is going to line the pockets of politicians, bureaucrats and brokers is really disturbing to the conscience of every honest citizen. No one knows who really deserves food grains at low cost when the family income has increased very significantly, especially after the implementation of various schemes of the GOI to guarantee employment in rural areas. Almost all urban families are well off compared to their counterparts in rural areas with relatively moderate income and why they should receive subsidies is baffling. With real and reliable economic statistics not available, it is time that a more precise and dependable method is evolved to identify families who are really poor and restrict the subsidies only to them through efficient and strict management system. Probably only a fraction of the number that receives subsidy may be eligible if the truth is brought out. Food coupons must be tried out at least on a limited scale to test its effectiveness in checking massive pilferage taking place at present.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Debate about the pros and cons of Omnivores way of dieting as compared to that of Herbivores is a never ending one with each side having sound science behind their respective way of living. However the fact still remains that world is slowly moving, albeit at a snail's pace, towards plant foods for sustaining this planet, if for nothing else. But whether this is a permanent feature cannot be determined considering many difficulties that come in the way of changing the dietary style. There are fierce defenders of Omnivores who are thoroughly convinced that man has been designed to eat animal based foods and over many millenia  this has been going on. But equally vociferous are plant food protagonists who aver that there is absolutely no need for animal foods for maintaining good health. Here is a view by one of the most prolific writers on food from the US arguing the case of vegetarianism with some passion and conviction.   

"From Bill Clinton to Ellen DeGeneres, celebrities are singing the benefits of a vegan diet. Books that advocate plant-based eating are best sellers. But is eliminating meat and dairy as simple as it sounds? As countless aspiring vegans are discovering, the switch from omnivore to herbivore is fraught with physical, social and economic challenges — at least, for those who don't have a personal chef. The struggle to give up favorite foods like cheese and butter can be made all the harder by harsh words and eye-rolling from unsympathetic friends and family members. Substitutes like almond milk and rice milk can shock the taste buds, and vegan specialty and convenience foods can cost two to three times what their meat and dairy equivalents do. And new vegans quickly discover that many foods in grocery stores and on restaurant menus have hidden animal ingredients. "The dominant social-cultural norm in the West is meat consumption," said Hanna Schösler, a researcher in the Institute for Environmental Studies at Vrije University in Amsterdam, who has studied consumer acceptance of meat substitutes. "The people who want to shift to a morevegetarian diet find they face physical constraints and mental constraints. It's not very accepted in our society not to eat meat." Still, the numbers are substantial, according to according to a 2008 report in Vegetarian Times. Three percent of American adults, 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian diet, and one million of them are vegans, who eat no animal products at all — no meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, even honey. (And 23 million say they rarely eat meat.) No one knows how many people have tried and failed to switch to vegan or vegetarian diets, but the popularity of books like "The China Study" and the "Skinny Bitch" series suggests that interest is growing. New vegans often cite Robert Kenner's 2008 documentary "Food, Inc.," which offers an unsettling view of corporate farming and the toll it takes on animals, the environment and human health". 

Whether one is convinced or not by the telling points put forward above, it is a fact that Mother Earth cannot support the Omnivores life style with out destroying herself! One of the most practical constraints working against spread of vegetarianism is the affordability, with plant foods costing 2-3 times more in the present market environment. Why this is so is a matter every country must find out to bring about necessary changes that will make fresh foods like fruits and vegetables cheaper than meat foods. Whether the omnipotent and powerful meat industry will permit the governments to do so is a million dollar question! After all many food giants to day are larger than national governments in terms of financial muscle and with their "money" clout they have the capacity to sabotage any efforts that will hit their own financial "health"!


Saturday, April 21, 2012


India's dominance in world trade in spices appears to be in danger if the industry does not rise to the challenges posed by new and more stringent quality and safety regulations which are being implemented by many buyer countries. According to the spice industry rejection rates of Indian shipments of spices are becoming alarming and considering that safety is of paramount importance, especially in Japan, Europe and the US, there should not be any surprise if these countries start clamping down on imports from India. The conventional attitude that buyers have no choice but come to India is no more relevant to day and if urgent pro-active steps are not taken to streamline many of the present industrial practices with more stress on safety, there are countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, China and some countries in Africa ready to step in to satisfy the spice needs of the world sooner than later. Here is a commentary on the subject which is an eye opener for spice industry for taking steps for self correction.    

"Indian spice traders and producers are facing challenges like food safety, sustainability and traceability. Food safety regulations are affecting spice exports especially to the countries like Germany, France, England, Japan and Australia. India is biggest producer and exporter of spices in the world. As the regulations varies from country-to-country, it is becoming hard to maintain all the required standards. According to reports, the total export of spices from India during the current financial year, up to November 2011, is 351,900 tonnes valued at Rs 6,209.08 crore. But considering the volumes, the export shows a decline of five per cent in the current year as compared to the previous year. The spices exports for the financial year 2011-12 is fixed at 500,000 tonnes valuing Rs 6,500 crore. The countries that import the maximum of spice products from India are Malaysia for chilli and coriander, USA for pepper, celery, spice oils and oleo resins, China for mint products, Saudi Arabia for cardamom, UAE for turmeric, Bangladesh for ginger and garlic, Pakistan for cardamom large and fennel, UK for cumin, Japan for fenugreek, Nigeria for curry powders and Nepal for other seed spices. Geemon Korah, CEO, Kancor Ingredients Ltd said, "These regulations are badly hitting our export markets. Therefore sustainability is a major issue. The maximum containers are rejected from European countries, Japan and Australia. We are largest exporter of chilli and ginger to these countries." "India is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices in the world today, contributing about 48 per cent of the world's requirement of spices. As the global demand for spices is spurring up, it throws up several challenges, mainly for food sustainability, traceability and safety standards. These are not just issues, but threats that can affect the very existence of the spice industry in the country," said A Jayathilak, chairman, Spices Board of India",

There is no point in blaming the buying countries for stiffening the safety standards because increasing knowledge about food contamination and its fatal consequences are forcing the whole world to do that for preventing food poisoning among their population due to imported foods. The Fenugreek "episode" in Europe last year for which imported sprouts from Egypt were blamed brought new focus on this issue and many importing countries are taking measures to prevent repeat of such incidences in future. If India has been caught in this "whirlpool", the country has to blame itself for the situation. No doubt Spices Board is doing a reasonably good job in disciplining the export trade but unless there is an unwavering commitment to quality and safety by the industry, the exports are bound to suffer in the long run.



The eternal debate regarding the role of food industry in creating a morbid community with life style diseases and obesity crippling them, is unlikely to abate in the foreseeable future but industry has to take some blame for making the "food marketing environment" more attractive for binge eating with nutritive products taking a back seat. It is said that though people know what is good eating, their innate sense to go for good foods is thwarted by limited choices available in the market. In this context, recent voluntary moves y some of the food giants to change their product portfolio for including more nutritive items is most welcome. Here is a take on this burning issue.

"American food processing company General Mills has announced that more than 50 of its cereals will now feature white check, which indicates that the cereal has more whole grain than any other single ingredient. To help people keep track of their intake, the cereals with the white check will highlight the grams of whole grain per serving on the side of each cereal box. In addition, the cereals will have whole grain listed first on the ingredient list, indicating that a whole grain is the first and most prevalent ingredient. The cereals with white check will be classified under under General Mills Big G cereal range. The range includes products such as Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Total, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cheerios".

How far such a move will achieve the desired goal of attracting consumers to more healthy foods is a matter of conjecture. By now many experts agree with the prevailing feeling that food is an addictive like tobacco and alcoholic beverages and it is not a mean task to wean addicts from their regular habits. One has to only recall the herculean efforts in the past in many countries to overcome addiction to stimulants through banning the products or high-pricing them with no effect at all. Probably the only way to handle the situation is to take on board the manufacturers and change their mindset to make more and more healthy foods with sound policy orchestration including fiscal incentives. 

Friday, April 20, 2012


China is a country loved by many, hated equally by many and admired by many, depending on what criterion is used. Its pole vaulting into global economic summit and talking as an equal with established world powers has been both dramatic and amazing. calling for admiration all around. But it is hated world over when one looks at its brutality and remorseless suppression of the citizens denying the fundamental rights enjoyed in many democratic countries. No doubt China has built a solid foundation for its technological and industrial growth though the inputs from Soviet Union during early stages should not be forgotten. Full credit must be given to the farmers of the country for raising food production and productivity in almost all crops, making it the top producer of many foods. All said and done, China still lives in rural hinterlands and through shrewd policy orchestrations the country was able to back up the farming community remarkably well. Latest instance of government's long term vision is reflected in the frenetic pace with which it is trying to build up its swine food industry by transforming small scale rural farms into large industrial production centers. Unwittingly the US is helping China to achieve this goal through supply of technology and other inputs with a short term objective of earning dollars from this dollar rich country! Here is a take on this interesting development which should be an eye opener for others like India.

"In a country where pork is a culinary staple, the demand for a protein-rich diet is growing faster than Chinese farmers can keep up. While Americans cut back on meat consumption to the lowest levels seen in two decades, the Chinese now eat nearly 10 percent more meat than they did five years ago. China's solution: to super-size its supply by snapping up millions of live animals raised by U.S. farmers as breeding stock - capitalizing on decades of cutting edge agricultural research in America. By taking this step, say breeders and exporters, China will move from small-scale backyard farms, to the Westernized tradition of large consolidated operations to keep up with demand. "I liken it to their telephone system," said Mike Lemmon, co-owner of the Whiteshire Hamroc farm, which specializes in exporting breeding swine to China. "Most of China's mainland went from having no landlines to everyone having a cell phone. They're doing the same thing with farming." Focus on livestock genetics also represents an emerging economic bonanza for two of the United States' most powerful industries: technology and agriculture. Worldwide, the United States exported a record $664 million worth of breeding stock and genetic material such as semen in 2011. But as fortune shines on breeders, concerns are being raised. While U.S. consumption of meat falls, the price of producing a pound of protein rises, meaning meat companies are seeing their margins shrink. That has prompted some critics to question whether the short-term gains of this trend will result in a longer-term loss of a key export market for American meat producers. This is, after all, a well-trod path in China's pursuit of efficiency: import a technology or create a joint-venture; learn the best practices; apply those practices at a lower cost than overseas rivals; and emerge as an aggressive competitor in the global market".

Chinese are biggest consumers of pork meet and changing their traditional food eating habits is a herculean task. The fact that Chicken meat is cheaper to produce should have persuaded the Chinese authorities to discourage pork based diet in stead of tuning their livestock industry to raise pork production which will definitely be harmful to the country in the long run. Another concern is the impact of the expansion of pork industry in China on the global food front. While country farms use locally available feed resources, high tech birds need to be fed grain based feeds sucking out a substantial portion of food production regularly without any respite. The US which is pampering the Chinese in every conceivable way will realize soon about its short sighted policy of assisting Chinese in their focused pork industry program!



It is understandable that obese people look towards desperate measures to cut down their body weight through any and every means available in the market. Bariatric surgery is increasingly becoming an accepted choice, though with some risks and even in a country like India necessary surgical facilities and expert medical personnel are offering this option. Probably those undergoing such drastic measures justify the means by taking into consideration the risk-benefit aspects of such medical intervention. If recent reports are to be believed medical fraternity with the help of diet experts is offering a new regime for "instant" weight reduction whereby one can lose as much as a few kilograms within 10 days!. Obviously the candidates for this unorthodox treatment are potential brides who want to look slim on the wedding day! Here are some details on this new techniques being promoted widely in the West.    

"Brides-to-be looking to shed that final 10, 15 or 20 pounds in order to fit into their dream wedding gown have taken a controversial approach to crash dieting that involves inserting a feeding tube into their noses for up to 10 days for a quick fix to rapid weight loss. The K-E diet, which boasts promises of shedding 20 pounds in 10 days, is an increasingly popular alternative to ordinary calorie-counting programs. The program has dieters inserting a feeding tube into their nose that runs to the stomach. They're fed a constant slow drip of protein and fat, mixed with water, which contains zero carbohydrates and totals 800 calories a day. Body fat is burned off through a process called ketosis, which leaves muscle intact, Dr. Oliver Di Pietro of Bay Harbor Islands, Fla., said. "It is a hunger-free, effective way of dieting," Di Pietro said. "Within a few hours and your hunger and appetite go away completely, so patients are actually not hungry at all for the whole 10 days. That's what is so amazing about this diet." Di Pietro says patients are under a doctor's supervision, although they're not hospitalized during the dieting process. Instead, they carry the food solution with them, in a bag, like a purse, keeping the tube in their nose for 10 days straight. Di Pietro says there are few side effects. "The main side effects are bad breath; there is some constipation because there is no fiber in the food," he said.

One is reminded of the popular "Botox treatment" being offered for amplifying the beauty of women through injection of Bottulinum toxin, derived from the deadly microbes that infect foods. Similarly plastic surgery, breast implants and orthodontic restructuring are becoming choices for women to enhance their physical appeal! What is interesting about the new "nose feeding" technique to lose weight is that people are oblivious to the complications that can arise in the form infection during the ten days when feeding tube stays in the stomach. Whether such artificial feeding for a normally healthy person will lead to any long term effects also is not known. One moot question is whether beauty is more important than health and why people take such risks, inviting unknown problems for themselves. Here is a typical situation where food scientists, nutritionists, diet experts and medical fraternity joining hands to "fleece" the citizens through such unnecessary services!


Thursday, April 19, 2012


If all the good things spoken by the Agriculture Minister Sharad Power are true India is the most efficient producer of horticultural products though it is true that, in terms of volume of production the country has a global standing. If all the statistics and proclamations coming out of the government quarters are true India will become the top producer soon outpacing every other country in the world. The glitch is in the reliability of the government figures which are often not verifiable. If India is producing as much fruits and vegetables as being claimed why should there be all round price escalation seen in almost all types of this category of protective foods being experienced by the common man? Who can afford to pay a princely price of Rs 150 per kg for Apple or Rs 70 per kg of Orange or Rs 60 per kg of grapes or Rs 40 per kg of Banana (so called poor man's fruit)? The variation in price of vegetables is so wide that Tomatoes can command a price of Rs 40 per kg one day and then crash to Rs 10 per kg within a few days! The Minister seems to be living in a make believe world assuring himself that there in nothing wrong with the horticultural industry in the country! Listen to his grand standing on this front in a recent meeting which as usual patted the efforts of the government without bothering to understand the difficulties of people in getting access to cheaper fruits and vegetables any where in the country.

Shri Sharad Pawar, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing Industries today complimented farmers and all those associated with the development of horticulture in the country for achieving an all time record production of over 240 million tonne of horticulture produce. Addressing the National Conference on Horticulture Production and Productivity here today Shri Pawar said that increase in production has resulted in higher per capita availability of fruits and vegetables, besides substantial increase in its exports, which has helped the country to earn foreign exchange to the tune of Rs. 14,000 crore. Shri Pawar announced the formal launch of 2012 as the "Year of Horticulture" to bring horticulture development in the country to centre stage. The Minister said, " While we have achieved considerable success on the production front, the supply chain issues still need to be addressed. The Vegetable Initiative for Urban Clusters is an important step in this direction. This was launched during the current year with an outlay of Rs. 300 crore under the aegis of RKVY. To start with, the Scheme is being implemented with focus on sustained supply of good quality vegetables to urban centres having a population of one million and above. The scheme lays special emphasis on promoting protected cultivation of vegetables in green houses and shade-net houses for enhancing its productivity. Besides, formation of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO) and linkage with financial institutions through Aggregators is an innovative feature of the Scheme, Over 62,000 farmers have already been mobilized into over 3000 Farmer Interest Groups (FIG) and 50 Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs) under this scheme." 

While announcing a series of nice sounding "Schemes" with attractive acronyms the Minister seems to have forgotten about the previous "avatars" of such "novel" programs which did not make any impact at all in easing the availability problem a wee bit. No one knows what the much heralded National Horticulture Board (NHB) is doing or for that matter the fate of the "Horticulture Mission", announced by the same Minister some time back. Does this not amount to pulling the wool over the eyes of the citizens? National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) which was asked to do an "Amul" on fruits and vegetables in nineteen eighties has not been given a free hand and its "cooperatization" strategy for production and marketing seems to be withering away with no dramatic or visible impact in any states in the country. Is it not laughable when one hears about the philosophy of the government when the now abandoned FDI policy in retail sector was touted as a savior for the Indian farmers! Claiming that India was able to achieve an export of Rs 14000 crore is no credit for any one considering the difficulties faced by the citizens in accessing fruits and vegetables at affordable cost. Government must seriously consider measures to increase productivity and creation of a stable distribution and marketing system to ensure uniform prices through out the year whether in cooperation with private players or through organizations like NDDB with proven track record.   


Wednesday, April 18, 2012


That a blind and insensitive government can cause immense damage is amply borne out by some of the reckless policies being pursued by the present government in India. Most audacious policy which has caused fierce controversy is its new so called "food security" bill which is being sought to be pushed through for the sake of garnering vote banks for riding to power again. It is scary for the citizens that national resources are being frittered away in the name of social equity because a bankrupt country cannot exist for long without massive foreign aid and debt burden. Impartial observers may fret and fume about these policies but the magnet of power can make political parties impervious to criticism or suggestions from those who are knowledgeable on this score. Here is a commentary on GOI policies as being pursued bringing out the dangers inherent in such policies. 

"Taking forward its 'aam aadmi' agenda through policies like the Food Security Bill, the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre looks set to pursue more such policies after the UP polls. In fact, sops announced in the run up to the Assembly polls like the financial package for handloom weavers that will result in a financial burden of Rs 6,303 crore to the government will have to be implemented. With such populist measures costing the government dearly, bureaucrats at North Block are a worried lot, as they grapple with the task of containing a rising fiscal deficit. According to Congress sources, with a better performance for the party in UP being a foregone conclusion, more such popular policies will be pedalled out. A National Advisory Council (NAC) member, speaking to Business Standard, said the Council had already been deliberating on an entire range of policy initiatives for the poor and the disadvantaged, but the model code of conduct makes it difficult for them to speak openly about it at present. Some of the policies the NAC is working on include schemes for street vendors, the urban poor and tribal groups. Significantly, the much-hyped Food Security Bill — a pet project of Sonia Gandhi-led NAC and which the Congress has even committed in its poll manifesto — is likely to push up the subsidy by Rs 27,663 crore by conservative estimates. While Gandhi's 'big ticket' policy was opposed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar initially, citing financial difficulty, it was ultimately pushed through keeping in mind the crucial Assembly elections in UP. The legislation will enable priority households seven kg of rice, wheat and coarse grains to per person per month at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Rs 1 a kg respectively. In the run up to the polls, the financial package for handloom weavers in UP that will set back the government by Rs 6,234 crore was announced by textiles minister Anand Sharma. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's famed Bundelkhand package for drought mitigation has a total outlay of Rs 3,606 crore for use over three years. What was a one time specific need measure has now become a template for further dole outs. The Congress has now gone ahead and promised a series of packages for other "backward regions" in the state such as Mirzapur, Sonbhadra and Chandauli, based on the Bundelkhand package model. Political sociologist Dipankar Gupta speaking to Business Standard said, "These initiatives are effective as one time 'relief measures' to alleviate a crisis situation. The problem arises when instead of being discontinued after some time they are retained as perennial policy."

With a massively corrupt PDS system which is similar to a big sieve that allows more grains to be pilfered before reaching their destination, adding more resources to subsidize this white elephant is nothing but farce perpetrated on the honest citizens of this country. It is shocking to see many recipients of PDS grains feeding the grains to their cattle and poultry birds because of its bad quality and excess grains, more than they need, being given to them! There seems to be no acknowledgment that the PDS as it exists to day has not reduced the poverty level to any significant extent during the last few years. Feeble attempts to address the issue are no substitute to bold action to "engineer" a more equitable and foolproof system to overcome hunger and poverty in the country within a reasonable time.


Monday, April 16, 2012


Importance of sustainability to protect mankind from impending crisis vis-a-vis energy shortage cannot be over stressed. Practically every knowledgeable expert agrees with the contention that food raising practices will have to cut down on energy intake as existing reserves of non-renewable energy resources are bound to be exhausted sooner than later. No amount of glib talking about renewable or inexhaustible energy sources can mask the reality that it is nothing but a Utopian dream. Emergence of movements like Locavores, Slow Foods, Urban farming, Campaign against industrial farming etc can be attributed to this realization which is slowly dawning on people impacting their living styles. Contrary to the common perceptions that GMO is bad, commercial agriculture is detestable and more local foods must be eaten to safeguard future is debunked by a recent analysis by a reputed economist in the US which is interesting to read. Here is a take on the issue.  

"Food people need to pick their issues," says Tyler Cowen, an economist, blogger, and connoisseur of cheap, ethnic eats in the Washington, D.C., metro area. "I think the issues that are important to pick are meat and antibiotics." Issues that are not important, in Cowen's view? Eating local, going organic, eliminating GMO crops. Cowen's new book, An Economist Gets Lunch, takes a series of unorthodox stands on the best way to eat well while improving the world. It reads like a how-to guide for adopting Cowen's particular brand of conscientious eating and tosses aside certain closely-held tenets of foodies and environmentalists. Locavorism gets the hardest rap, and agribusiness an unusual amount of praise. It's occasionally aggravating, particularly since Cowen often cites details without research to back them up. (In the great dish-washing debate, for instance, he advocates for hand- over machine-washing but apparently wasn't aware of the energy and water-saving advantages of the dishwasher.) Still, it's worth considering the points on which he aligns with traditional food gospel and the points on which he differs. Taken together, they offer a reasonable, alternate vision for how to approach these issues. Like most environmentalists, Cowen supports a policy that would control carbon emissions. His policy of choice is a carbon tax, which would help guide consumers' choices to low-carbon products and activities and release us from the burden of remembering what we're supposed to be doing and what we're not. "Most people, even well-informed people, don't have a good sense of how much an afternoon drive in a Mercedes contributes to the climate change problem relative to buying a batch of flown-in asparagus or subbing in a steak for a chicken breast," he writes in the book. He sees deforestation as a major problem, and supports a higher tax on meat and efforts to support reforestation. He also wants to encourage lower-carbon urban living by eliminating height limits and parking requirements for developers. Most environmentalists could get on board with that vision. But Cowen also defends agribusiness on environmental grounds: its efficiency has kept more land free of agricultural development, he argues, and makes feeding cities possible. He thinks that countries where hunger is still a problem need to adopt similar systems, including GMO crops, and that, on balance, chemical fertilizers have both advantages and disadvantages"

Of course everybody has a right to express his or her opinion on any matter and if there is some substance in such views people are bound to listen. Here is an economist who has expressed his views on to day's issues concerning food and energy which seems to be attracting wide attention. Whether his opinions are based on reality needs to be debated and in a democratic world every dissenting voice must be heard before coalescing towards a consensus. It is for the international community to take note of the new dimensions thrown up by the above report. After all there is no difference regarding the urgent need for cutting down on carbon emissions and controlling criminal energy guzzling practices of to day and variance is only regarding the best solution that can abate the alarming situation being faced by Homo sapiens.  


Sunday, April 15, 2012


Consumers world over have to trust the market players when it comes to the weight or volume of contents in a portion sold to them whether packed or fresh. Each country is supposed to have iron-clad rules to protect its citizens from weight frauds indulged by sellers as the consumer cannot be expected to carry measuring devices with them while going for shopping. Citizens depend on the government to discipline the trade through deterrent measures when corrupt selling practices are detected and a vigilant monitoring force is a pre-requisite for identifying fraudsters who indulge in such devious activities. In big countries like India or China, the monitoring agencies often do not have adequate infrastructure and personnel to systematically and continuously catch the culprits, thereby harming the economic interests of the consumers. Here is a story from China which speaks of such frauds in that country as reported recently. 

"SOME hypermarkets and wet markets in the city are cheating consumers on products' weight, particularly on fresh food products, Shanghai quality watchdogs say. Officials with the Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision said in some of the hypermarkets, the weight stated on food labels included the weight of the packages. In the Tesco Zhenbei branch in Putuo District, the weight of a pack of sea cucumbers was nearly 15 grams lighter than what the label said, forcing consumers to pay 1.2 yuan (US19 cents) more for each pack, said the bureau. In the NGS No. 118 store, also in Putuo, 10 types of products included the package weight - cooked food, imported fruits, fresh meat, aquatic products and others. And in some wet markets, officials found some vendors rigged electronic scales with a program written into the scales' computer chips, officials said. Yesterday in a vegetable wholesale market in Minhang District, a vendor was using a scale which could control the readout of the weight by pushing designated buttons. Hu Jianping, an city quality official, said the cheating was subtle enough that common consumers could not tell". 

In India there was a time when the Standards of Weight and Measures regulation was in force and those indulging in malpractices were dealt with severely. Sadly in its pursuit of economic liberalization and growth, the government policy underwent drastic changes allowing sellers to pack foods in any non-standard norm and the result is utter chaos in the market. The hapless consumer in the country finds it hard to choose products based on weight because the present labeling provisions do not insist on including the unit cost prominently. In their drive to expand sales manufacturers are adjusting the contents to suit round figures like Rs 2, 3, 5, 6, 10 20 etc and it is common to find same types of products selling at a particular price with varying contents! Similarly there are millions of retail stores which sell loose commodities using defective or manipulated weighing devices. Same is true with wet markets which sell fruits and vegetables using defective balances. One is yet to hear of a fraudster being booked for such heinous crimes! A sad reflection on the ability or commitment on the part of the government to consumer welfare!  



Most developing countries have the tendency to bend backwards to please multinational food companies for attracting foreign investment at "any cost" by evolving policies that are considered too liberal. In India most MNCs have a field day with barely any visible strategy or vigilance on the part of the government to monitor their actions which cannot be considered consumer friendly too often. The infamous Bhopal Gas Tragedy is still fresh in the memory of people and how the government then in power enabled the responsible people to escape with barely rap on their knuckle is part of history. Even to day the successor company Dow Chemicals is least bothered about the human tragedy that shook the international community. With unlimited freedom given to these companies Indian food sector is dominated by half a dozen such giants operating with impunity, destroying the domestic food processors slowly. In contrast look at the Chinese landscape where the government has shown great alacrity in booking those causing potential injury to its citizens. Latest to be booked is the global potato fry manufacturer who had to apologize to the country for its deficiencies in safeguarding the safety of products served by them. Here is a take on this episode as reported from China. 

"Just weeks after launching an advertising campaign focused on food and quality safety in China, McDonalds is under fire for local food safety violations. State-run China Central Television accused the company of selling chicken wings more than an hour and a half after they were cooked, which is about an hour past the company's self-imposed rule. The report also said that workers prepared and served beef that had fallen on the floor. The investigation was launched to mark World Consumer Rights Day on Wednesday. "McDonald's China attaches great importance to this," the company responded on its website. "We will immediately investigate this isolated incident, resolutely deal with it earnestly and take concrete actions to apologize to consumers." 

Interestingly there is an orchestrated campaign in that country as well as in the international circuits that MNCs re being discriminated against by Chinese authorities who are showing extra lenience while dealing with local processors. There may be some truth in that allegation but it does not speak well of these food giants when they start comparing themselves with their domestic counterparts while claiming at the same time that their technological superiority gives the consumers a better and safer product!. Chinese government, in spite of all food safety scandals happening in the country must be given due credit for disciplining the foreign food manufacturers who have greater potential to harm the consumers through their awesome technological and financial clout. Countries like India must learn a lesson from this episode to increase state vigilance on the working of some of the MNCs who have the notoriety in manipulating state policies in their favor and cause irreparable damage in the long run. 

Friday, April 13, 2012


That the PDS system which is supposed to serve millions of impoverished Indian population is in total shambles is well known with massive pilferage being the hall mark of the program. The only point on which there is difference of opinion among impartial observers concerns the percentage of intended beneficiaries who get the real benefit, the estimates varying from 40% to 65%! In spite of the criminalization of PDS, country's GDP seems to be registering amazing growth with people to day having more money in their hands like never before. If the latest revelation that PDS grains are used by many families to raise Chickens and other domesticated food yielding animals is true, Government needs to rethink the strategy as to whether the PDS is really serving the purpose for which it was created. Probably those who receive the PDS grains find it hard to consume them because of extremely low quality and hence are feeding the same to raise meat, egg and milk! The brand new Food Security Bill further seeks to raise the subsidy and provide these grains at practically throw away prices of Rs 1-3 per kg! These reckless policies, with a hidden agenda of cornering vote banks, especially in rural areas, can only lead to more starvation, under nourishment, malnutrition and bankruptcy of the economy in the long run. 

Padmini, a native of Chertala Taluk in Kerala says that she gets more than enough foodgrains to feed her family at subsidised rates of Re 1 to 2 per kg. So she sees no harm in feeding the excess grain to household chicken and ducks. After all, eggs, chicken and duck fetch substantially higher value at the market. Moreover, it would be far more expensive to buy rice-brawn and coarse cereals which were fed to the poultry earlier. While the political masters are deliberating the prudency and expediency of the newly revised poverty line, millions like Padmini have no doubt crossed the invisible line which divides the poor from the rich in India. Suffice to say that it has been a feat without parallel in Indian economic history. A feat, more remarkable than India's tryst with liberalisation programmes. Despite all the success stories about India's green revolution and self sufficiency in food grain production, per capita availability of cereals stagnated around the 400 gram mark during the past 50 years. Productivity had marched ahead. Food grain production had tripled. But for occasional vagaries of weather and wild swings in production there was nothing substantially wrong with India's food production. The visible signs of prosperity both in India's rural heartland and urban sprawls are real. These signs meant that India's poor were consuming more. Per capita food grain availability should have zoomed. But that has not been the case.

According to recent reports, country's food production is expected to be unusually high and if procurement prices are right there could be a large inflow into the granaries of the government. With the storage capacity in the country being limited a substantial portion of the procured grains will have to be kept under CAP system of open storage which will further aggravate the quality problem already being experienced with PDS grains. If the cash distribution option being considered in lieu of food grains is implemented what will happen to the PDS is a million dollar question. A fundamental issue that is ignored by the policy makers is whether such free distribution of national wealth will not impact the human productivity in the country adversely as the need to work to get food is obviated by the government largess. Unless subsidized food is confined and restricted to those who are really poor by standard economic markers as assessed by scientific census there is no justification to waste national wealth so recklessly as being proposed.