Articles
FOOD CONSUMPTION IN INDIA AND THE WORLD
by J. K. Bajaj


Calories, Proteins and Fats

Food is a complex phenomenon. Human beings eat such a variety of foods, and in such diverse ways, that comaprisons of average food consumption across different countries and regions are not entirely meaningful. But, such comparisons are perhaps a good way to initiate exploration into the food situation in any particular region or country.

Let us therefore begin by looking at the grossest of the comaparative food consumption statistics: comparing the per capita daily consumption of calories, proteins and fats in different parts of the world. In Table 1 we have collated these data for the major regions of the world, and for some of the countries in our immediate neighbourhood. Such averaging of data over large regions, like the whole of Asia, Africa, Europe or South America, of course hides the great variations that happen to be there within individual countries in a region. But since India itself is a large entity, with great variations within it, the average per capita consumption over whole of India can be meaningfully compared only with averages over countries or regions of somewhat comparable populations.

The data in Table 1 below and elsewhere in this article are taken from FAO agricultural and food statistics. Unless stated otherwise, all data refer to the year 1990.

In Table 1 what seems most striking is the enormous difference in the consumption of essential food components in India and the so-called developed regions of the world, like Europe, the United States of America, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Australia. Compared to an average person in these regions and countries of the world, an average Indian consumes only about 2/3rd of the calories, about half the proteins, and around 1/4th the fats.

It is true that there are some differences in the average daily requirement of essential food components for people living in different regions, arising from differences in the environmental temperatures and in the age and gender profiles of the populations. It is also true that the affluent would perhaps always indulge in a certain amount of overeating. But granting all this, it is still difficult to understand the wide difference in the quantities of essential food components consumed by us and the others. It can mean only one of the two things: either the Indians are grossly undernourished, or citizens of the currently affluent regions of the world are sickeningly over-fed.

Table 1: Average Consumption of Calories, Proteins and Fats


POPULATION

Calories

PROTEINS FATS

millions p.cap/day gms p.cap/day gms p.cap/day

WORLD

5,295

2,712

71.3

68.3

EUROPE

501

3,439

101.8

142.8

USA

250

3,680

111.1

152.6

USSR

289

3,391

108.2

106.8

AUSTRALIA

17

3,385

100.7

136.2

SOUTH AMERICA

294

2,609

64.1

73.6

AFRICA

643

2,328

56.9

48.6

ASIA

3,118

2,531

63.0

47.9

INDIA

846

2,243

55.7

38.7

PAKISTAN

118

2,377

64.6

58.3

BANGLADESH

114

2,100

43.6

19.7

SRI LANKA

17

2,286

47.6

45.2

NEPAL

20

2,246

57.5

29.4

MYANMAR

42

2,448

61.5

39.3

CHINA

1,153

2,706

66.0

49.7

JAPAN

124

2,926

95.6

81.4

Nutrition theorists believe that the total number of calories available in India is marginally higher than what are absolutely essential for the upkeep of Indian population at a normal level of activity. This makes it tempting to evoke images of the uncontrolled gluttony of the European world, and the corresponding Indian frugality, as is often done in informed discourse on the food situation in India. But as the data in Table 1 indicate, the average Indian consumption of essential food components is low not only in comparison with those regions of the world that are dominated by people of European stock, but also is low compared to a region like South America which has large populations of relatively poor indigenous people. Our consumption is considerably low compared to that of most of our Asian neighbours. And our consumption is somewhat low in comparison to the average even in Africa, where a number of countries are passing through a phase of acute political and economic instablity.

The picture becomes even more dismal, when we begin to look at the food consumption data of individual countries, instead of merely looking at the aggregates for large regions of the world, as we have done above. In Appendix 1, we have compiled average per capita consumption of calories for all countries of the world with a population of 5 million or more.

Judged by the average per capita consumption of essential food components alone, the Indian sub-continent, consisting of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, (besides Afghanisatan, Bhutan and Maldives), seems to form the poorest region of the world. Within Asia, all countries outside the Indian sub-continent are doing rather well at least in terms of the average availability of food. Even Myanmar, our nearest neighbour outside the Indian sub-continent and a country that is known to have largely spurned western notions of governance and economic development, is fairing far better than us. Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam are the only other Asian countries with average per capita consumption of calories nearly at the same level as ours. But as we shall see, average consumption of staple foods at least in Vietnam and Cambodia is higher than ours.

In the African continent, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya in the north have gone beyond worrying about food scarcities. Average availability of calories per day in these countries has increased from around 2000 calories in the sixties to above 3000 calories now. In the sub-Saharan region, of course, there are many countries, where average per capita availability of calories remains around or even below 2000 calories. But as we shall see below, many of these countries, including Nigeria, the most populous of the African states, manage to provide a much greater amount of staple cereals and roots to its citizens than what we make available to ours.

Some of the countries in Central and South America are the only others where per capita daily consumption of calories seems to be around the same level or somewhat below that in the Indian sub-continent. Thus per capita consumption in countries like Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, Bolivia and Guyana is around 2200 calories, and in Peru and Haiti it is even below 2000 calories. But, except for Peru, these countries are rather small, with populations ranging between 2 to 10 millions, and though the total caloric value of their food is small, most of these, especially Peru, have fairly large quantities of meat and fish, and also of plantains, bananas and other fruit, which happen to be part of staple consumption in this region. The more populous of the countries in the region, especially Mexico in Central America and Brazil in South America, command a much higher level of food availability. Mexico, with a population of around 80 million, provides the equivalent of around 3000 calories per capita per day, and Brazil with around 150 million manages to ensure around 2700 calories. Consumption of food measured in terms of calories has in fact improved by about 500 calories per capita per day during the last 3 decades in both these countries.

Thus there are only a few countries in the world where average per capita consumption of food calories is as low as or lower than that in the Indian sub-continent. Most of those countries happen to have small populations, and often are in difficult political or environmental conditions. The Indian sub-continent is the only region in the world, which is highly populated, is endowed with high natural fertility and has enjoyed relative political stability and autonomy over a period of almost five decades, and yet has so low availability of daily calories, fats and proteins.

In fact, the compilation in Appendix 1 covers 5175 million of the total population of 5295 million, and of those covered here only 737 million consume lesser number of calories per day than the average Indian. In Appendix 2, we have extracted from the above compilation those countries where average per capita intake of daily calories happens to be below 2500 calories. Of the 1913 million people that fall in this category, as many as 1131 million live in the Indian sub-continent. Of the remaining 782 million, 417 million are in Africa, 245 million in the rest of Asia and 120 million in Central and South America.

In the next section we shall see that most of these 782 million outside the Indian sub-continent, whose average caloric intake happens to be less than 2500 calories per day, in fact consume much larger quantities of staple foods than what we do in India. Some of our neighbours in the sub-continent also happen to fair much better in this respect, even though their caloric intake is similar to ours.

Staple Foods: Cereals, Pulses, Roots, Meat and Fish

Human beings of course do not live on calories, proteins and fats. They consume real foods. And a major part of their consumption consists of food-grains, edible roots, and meat and fish. The relatively affluent of course also consume a number of other products besides these staple foods, and we shall later look at the consumption of those other food products. But a large majority of people in the world, especially those living in conditions of relative scarcity, survive largely on staple foods alone, and therefore comparative availability of these foods is perhaps a better measure of the state of nutrition of a population than the average amount of total calories available.

In Table 2, we present average per capita quantities of staple foods available annually for direct human consumption in the regions and countries mentioned earlier in Table 1. For the sake of comparison we have also added up the actual amounts of different staple foods available per capita per year. Such adding up is perhaps not entirely valid, because different kinds of staple foods have different food-values. Thus, the caloric value of a kilogram of cereals is much higher than that of a kilogram of starchy roots or that of meat. And, the amount of proteins in a kilogram of meat is much larger than that in a kilogram of cereals. But in a state of scarcity the total volume of staple foods available itself becomes relevant, as a measure of subjective satisfaction, if not that of nutritional sufficiency.

Looked at from this perspective the food situation in India, and other countries of the Indian sub-continent, seems even worse than what it seemed in terms of per capita availability of daily calories. As is evident from Table 2, average availability of staple foods in the sub-continent is lower than the average in any other comparably large region of the world.

Quantities of staple foods available for direct human consumption are of course far larger in Europe, the United States of America, the former USSR and Australia. And, a large proportion of the staple in these countries consists of flesh and fish. On a rough reckoning per capita annual consumption of staples in these regions and countries amounts to around 200 kg of cereals, roots and pulses, and in addition about 100 kg of meat and fish. This seems to be the norm for Europe. In the USA and Australia consumption of meat and fish is somewhat higher, nearer 140 kg per capita per annum, and the consumption of cereals, etc., is correspondingly a little lower, at around 180 kg.

In the former USSR, consumption of cereals, etc., is considerably higher, at around 270 kg per capita per annum, and along with the consumption of meat and fish at around 100 kg, total staple consumption adds up to a much higher figure of around 370 kg per capita per year.

In South America, average availability of meat and fish is comparatively low, amounting to about 55 kg per capita per annum. Consumption of cereals, etc., in the region, however, is only slightly higher than in the neighbouring USA. Total consumption of staples thus adds up to around 255 kg per capita per annum. But the region is rich in fruit, with the consumption of bananas and plantains alone, which constitute a kind of staple food for the region, adding up to around 40 kg per capita per year.

Table 2: Average Annual Consumption of Staple Foods (kg p.cap/y)


Cereals Starchy
Roots
Pulses Total
Grains
& Roots
Meat &
Offals
Fish TOTAL

WORLD

170.7

62.4

6.5

239.6

34.9

13.1

287.6

EUROPE

127.1

80.2

3.3

210.6

88.1

18.8

317.5

USA

113.4

59.8

3.4

176.6

119.0

21.6

317.2

USSR

166.4

97.0

2.2

265.6

74.4

29.1

369.1

AUSTRALIA

111.8

66.0

0.8

178.6

118.0

15.8

312.4

SOUTH AMERICA

114.3

75.4

9.1

198.8

47.0

8.2

254.0

AFRICA

138.0

148.5

8.9

295.4

15.6

7.7

318.7

ASIA

196.7

39.0

6.5

242.2

17.5

11.6

271.3

INDIA

166.1

20.5

13.4

200.0

4.2

3.3

207.5

PAKISTAN

154.5

5.3

4.8

164.6

12.3

1.8

178.7

BANGLADESH

206.5

11.4

4.6

222.5

2.8

7.0

232.3

SRILANKA

161.1

25.2

6.2

192.5

1.6

14.2

208.3

NEPAL

216.3

34.6

6.6

257.5

6.5

0.7

264.7

MYANMAR

235.5

4.3

4.4

244.2

7.1

15.0

266.3

CHINA

232.5

59.1

3.4

295.0

26.7

9.7

331.4

JAPAN

145.2

37.6

2.4

185.2

41.0

71.8

298.0

Average consumption of meat and fish in the other major regions of the world, consisting of Asia and Africa, is rather low. Consumption of cereals, etc., therefore is correspondingly high in these regions. In Africa, average consumption of cereals, etc., amounts to around 300 kg per capita per year, and half of this vegetarian staple consists of edible roots and the other half of cereals and pulses. Average consumption of cereals, etc., in Asia is somewhat low at around 250 kg per capita per annum. But this average seems to have been pulled down by the rather low availability of staple foods in the Indian sub-continent. In China, which in terms of population constitutes more than one-third of Asia, average consumption of cereals, pulses and roots is around 300 kg per capita per annum, which when added to about 35 kg of meat and fish amounts to a consumption level of around 330 kg of staple foods per capita per year. In Japan also average staple consumption amounts to around 300 kg, though a substantial part of it consists of fish and seafood and consumption of cereals, etc., is correspondingly lower.

Around 300 kg per capita per annum of staple consumption thus seems to be the norm over almost the whole of the world, with different regions differing in the proportion of meat and fish in the total quota of staples. In the regions inhabited by populations of largely European stock about one third of this staple consists of meat and fish, while in the rest of the world the proportion of meat and fish in the average staple diet amounts to only around one-tenth of the total. Only significant exceptions to the rule are South Africa, which has a substantial population of European stock; Japan and South Korea, where fish and seafood consumption is rather high; and Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, where consumption of meat, especially poultry meat, seems to have risen dramatically over the last two decades.

Within this world-wide pattern of staple consumption, the Indian situation seems indeed dismal. Average consumption of meat and fish in India is of course fairly low, amounting to no more than 7.5 kg per capita per annum. But this is no source of worry. In fact, since a large majority of Indian people are vegetarian by civilisational conviction, average consumption of even this level seems to indicate that the few Indians who do indulge in the eating of flesh and fish have access to fairly large amounts, large at least by the non-European standards.

What is worrisome, however, is that the average consumption of cereals, roots and pulses in India, adds up to merely 200 kg per capita per annum, which forms almost the whole of staple consumption, and is short by almost one-third, not only by the standards of Europe, the USA, the former USSR and Australia, but also of most of Africa and Asia. Of the 200 kg of cereals, etc., available for direct consumption, about 20 kg consist of edible roots, which happen to be almost exclusively potatoes. And potatoes in India are not really staple food, in the sense these are in parts of Europe and in the Americas, or the way cassava and yams are in many parts of Africa. In India potatoes should perhaps be counted with vegetables, thus reducing staple consumption to around 180 kg per capita per annum of cereals and pulses.

Our neighbours in the Indian sub-continent, especially Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, also seem to be fairing poorly in the matter of average staple consumption, though average consumption of cereals and pulses in Bangladesh is significantly better than ours and the situation in Sri Lanka is alleviated by the availability of large quantities of coconuts and plantains, both of which form part of staple diet there. Staple consumption in Nepal is also better compared to the rest of the sub-continent, with average consumption of cereals being almost 50 kg per capita per year higher than in India. Thus India and Pakistan seem to be in a particulary bad situation in the matter of staple consumption. Average consumption of staple foods in these two countries happens to be low even in comparison to the other countries in the sub-continent.

It is remarkable how staple consumption begins to improve dramatically as we begin to move out of the Indian sub-continent. Thus Myanmar, our immediate neighbour outside the sub-continent, provides almost one and a half times the amount of cereals and pulses per capita that we manage for ourselves in India. And, as we shall see below, most of the countries in south-east Asia, including Cambodia and Vietnam, and excepting only Thailand, manage equally large or larger levels of staple consumption as Myanmar.

To get a clearer idea of the implications of this low availability of staple foods in India, and to understand how we are placed in the world in terms of our food situation, it shall be instructive to look at the levels of staple consumption in all those countries of the world which have significant populations, and which happen to be somewhat precariously placed in terms of the total food availability. We have already listed the countries with population above 5 million and average consumption below 2500 calories in Appendix 2. In Appendix 3 we present a survey of staple availability in each of these countries.

The survey shows that India and Pakistan happen to be in an almost unique, and entirely unenviable, position. We are among the few countries in the world that have enjoyed almost five decades of political stability, and have suffered no major droughts, floods and famines during this fairly long period, and yet have failed to raise the consumption of staple foods above the miserably low level of 200 kg per capita per year. The situation is comparable only with Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi in Africa and perhaps Thailand in Asia. These are the only other countries of the world that seem to have failed to raise average staple consumption to a comfortable level in spite of fairly stable economic and political conditions. Of these Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Thailand have been trying to grow, the last two quite successfully, cash and staple crops for export at the cost of domestic consumption. And Kenya seems to be trying to improve the availabiity of modern foods of middle class consumption while retaining staple consumption at a low level.

There are only a few other countries in the world with staple consumption as low as, or even lower than, ours. Among these there are Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia in east Africa; Guatemala in central America; Haiti in the Caribbean; and Afghanistan and Yemen in Asia. But these countries have been passing through difficult and disturbed times, and the situation there is not really comparable to the situation in India or Pakistan.

India and Pakistan thus are greatly deficient in the availability of staple foods, in comparison with almost every other part of the world. Our staple consumption is low not only in comparison to the currently affluent countries and regions, which may be thought of as indulging in wasteful consumption, but also in comparison to countries which economically and politcally are probably in a worse state than ours and many of which are much less well-endowed in terms of natural fertility of soils and than we are.

Countries in diverse regions of the world, falling in different climatic zones and inhabited by diverse people, all seem to provide a higher level of staple consumption than ours, unless they happen to be in a state of political or environmental crisis. This is true also of the countries in our immediate neighbourhood, like Myanmar or Nepal. Thus, the low average consumption of staple foods in India, and in Pakistan, cannot be explained away as a climatic, cultural or racial phenomenon. We just happen to be short of food.

The shortage is of the order of one-third of the usual staple consumption in much of the world. This means that in order to bring food consumption in India near the standards of the functioning regions of the world, we need to raise average consumption of staple foods in India by about a hundred kilogram per capita per year, and given the Indian food habits, much of the additional staple, perhaps 70 to 80 kg of it, would consist of cereals and pulses.

This, incidentally, is the level of shortage in the availability of cereals and pulses for direct human consumption alone. When we begin to take into account the amount of cereals and pulses utilised for various other purposes, especially for the feeding of cattle and other domestic animals, the shortage in India compared to the rest of the world becomes much larger. Later, we shall have a detailed look at the relative availability of total staple, for both human and animal consumption, in India and other parts of the world. For the present we continue to look at availabality for direct human consumption alone.

Changes in staple consumption

Average direct consumption of cereals and pulses in India has shown little increase over the last three decades, which include the period of the so-called green revolution. As shown in Table 3 below, average consumption of cereals in India has risen by about 20 kg per capita per year from 1961 to 1990, but this increase has largely been offset by a decline of around 10 kg in the consumption of pulses. The net increase of just about 10 kg per capita per year of cereals and pulses, achieved over a period of three decades, seems hardly designed to address the level of shortage that we have seen to prevail in India.

This marginal increase in the average availability of cereals and pulses, however, has been found by Indian policy planners to be more than sufficient for the Indian population. As is obvious from Table 3, much of this increase had been achieved by the late seventies. And since then major economic commentators and anlaysts have been insisting that India does not need to increase availability of food-grains any further. This economic wisdom has been given the seal of political approval, with the union agriculture minister declaring that the level of food-grains production achieved in 1994 is somewhat above the Indian requirements, and food production targets should be kept within this level well into the next century.

Table 3: Consumption of Cereals and Pulses in India: 1961-1990


1961 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990

Cereals

144.9

149.3

156.7

147.7

166.0

163.9

166.1

Wheat

27.9

27.0

36.1

40.2

56.4

52.8

53.3

Rice(husked)

79.5

77.6

78.6

68.5

73.5

78.9

79.3

Barley

4.7

3.9

3.8

3.9

1.8

1.5

1.3

Maize

7.3

7.9

7.8

8.6

7.9

6.8

8.7

Millet

14.1

15.0

14.6

11.1

13.0

11.7

10.7

Sorghum

11.4

17.9

15.9

15.4

13.4

12.3

12.7

Pulses

23.0

19.7

17.6

13.9

10.9

13.3

13.4

CEREALS & PULSES

167.9

169.0

174.3

161.6

176.9

177.2

179.5

It thus seems to be a matter of deliberate public policy to keep the availability of staple foods at a level far below the standards prevailing in much of the functioning world. A look at the way different components of the average cereals and pulses basket have tended to change during the last three decades shall probably help in defining the contours of this policy further.

In Table 3, wheat is the only staple grain that shows any significant improvement in average availability over time. Average consumption of wheat in fact almost doubles, from around 27 kg per capita per year in 1961 to around 54 kg in 1990. Consumption of rice, which is the staple grain for a much larger proportion of Indian population, declines during the sixties and seventies and then rises back to the level of 1961 by 1990. And, coarser grains, which used to constitute the main source of sustenance for the indigent, keep on declining throughout the period, with their average availability coming down by almost a quarter during the period. Pulses, which are the only source of essential proteins for most of the Indian people, decline even more sharply, their average consumption being cut down to almost half between 1961 and 1990.

Thus, the remarkable feature of the period between 1961 and 1990 is not any increase in the availability of staple foods, but a shift of availability from the coarser grains and pulses, to finer grains, mainly wheat. We shall later see a similar phenomenon occurring in the case of non-staple foods, where indigenous jaggery has gotten largely replaced by refined white sugar, without any significant increase in the overall availability of sugar and jaggery together. Meanwhile the availability of non-staple foods, like milk, vegetable oils and eggs, that are consumed mainly by the middle income urban populations has increased significantly. In fact, one of the arguments advanced by the economists in favour of keeping the food-grains production at the current levels is that the nutrition requirements of those who have the capacity to buy are in any case being met by the somewhat increased availability of non-staple foods.

Within the current policy framework, therefore, availability of food-grains in India is not going to rise in the near future, certainly not to fill the considerable gap of about 60 to 70 kg per capita per year that India exhibits in comparison with almost every other well functioning country of the world.

Non-staple Foods

Sweeteners, Fats, Eggs and Milk

Another major component of human food consists of sweeteners, oils, fats, eggs and milk. In Table 4 below, we present average per capita consumption of these foods in different regions and countries of the world.
Table 4: Average consumption of sweeteners, fats, eggs and milk (kg p.cap/year)

 


Sweeteners Veg.
Oils
Butter/
Ghee/
Cream
Animal
Fats
Total
Fats
Eggs Milk

WORLD

24.4

9.1

2.2

1.5

12.8

6.3

75.0

EUROPE

38.1

15.5

7.9

6.8

30.2

13.0

227.3

USA

65.3

23.3

2.0

3.7

29.0

13.6

249.1

USSR

48.4

10.2

14.3

1.4

25.9

14.8

180.2

AUSTRALIA

47.1

11.0

5.5

4.9

21.4

10.3

208.2

SOUTHAM.

43.7

12.3

0.5

2.0

14.8

6.9

94.3

AFRICA

15.1

8.1

0.5

0.5

9.1

1.8

34.2

ASIA

15.8

6.5

0.6

0.6

7.7

4.5

30.6

AFGHANISTAN

2.6

4.7

0.7

0.6

6.0

0.7

33.3

INDIA

22.4

5.9

1.1

0.2

7.2

1.3

56.7

PAKISTAN

26.6

11.2

2.3

0.3

11.8

1.5

95.6

BANGLADESH

8.2

4.2

0.0

0.2

4.4

0.6

11.2

SRI

21.9

3.5

0.0

0.2

3.7

2.5

26.1

NEPAL

2.2

3.1

0.6

0.3

0.9

0.9

44.6

MYANMAR

4.7

6.5

0.2

0.3

0.5

0.8

12.2

CHINA

6.8

4.9

0.1

0.9

5.9

6.5

5.8

JAPAN

32.5

11.7

0.7

2.0

14.4

18.6

65.2

 

Sugar

As is clear from the table, India seems to be doing fairly well in terms of consumption of sugar. Average per capita consumption of sweeteners in the country at around 22 kg per year is only slightly less than the average in the world; and sweeteners contribute 217 calories per capita per day, constituting almost 10 percent of the daily average consumption of calories in India. This relatively high availability of sweeteners, high compared to the availability of staple foods, is not surprising. After all the Indian sub-continent is the original home of sugar; rest of the world has learnt about crop-based sweeteners only recently, as recently as the nineteenth century.

In absolute terms, however, consumption of sweeteners in India is considerably lower than in the currently affluent parts of the world. Consumption of around 65 kg per capita per year in the USA is probably abnormally high, but even the Europeans consume almost double of our consumption; and the Japanese, who like other east Asians are not supposed to be much given to sweeteners, have begun to consume considerably more than us. Nevertheless, most of the Asian countries outside the Indian sub-continent and much of Africa, excepting the countries which were converted into sugar colonies in the nineteenth century, continue to consume fairly low quantities of sugar. Even Bangladesh and Nepal that form such an integral part of the Indian cultural and geographical area, manage to live with fairly low consumption of sugar.

Sweetener calories are the major reason why average consumption of calories in India, as also in Pakistan, turns out to be somewhat higher compared to many of the relatively food deficit countries, even though average consumption of staple foods in India remains amongst the lowest in the world. Sweeteners, however, are consumed much more by the relatively affluent; and larger availability of sweeteners probably adds little to the average level of consumption of the majority. The developments of the last 3 decades have, in fact, shifted the availability of sweeteners distinctly in favour of refined white sugar, at the cost of gur and khandasari. As Table 5 below shows, average consumption of sweeteners in India has increased from around 19 kg in 1961 to around 22 kg per capita per year in 1990. But, during the same period consumption of gur & khandasari has almost halved, from 14 kg to 9 kg, while that of refined sugar measured in terms of raw equivalent has almost tripled, rising from around 5 kg to more than 13 kg per capita per year.

Table 5: Shift from gur & khandasari to sugar (Consumption in kg p.cap/year)


1961 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990
Sweeteners 19.2 19.3 19.2 18.6 18.9 21.9 22.4
Gur/Khandasari 14.2 13.8 12.7 12.3 10.7 11.9 9.1
Sugar raw eq. 4.9 5.4 6.4 6.2 8.1 9.9 13.2


It is indeed difficult to comprehend that India, with its limited industrial resources, found it appropriate to invest so much of effort in modern industrial processing of sugar-cane, to obtain a product which in terms of food-value is known to be distinctly inferior to what was being already produced by ordinary Indians, through resources and techniques that were already available. But the effort was probably necessary to shift the consumption of available sweeteners in favour of the relatively well-off.

The phenomenon is similar to the great effort that Kenya has made in shifting its beverage consumption from traditional fermented beverages to beer. Kenya, as we have seen in the appendix, seems to be following a path very similar to India.

Vegetable Oils

Consumption of vegetable oils in India, at around 6 kg per capita per year, is comparable with much of Asia and Africa, but is far below consumption in the currently affluent parts of the world.

Consumption of about 6 kg per capita per year amounts to around 16 gm of vegetable oils per capita per day on the average, which seems barely sufficient for ordinary Indian cooking. Consumption in an average middle income urban household, however, would be much higher than 16 gm per capita per day, thus lowering the availability considerably below the average figure for the less well-off households.

It is, of course, the pressure of middle income urban demand which has led to an increase in average consumption during the last three decades, from around 4 kg per capita per year in 1961 to around 6 kg in 1990. The increase in the seventies and eighties was achieved through large imports of vegetable oils. Only recently has the production of oilseeds begun to rise to match the level of average consumption. During this period, considerable public effort, energy and resources have been expended to ensure higher availability and production of vegetable oils.

However, in spite of the somewhat increased consumption, and notwithstanding what we keep hearing about the excessive use of oils in Indian cooking, average consumption in India is only about a quarter of the consumption in the United States of America, which is the only part of the European world where visible fats are derived predominantly from vegetable sources. In other regions vegetable oils are greatly supplemented by animal and milk fats.

Butter & Ghee

Consumption of butter and ghee in India has remained almost static over the last three decades at around 1 kg per capita per year, which corresponds to an average of 3 gm a day. This is too low a level of consumption, especially in India, where ghee is highly valued as an essential component of healthy food.

In Asia, excepting the Indian sub-continent, there is little tradition of consuming milk and milk products. Low consumption of milk fats in these parts of the world is understandable. In Europe and other parts of the world inhabited by people of European stock, however, consumption of cream and butter is many times more than the Indian average. Average consumption in Europe is around 8 kg and in the former USSR more than 14 kg, compared to the Indian average of just 1 kg per capita per year.

Animal Fats

Consumption of fats derived from animal cadavers seems to be restricted mainly to Europe, United States of America and Australia. There is some consumption of animal fats in South America, China and Japan. Elsewhere in the world, including India, contribution of animal fats to human food is insignificant.

Total consumption of visible fats in Europe and also in regions inhabited by the people of European stock is thus considerable. Taking the visible and invisible fats together the level of consumption rises even higher, to around 150 grams per capita a day in Europe, USA and Australia; compared to less than 40 grams a day in India. Incidentally, even though consumption of visible fats in China and in some of our neighbouring countries like Nepal and Myanmar, seems somewhat low, the average of total fats in these countries adds up to a level higher than that of India, (see, Table 1), largely because of the contribution of invisible fats arising from the relatively higher consumption of staple foods.

Eggs

Consumption of eggs in India has risen from almost nothing in the sixties to 1.3 kg per capita per year now. This of course is the consequence of deliberate public policy to inculcate the habit of eating eggs, at least among the urban middle income groups. Average consumption in India still remains far below the consumption in Europe or the United States of America, which happens to be near 14 kg per capita per year. But, that is partly a reflection of the relatively small size of Indian population that can be attracted towards such new food habits.

Milk

Average consumption of milk at 57 kg per capita per year, or about 150 grams a day, is far below the consumption in the currently affluent parts of the world. But during the last three decades much effort has been expended to enhance availability among the relatively well-off urban groups, especially in the four metropolitan cities of the country; and consumption on the average has risen from 39 kg per capita per year in 1961 to 57 kg in 1990.

Milk consumption in the rest of Asia is of course low because of the lack of a tradition of milk. Japan, however, seems to have acquired a new taste for milk, and the average consumption there is already higher than that in India. Consumption there has risen from less than 20 kg per capita per year in 1961 to 65 kg now.

Vegetables, Fruits and Beverages

Vegetables, fruits, nuts and beverages, etc., from another group of non-staple foods that form an important component of human nutrition. In Table 6 below, we give average annual per capita consumption of these foods in India, and in different countries and regions of the world.

Table 6: Consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beverages, etc. (kg per cap/year)


Vegetables Fruits Sugar
cane
Oil-
crops
Tree
nuts
Coffee/
Tea
Alcoholic
Beverages

WORLD

70.0

54.9

3.6

6.3

0.8

2.2

31.5

EUROPE

115.2

99.4

0.0

2.6

3.3

7.4

113.5

USA

115.7

147.9

0.0

5.2

2.4

7.7

113.6

USSR

86.2

42.4

0.0

2.1

0.6

2.0

39.4

AUSTRALIA

83.7

99.1

0.0

4.0

2.3

5.8

132.5

SOUTH AMERICA

37.5

94.1

2.6

3.4

3.4

3.9

38.9

AFRICA

40.2

48.8

4.9

4.2

0.4

0.9

28.3

ASIA

68.2

36.4

4.8

8.2

0.5

0.9

9.5

AFGHANISTAN

20.5

31.4

0.0

0.8

0.8

0.8

0.0

INDIA

56.1

28.5

11.7

7.2

0.0

0.7

1.2

PAKISTAN

26.2

30.4

19.6

0.5

0.5

0.9

0.2

BANGLADESH

9.8

11.7

3.4

0.1

0.0

0.1

0.0

SRILANKA

56.4

33.8

24.3

66.5

0.4

1.5

0.8

NEPAL

14.1

8.0

25.6

0.8

0.0

0.1

1.2

MYANMAR

46.7

21.3

0.5

8.4

0.0

0.0

0.3

CHINA

84.8

22.1

0.2

5.4

0.3

0.4

10.4

JAPAN

110.9

57.5

0.0

10.4

1.2

4.9

74.7


Consumption of vegetables in India, it seems, is fairly high. At 56 kg per capita per annum the average is almost half that in Europe, USA and Japan. Incidentally, of the 56 kg of vegetables consumed, onions, the most widely used vegetable supplement, constitute less than 4 kg.

Average consumption of fruits in India is only a quarter of the average in Europe and Australia. Fruit consumption is low in most of Asia, including China.

We seem to share with our neighbours - Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal - a somewhat rare taste for direct consumption of sugarcane. But contribution of sugarcane to total calories is not too significant.

Of the 7.2 kg of oilcrops used for direct consumption, coconuts constitute 5.5 kg. Sri Lanka's consumption of 66.5 kg per capita per year of oilcrops consists almost entirely of coconuts, and at this level of consumption coconuts can be said to form part of the staple diet of Sri Lanka. This adds as many as 277 calories per capita per day to the average Sri Lankan consumption. Incidentally, the other oil-crops consumed directly in different parts of the world are groundnut and soybean, and to a lesser extent, olives.

Average consumption of treenuts in India is negligibly small. In the last three decades consumption has decreased from about 0.3 kg per capita per year to almost zero now.

Consumption of tea and coffee seems to be essentially a phenomenon of the currently affluent part of the world. Not much of these stimulants is consumed elsewhere.

Consumption of alcoholic beverages in Asia, excepting Japan, is much below consumption in most other parts of the world. Consumption in India, as also in the rest of the sub-continent, is insignificantly low.

Table 7: Consumption of alcoholic beverages (kg p. cap/year)


Total
Beverages
Barley
Beer
Fermented
Beverages
Wine Alcoholic
Beverages

WORLD

31.5

20.2

3.4

4.6

3.3

EUROPE

113.5

75.2

2.5

31.4

4.5

USA

113.6

101.2

0.0

7.7

4.6

USSR

39.4

21.9

0.0

6.1

11.4

AUSTRALIA

132.5

110.9

0.9

18.2

2.8

SOUTHAM.

38.9

25.5

0.5

9.2

3.6

AFRICA

28.3

4.9

21.0

1.7

0.6

ASIA

9.5

5.8

0.9

0.1

2.7

INDIA

1.2

0.2

0.0

0.0

0.9

CHINA

10.4

6.1

0.2

0.0

4.0

JAPAN

74.7

55.6

12.1

1.7

7.8

Incidentally, as is obvious from Table 7 above, a very large proportion of alcoholic beverages consumed in the world consist of barley beer and grape wines, both of which have fairly high nutrition value. In Africa the place of beer is taken by traditional fermented beverages, which constitute the larger part of the alcoholic beverages consumed. Consumption of nutritionally vacuous hard alcoholic drinks is low almost everywhere in the world; Japan and USSR seem to be particularly fond of these. In this context, consumption of almost one kilogram of hard alcoholic drinks per capita per year in India does not seem too low, especially taking into account the fact that a large proportion of the Indian population does not take alcohol at all. It seems that those who drink in India, manage to drink as much as the average European or American.

The availability of non-staples in India is thus not as poor as that of staple grains and pulses. Our consumption of most of the non-staples is of course low as compared to consumption in the currently affluent regions of the world. But, in comparison to the relatively food deficit countries and regions, our consumption of non-staples seems distinctly higher.

In fact, a disproportionately large amount of average caloric consumption in India and Pakistan comes from non-staple foods. Non-staple foods, mainly sugar and vegetable oils, contribute as much as 29 percent to the total calories in India and 36 percent in Pakistan. This seems reasonable in comparison to the consumption pattern in the currently affluent countries and regions of the world, where average daily consumption is above 3000 calories per day, and almost half of these calories come from non-staple foods. But, in countries where food situation remains somewhat difficult, non-staple foods generally constitute a much smaller proportion of the average food basket. Thus, in China and Myanmar only 15 percent of the average daily calories come from non-staple foods. In Nepal proportion of non-staple calories in the total average consumption of calories is only 12 percent and in Bangladesh a mere 7 percent.

One reason for this disproportionately high component of non-staple calories in the average available for consumption in India is that sugarcane based sweeteners, vegetable oils and milk have always formed an important component of Indian food. But, data on the growth of staple and non-staple foods during the last 3 decades also seem to indicate a deliberate preference in favour of the latter. We seem to be making concerted efforts to improve the availability of those parts of the food basket for which there is a growing demand, both political and economic, from the relatively well-off groups. This alone explains the extraordinary growth of sugar at the expense of jaggery; and concentration of all our efforts on increasing the availability of vegetable oils, eggs and milk to somewhat higher levels. We have given details of the growth patterns of some of these non-staple foods above. In order to provide a more comprehensive picture of our somewhat skewed growth priorities, we present the changes in average per capita consumption of different components of Indian food during the last three decades, in Appendix 4.

The data seems to indicate that we have made a conscious decision to let staple consumption remain at a low level, and direct all our efforts towards enhanced availability of diverse other foods. However, the hungry of India can be fed only by larger production and availability of staple grains and pulses.

Indirect consumption

So far we have discussed the availability of food only for direct human consumption. But human beings grow food not only for their own consumption, but also for other purposes, especially for feeding cattle and other domestic animals that depend upon them for survival. In most parts of the world a considerable part of available food, especially of cereals and edible roots, is used as feed. And a fairly significant proportion is also used for processing into various kinds of fermented beverages.

In addition, a part of the available food is preserved for seed, and some part always goes waste. When all this is taken into account, total availability of staple foods in most countries turns out to be much more than what is finally utilised for direct human consumption.

In India, however, almost all of available staple foods get used for direct human consumption, leaving little for the cattle, or for anything else. When we begin to take this into account, the shortage of staple foods in India becomes much larger than what has been described so far.

Table 8: Average annual Supply and Consumption as human Food of Cereals, Pulses and Roots (in kg. per capita per year)


CEREALS PULSES ROOTS TOTAL

FOOD SUPPLY FOOD SUPPLY FOOD SUPPLY FOOD SUPPLY

WORLD

170.7

347.8

6.5

11.2

62.4

116.3

239.6

475.2

EUROPE

127.1

528.6

3.3

17.5

80.2

157.3

210.6

703.5

USA

113.4

874.0

3.4

3.8

59.8

39.7

176.6

917.4

USSR

166.4

887.6

2.2

33.3

97.0

146.2

265.6

1067.1

AUSTRALIA

111.8

463.8

0.8

33.4

66.0

44.0

178.6

541.2

SOUTHAM.

114.3

240.2

9.1

10.5

75.4

98.3

198.8

349.0

AFRICA

138.0

183.4

8.9

11.3

148.5

206.0

295.4

400.7

ASIA

196.7

267.2

6.5

8.3

39.0

71.1

242.2

346.6

INDIA

166.1

189.6

13.4

16.4

20.5

25.9

200.0

231.9

PAKISTAN

154.5

173.8

4.8

6.7

5.3

6.7

164.6

187.2

BANGLADESH

206.5

223.3

4.6

5.0

11.4

13.8

222.5

242.0

SRILANKA

161.1

176.4

6.2

6.6

25.2

25.3

192.5

208.2

NEPAL

216.3

269.2

6.6

8.1

34.6

44.6

257.5

321.8

MYANMAR

235.5

272.7

4.4

8.2

4.3

5.0

244.2

285.9

CHINA

232.5

319.3

3.4

5.1

59.1

130.1

295.0

454.5

JAPAN

145.2

319.4

2.4

2.6

37.6

58.3

185.2

380.3

In Table 8 above we show the actual annual supply per capita of cereals, pulses and roots, and the component of supply that gets used as direct human food for different regions and countries of the world. Total supply is calculated by adding the net of imports and exports, and net changes in the stock, to the annual production. Food consumption is then calculated by subtracting the amounts utilised for seed and feed, and the quantities that go waste or are processed into other products.

Total supply of grains, pulses and roots for both direct and indirect consumption in India is thus merely 232 kg per capita per year of which 200 kg goes towards direct human consumption. The Indian supply of 232 kg per year is to be compared with the supply of about a ton per capita per year in USA and the former USSR, around half a ton per capita per year in Australia and China, and about 400 kg per capita per year in Africa and Japan. Japan in addition has considerable quantities of fish and seafood, the production of which does not depend upon agricultural staples. Countries and regions that depend largely upon agricultural production, it seems, produce around half a ton or more of staple foods.

Deficit of staple production in India is thus much higher than what was noticed while looking at direct human consumption alone. We, it seems, need to at least double the per capita availability of cereals, pulses and roots, if food situation in India is to become near normal.

Animal feed

Such large deficit in staple production and supply in India affects the animal population rather strikingly. Our animals have to live entirely on agricultural residues. We grow no food for them. In this we, along with our sub-continental neighbours, are almost unique in the world.

Table 9: Quantities of food utilised as feed in different parts of the world
(million tons in 1990)


Cereals Pulses Starchy
Roots
Oil
Crops
Offals Animal
Fats
Milk Fish &
Seafood

WORLD

675.1

18.1

153.8

14.0

1.1

1.6

111.0

29.2

EUROPE

161.2

6.5

54.3

2.7

0.0

0.4

38.9

9.0

USA

152.0

0.0

0.3

2.1

0.7

0.8

0.8

1.1

USSR

149.6

7.9

19.9

0.7

0.0

0.1

51.4

2.7

AUSTRALIA

4.2

0.4

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

1.0

0.1

SOUTHAM.

28.1

0.0

12.5

0.9

0.2

0.1

3.3

1.8

AFRICA

14.6

0.2

1.7

0.0

0.0

0.1

1.2

1.5

ASIA

129.8

2.9

64.2

5.2

0.0

0.1

12.9

11.9

INDIA

1.5

1.0

0.0

1.1

0.0

0.0

6.0

0.2

CHINA

63.5

1.3

60.1

2.7

0.0

0.1

0.8

4.8

JAPAN

18.1

0.0

0.8

0.2

0.0

0.0

1.4

4.1


In Table 9 above, we have compiled the absolute quantities of different kinds of food utilised as animal feed in different countries and regions of the world. It seems that almost everywhere else in the world considerable quantities of staple cereals, pulses and roots, as well as of milk and fish, are fed to animals. Many countries, USSR and Japan among them, even import considerable quantities of grains in order to feed their animals. China utilises 64 million tons of cereals and 60 million tons of roots for its animal population. USSR feeds more than 50 million tons of milk, almost half of its total production, to the animals. Africa provides about 15 million tons of grains and about 2 million tons of roots to the animals. We feed almost nothing.

In addition to the above, considerable amounts of oilcake and meal is fed to the animals all over the world. Availability of oilcake in India is not too high, but we try to export as much of even this crop residue as possible. We are in fact one of the few net exporters of oilcake and meals in the world. (See, Appendix 5). It seems as if we have entered into a conspiracy to deprive our people as well as animals of essential nutrition.

We are pursuing a path that leaves most of our people and our cattle largely un-fed. In the long term, such hunger can be assuaged only by at least doubling the per capita availability of cereals, pulses and roots in India. We should begin planning to make this happen as soon as possible. Meanwhile we should explore other possibilities of feeding both our people and our animals, even if it involves large scale imports of food. After all hunger cannot be allowed to persist till we make up our minds about producing enough for ourselves and for those who depend upon us.

J. K. Bajaj
Centre for Policy Studies,
Madras
November 1994


Appenxix 1

Average Consumption of Calories in the World: All countries with population of 5 million or more

Country

Population
in millions

Calories/
Capita

Country

Population
in millions

Calories/
Capita

Africa

642.6 2328 Asia 3118.0 2531
ALGERIA 25.0 2989 AFGHANISTAN 16.6 1710
ANGOLA 9.2 1877 BANGLADESH 113.6 2100
BURKINAFASO 9.0 2137 CAMBODIA 8.3 2114
BURUNDI 5.5 1923 CHINA 1153.5 2706
CAMEROON 11.5 2201 INDIA 846.2 2243
CHAD 5.6 1641 INDONESIA 184.3 2631
COTED'IVORIE 12.0 2411 IRAN 58.3 3038
EGYPT 52.4 3318 IRAQ 18.1 2836
ETHIOPIA 49.8 1694 JAPAN 123.5 2926
GHANA 15.0 1974 HONG KONG 5.7 2857
GUINEA 5.8 2227 KOREA DPR 21.8 2860
KENYA 23.6 2047 KOREA REP. 43.4 2840
MADGASCAR 12.0 2162 MALAYSIA 17.9 2697
MALAWI 9.6 2042 MYANAMAR 41.3 2448
MALI 9.2 2233 NEPAL 19.6 2246
MOROCCO 25.1 3052 PAKISTAN 118.1 2377
MOZAMBIQUE 14.2 1803 PHILLIPINES 62.4 2452
NIGER 7.7 2263 SAUDI ARABIA 14.9 3023
NIGERIA 108.5 2147 SRI LANKA 17.2 2286
RWANDA 7.0 1961 SYRIA 12.4 3107
SENEGAL 7.3 2328 THAILAND 54.7 2271
SOMALIA 8.7 1830 TURKEY 56.0 3262
SOUTH AFRICA 38.0 3158 VIETNAM 66.7 2215
SUDAN 25.2 1964 YEMEN 11.7 2280
TUNISIA 8.1 3169
TANZANIA 26.0 2181
UGANDA 17.6 2213
ZAIRE 37.4 2094
ZAMBIA 8.1 2019
ZIMBABWE 9.9 2247
Total Africa 603.9 2330 Total Asia

3085.9

2531

Europe 500.8 3439 N&CAmerica 423.7 3336
AUSTRIA 7.7 3459 CANADA 26.6 3222
BEL-LUX 10.3 3922 CUBA 10.6 3153
BULGARIA 9.0 3712 DOMINICANREP. 7.2 2297
CZECHOSLOVAKIA 15.7 3548 ELSALVADOR 5.2 2306
DENMARK 5.1 3647 GUATEMALA 9.2 2254
FINLAND 5.0 3027 HAITI 6.5 1987
FRANCE 56.7 3618 HONDURAS 5.1 2258
GERMANY FR 63.2 3465 MEXICO 84.5 2986
GERMANY GDR 16.2 3597 USA 250.0 3680
GREECE 10.1 3778 Total N&CAmerica 404.9 3372
HUNGARY 10.4 3610
ITALY 57.7 3484 SOUTHAMERICA 294.1 2609
NETHERLANDS 14.9 3024 ARGENTINA 32.3 3075
POLAND 38.1 3351 BRAZIL 149.0 2723
PORTUGAL 9.9 3420 BOLIVIA 7.2 1982
ROMANIA 23.2 3043 CHILE 13.2 2481
SPAIN 39.0 3494 COLOMBIA 32.3 2492
SWEDEN 8.6 2961 ECUADOR 10.5 2410
SWITZERLAND 6.7 3447 PERU 21.6 1890
UK 57.6 3282 VENEZUELA 19.3 2383
YUGOSLAVIA 23.8 3530 Total S.America 285.4 2609
Total Europe 489.0 3445



OCEANIA 26.6 3233



AUSTRALIA 17.0 3385



NEW ZEALAND 3.3 3504



PAPUANGUINEA 3.9 2609
USSR (former) 289.4 3391 Total Oceania 24.3 3254

Appendix 2

Average consumption of calories in relatively food-deficit countries of the world: All countries with population of 5 million or more and consumption less than 2500 calories per capita per day

Country

Population

Calories



Population

Calories


(millions)

/ Capita



(millions)

/Capita

Indian
subcontinent




Asia



AFGHANISTAN

16.6

1710


MYANAMAR

41.3

2448

PAKISTAN

118.1

2377


THAILAND

54.7

2271

Indian sub-continent

846.2

2243


VIETNAM

66.7

2215

BANGLADESH

113.6

2100


COMBODIA

8.3

2114

SRI LANKA

17.2

2286


PHILIPPINES

62.4

2452

NEPAL

19.6

2246


YEMEN

11.7

2280

Total Indian Asia

1131

2236


Total rest of Asia

245

2327








Africa







MALI

9.2

2233


UGANDA

17.6

2213

NIGER

7.7

2263


KENYA

23.6

2047

SENEGAL

7.3

2328


RWANDA

7.0

1961

GUINEA

5.8

2229


BURUNDI

5.5

1923

BURKINA FASO

9.0

2137


TANZANIA

26.0

2181

COTE D' IVOIRE

12.0

2411





GHANA

15.0

1974


MADGASCAR

12.0

2162

NIGERIA

108.5

2147












CHAD

5.6

1641


ANGOLA

9.2

1877

CAMEROON

11.5

2201


ZAMBIA

8.1

2019

ZAIRE

37.4

2094


ZIMBABWE

9.9

2247





MALAWI

9.6

2042

SUDAN

25.2

1964


MOZAMBIQUE

14.2

1803

ETHIOPIA

49.8

1694





SOMALIA

8.7

1830


Total Africa

455

2022








Central and South America






GUATEMALA

9.2

2254


VENEZUELA

19.3

2383

HONDURAS

5.2

2258


COLOMBIA

32.3

2492

EL SALVADOR

5.2

2306


ECUADOR

10.5

2410





PERU

21.6

1890

DOMINICAN REP.

7.2

2297


BOLIVIA

7.2

1982

HAITI

6.5

1987


CHILE

13.2

2481












Total S.&C. Am

137

2282

 

APPENDIX 3
Staple consumption in relatively food-deficit countries of the world listed in Appendix 2

Africa
Consumption of staple foods in the 19 African countries where the average availability of total calories happens to be below 2500 calories per capita per day is listed in Table A3 below.

Table A3: Staple consumption in Countries with total daily Consumption below 2500 Calories: Africa


Cereals

Starchy
Roots

Pulses

Total
Cereals etc.

Meat &
Offal

Fish &
Seafood

Total

MALI

197.5

15.5

5.6

218.6

19.8

7.8

246.2

NIGER

238.8

26.4

27.8

293

13.3

0.4

306.7

SENEGAL

191.9

11.4

1.6

204.9

18.8

20.7

244.4

GUINEA

129.9

106.2

9

245.1

8.6

7.7

261.4

BURKINA FASO

188.2

10.6

17.9

216.7

12.3

2.1

231.1

IVORY COAST

107.1

235.1

0.6

342.8

15.6

14.4

372.8

GHANA

73.3

260.1

1.1

334.5

11.5

24.1

370.1

NIGERIA

88.4

319.8

10.3

418.5

8.0

6.3

432.8

CHAD

96.6

96.3

8.4

201.3

16.1

16.7

234.1

CAMEROON

106.2

120.8

8.2

235.2

18.2

13.0

266.4

ZAIRE

40.8

409.0

4.9

454.7

7.0

7.8

469.5

SUDAN

131.5

4.1

3.3

138.9

17.3

0.9

157.1

ETHIOPIA

132.1

37.9

13.2

183.2

14.2

0.1

197.5

SOMALIA

108.9

5.4

1.6

115.9

26.7

2.1

144.7

UGANDA

65.5

243.7

21.9

331.1

11.0

12.8

354.9

KENYA

122.4

56.5

6.9

185.8

21.8

5.3

212.9

RAWANDA

44.1

220.4

36.5

301.0

4.8

0.2

306.0

BURUNDI

53.3

244

36

333.3

4.1

2.2

339.6

TANZANIA

120.1

250.2

13.7

384.0

11.5

14.4

409.9

MADGASCAR

142.1

164.3

3.2

309.6

25.8

7.7

343.1

ANGOLA

72.5

208.8

5.8

287.1

14.6

22.7

324.4

ZAMBIA

187.6

32.5

1.4

221.5

11.9

7.9

241.3

ZIMBABWE

170.7

11.8

4.2

186.7

13.1

1.9

201.7

MALAWI

162.8

42.4

18.1

223.3

5.5

10.0

238.8

MOZAMBIQUE

67.7

258.6

6.0

332.3

5.5

2.9

340.7

Of these, the first five, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria, in West Africa, seem to be fairly well-off in terms of staple consumption. Total quantity of available staples is somewhat below 250 kg in Mali and Burkina Faso, but the availability of cereals and pulses together, and also of meat and fish, in both these countries is distinctly higher than in India. Thus, though the per capita consumption of total calories in these two countries is nearly the same or somewhat less than in India, the availability of staple calories turns out to be much better, around 1800 calories compared to less than 1600 calories per capita per day in India. In addition, Burkina Faso also manages to provide around 45 kg per capita per year of fairly nutritious fermented beverages, which at this high level of availability may be treated as a part of the staple diet.

In the other three countries of West Africa in list, the relatively low consumption of cereals is compensated by the high consumption of starchy roots, mainly cassava, raising the total staple consumption to well above 300 kg per capita per year. In addition to the staple foods counted in Table A3, Ivory Coast and Ghana also provide around 72 kg and 54 kg per capita per year, respectively, of plantains, which seem to be staple in these countries. Ain Nigeria the staple diet is supplemented by more than 30 kg per capita per annum of fermented beverages. Thus in spite of the somewhat low consumption of total daily calories, especially in Ghana and Nigeria, region seems to be well provided in terms of the staple foods.

The experience of Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, in the matter of staple foods seems remarkable. Nigeria, after a brief flirtation with imported foods between the late seventies to mid eighties, began to severely restrict imports and encourage traditional food crops. And by 1990, the availability of staple foods for direct consumption rose to 432 kg per capita per year almost all of which were locally produced, and as much as three-fourths of which consisted of the traditional cassava roots.

Cameroon and Zaire, in central Africa, also seem to be well provided in terms of staple foods. Average consumption in Zaire is as high as 470 kg per capita per year, though more than 400 kg of it consists of the edible starchy roots. Zaire, however, also provides around 40 kg per capita per year of plantains and 24 kg of fermented beverages, which are also essentially staple. Total staple consumption in Cameroon at around 270 kg per capita per year, with 120 kg of it consisting of edible roots, may seem a little low, but it is supplemented by 64 kg of plantains and 47 kg of fermented beverages per capita per year.

Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia in the east Africa seem to form one of the poorest regions of the world in terms of food availability. Sudan, the largest country in Africa and once known as the breadbasket of the continent, now manages only about 157 kg of staple foods per capita per year. Somalia is in a similar state, while in Ethiopia the total quantity of staple rises to about 200 kg per capita per year because of somewhat higher availability of starchy roots and pulses. Averages caloric intake in Sudan and Somalia is however considerably improved with the consumption of 116 kg per capita per year of milk in the former, and as much as 226 kg in the latter. Ethiopia, on the other hand, seems to have little else to supplement the staple consumption. Incidentally, these three east African countries, where the food situation seems to be somewhat more grim than in India, have been engaged in almost continuous civil and border wars since independence in the late 50’s and early 60’s. The region has also been subject to repeated droughts and floods.

Of the remaining four east African countries in our list, Uganda, Tanzania and Madagascar manage considerably more than 300 kg of staple foods per capita per year, though the total caloric consumption in these countries remain around 2200 calories, as in India. Uganda, where the proportion of cereals in the total staple consumption is somewhat low, also provides about 150 kg per capita per day of plantains and bananas and more than 100 kg of fermented beverages. And the average staple diet of around 400 kg per year in Tanzania is supplemented by around 40 kg of plantains and bananas, and 64 kg of fermented beverages.

Kenya, also in east Africa, presents a peculiar case. Average consumption of staple foods in Kenya is comparable to Ethiopia. But unlike Ethiopia, Kenya has enjoyed nearly three decades of stable government, and the average consumption of daily calories in the country is in fact much higher than Ethiopia. Considerably large numbers of the calories, however, come from non-staple foods. Availability of milk in the country has increased from around 70 kg in 1960 to around 100 kg in the 1990 and that of sugar from around 13 kg to 25 kg, while the availability of cereals, pulses and starchy roots has declined by more than 50 kg per capita per year during the same period. Similarly, consumption of the traditional fermented beverages has declined to almost one fourth of what it was in 1960, while that of beer has increased almost four times. The country, though in a precarious food situation, seems to be encouraging the growth of modern middle class foods, in place of the traditional staple foods. In this respect, the Kenyan experience seems to be similar to that of India, as noticed in the later.

Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe in South Africa also seem to be similar to, or marginally better than, India in the matter of staple consumption. Average consumption of cereals and pulses in these countries is almost the same as in India, while that of meat and fish together is somewhat higher. Agricultural of these countries does not seem to yet come out of the colonial distortions. Thus, in spite of the somewhat precarious food situation and the need to import some quantities of cereals in Zambia and Malawi, all three counties continue to grow considerable amounts of cash crops, especially, sugar, tobacco, and cotton, for exports. Zimbabwe and Malawi also export considerable amounts of tea. And, Zimbabwe exports almost a quarter of its production of cereals and large quantities of beef, while the average domestic consumption remains at a fairly low level.

Incidentally, Zimbabwe is considered to be one of the more robust economies of Africa, perhaps largely because of its capacity to generate export surpluses in a situation of scarcity. Malawi and Zambia are also among the few countries in Africa that have had stable political arrangements since they gained independence in 1964. During this period Zambia has experimented with socialist economy of the Indian kind, while Malawi has followed the capitalist path in cooperation with the neighbouring South Africa. But neither of the experiments seems to have helped in changing the direction of economic activity back towards the production and consumption of sufficient amounts of the traditional fermented beverages has in fact been declining in both countries as well as in Zimbabwe.

In Angola and Mozambique staple consumption is more than 300 kg per capita per year. However, since a large proportion of the staple in the latter two countries consists of starchy roots, the total consumption of calories in these countries turns out to be somewhat low. But then Angola and Mozambique are highly dependent on imports for their cereals and meat supply, and production and imports have been under strain because of long drawn out civil wars. It is remarkable that even under these difficult circumstances staple consumption has remained above 300 kg per capita per year.

Thus, looked at from the perspective of the average consumption of staple foods, the only African countries that seem to be doing poorly in comparison to India are Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia in east Africa. Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi seem to be going through the Indian experiment of building up a modern economy while keeping the level of average staple consumption at the bare minimum. There are other countries in Africa where per capita availability of daily calories is as low or somewhat lower than that in India. But most of them manage to provide a larger, if not a much larger, quantity of staple foods for their populations.

Central and South America

The region around the American isthmus below Mexico, including many of the Caribbean islands, and extending to much of the northern and western fringes of the south American continent, constitutes another area of somewhat precarious food supply. Average annual consumption of staple foods for the eight countries of the region, which have a significant population and where average daily consumption adds up to less than 2500 calories, (see Appendix 2), is listed in Table A4 below.

Table A4: Staple availability in Countries with total daily Consumption below 2500 calories: Central and South America


Cereals

Starchy
Roots

Pulses

Cereals
etc. Total

Meat
&
Offal

Fish & Seafood

Total

GAUTEMALA

147.2

3.9

12.9

164.0

9.0

0.6

173.6

HONDURAS

132

4.8

11.4

148.2

14.1

3.2

165.5

EL SALVADOR

135.5

8.6

9.5

153.6

15.6

1.7

170.9

DOMNICAN R.

95.5

29.7

11.2

136.4

31.5

4.6

172.5

HAITI

86.6

100.0

14.4

200.7

14.2

3.9

218.8

VENEZUELA

126.6

20.3

5.4

152.3

43.0

13.2

208.5

COLOMBIA

91.7

93.2

6.8

191.7

38.3

2.4

232.4

ECUADOR

104.6

36.9

3.2

144.7

27.5

10.6

182.8

PERU

102.2

70.5

4.8

177.5

26.4

23.7

227.6

BOLIVIA

98.9

98

3.1

200.0

43.6

0.8

244.4

CHILE

143.7

52.2

2.6

198.5

40.8

24.0

263.3

Consumption of staple foods in the three central American and Caribbean countries in Table A4 is apparently rather meagre. But amongst these the Dominican Republic manages to provide as much as 140 kg per capita per year of plantains and bananas. It also has some 75 kg of milk per capita per year. Somewhat low consumption of calories per day in the country is therefore merely a function of low consumption of cereals, and does not seem to indicate any serious deprivation. Incidentally, the total per capita consumption in the country seems to have improved significantly over the last decades.

In Haiti the staple foods listed in Table A4 get supplement by about 60 kg per capita per day of plantains and bananas, and 60 kg of other fruit, a large part of which consists of mangoes. This, along with considerable direct consumption of sugarcane and of the traditional non-centrifugal sweeteners, makes for a fairly large supply of diverse staples, even though the total average consumption of calories per day remains low.

Guatemala has relatively high consumption of cereals and pulses, especially when compared to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, but the country seems to have little else to supplement these. Consumption of milk and meat has been going down over the last three decades. There is considerable production of bananas and plantains, but a large part of it is exported, leaving little for local consumption. Total consumption of calories is however somewhat improved by the availability of large amounts of refined sugar for domestic consumption, even after taking into account considerable exports.

Guatemala and, to a much lesser extent, Haiti thus are the two countries in region where the average food availability may be taken to be similar to, or perhaps lower than, ours.

Of the five countries in South America with average consumption below 2500 calories per capita per day, Peru is the only one where food situation may be of a matter of concern. In the other four, average daily consumption is in fact near or above 2400 calories per capita.

Amongst the latter four, Chile seems to be rather well placed, with staple availability of around 260 per capita per year of which a substantial part consists of meat and fish. In addition Chile produces a variety of fruit, ensuring the availability of around 55 kg per capita of apples, peaches, pears, plums and grapes, etc. There is also 25 kg per capita per year of grape wine and about a 100 kg of milk.

Consumption of cereals and roots in Colombia is somewhat low. But the staple here is supplemented by around 70 kg per capita per year of plantains and bananas. The country also provides more than 50 kg per capita per year of sweeteners, of which about 20 kg consist of the traditional non-centrifugal sweeteners. In addition, there is around 85 kg per capita per year of milk and 35 kg of barley beer.

In Ecuador and Venezuela also the somewhat low consumption of staple foods gets supplemented by considerably more than 100 kg per capita per year of plantains, bananas and other fruit. Both countries have more than 80 kg per capita per year of milk and around 40 kg of sugar. Venezuela also consumes substantial quantities of barely beer, while Ecuador is particularly well supplied in vegetable oils, especially palm-oil.

Peru has more of starchy roots and fish then its neighbours. Consequently, the total
Staple consumption in the country is not too low, though a substantial part of the grain consumption is met by imports. The lower availability of total calories is because of the relatively low consumption of vegetable oils, milk and sugar, and preponderance of low calorie poultry meat and fish in the staple foods. But in addition to the staple foods, the country does provide about 60 kg per capita per year of plantains and other fruit, about 30 kg of sugar, about 50 kg of milk and 35 kg of barley beer.

Thus these five countries of the South America continent, though somewhat low in average consumption of total calories, do not seem to be seriously deficient in food.

Asia

Of the 12 countries of Asia appearing in the list of relatively food-deficit countries in Appendix 2, six are in the Indian sub-continent, and of the rest four, Myanmar, Thailand, Kampuchea and Vietnam, are our immediate neighbours on the east, forming more or less a single geographical region with India. Only Philippines and Yemen in this list are away from the Indian sub-continental region, the former fairly far in the east and the latter in the west.

Table A5: Staple availability in Countries with total daily Consumption below 2500 Calories: Asia


Cereals

Starchy
Roots

Pulses

Cereals
etc. Total

Meat
&
Offal

Fish & Seafood

Total

AFGHANISTAN

167.0

10.0

1.6

178.6

16.1

0.1

194.8

PAKISTAN

154.5

5.3

4.8

164.6

12.3

1.8

178.7

INDIA

166.1

17.4

13.4

196.9

4.2

3.3

204.4

BANGLADESH

206.5

11.4

4.6

222.5

2.8

7.0

232.3

SRI LANKA

161.1

25.2

6.2

192.5

2.5

14.2

209.2

NEPAL

216.3

34.6

6.6

257.5

9.2

0.7

267.4

MYANAMAR

235.5

4.3

4.4

244.2

7.2

15.0

266.4

THAILAND

155.2

7.6

3.9

166.7

20.4

19.3

206.4

VIETNAM

185.1

61.5

2.5

249.1

19.3

12.4

280.8

COMBODIA

211.5

25.2

4.9

241.6

11.7

8.5

261.8

PHILIPPINES

172.3

38.6

1.2

212.1

19.8

32.7

264.6

YEMEN

186.7

12.2

7.1

206.0

15.9

5.2

227.1

Average annual consumption of staple foods in these 12 countries is listed in Table A5 above. Of these Yemen seems to be doing rather poorly, more or less like the countries of the Indian sub-continent, in terms of the consumption of staples, as well as of total calories. But this is a country with difficult terrain, where a large part of the cereals and meat have to be imported from outside. And the country has been politically and militarily disturbed for long.

Average consumption of calories in Philippines is only slightly below 2500 calories per capita per day, and availability of staple foods for direct consumption is around 260 kg per capita per year, a substantial part of which consists of meat and fish. The staple is supplemented by about 80 kg per capita per year of fruit, nearly 35 kg of which consists of bananas. Incidentally, production and availability of all kinds of foods, and especially of cereals, has considerably improved in Philippines over the last 3 decades. Population in Philippines has grown at a compound rate of 2.7 percent per annum during the period 1961-1990. Notwithstanding this population growth, average per capita consumption of calories has kept growing at a compound rate of 1.2 percent per annum, and that of cereals at 1.0 percent per annum, during the same period. Philippines thus does not really belong among countries where food supply is a matter of some concern.

Among our other neighbours to the east, Thailand, Vietnam and, especially Kampuchea, have somewhat low consumption of average calories per capita per day. But, as is evident from A5, average consumption of staple foods is fairly high in Vietnam and Kampuchea. Vietnam manages 280 kg per capita per year of which about 190 kg consists of cereals and pulses and more than 30 kg of meat and fish. This is considerably better than the level of staple consumption in India, and is high even by world standards. Kampuchea provides 260 kg of staple cereals per capita per year, of which almost 220 kg consists of cereals and pulses and about 20 kg of meat and fish. This too is significantly better than our staple consumption. The relatively low consumption of calories in Vietnam and Kampuchea is cause by the fairly low consumption of sugar, vegetable oils and milk. As we shall see later, these are the kinds of foods that seem to be getting emphasised in India over the staple cereals and pulses.

Staple consumption in Thailand, however, is almost as low as in India, though a much larger part of such consumption in Thailand are also somewhat supplemented by about 20 kg of coconuts, and 85 kg per capita per year of fruit, much of which consist of staple bananas and pineapples.

Thailand however exports a substantial part of its agricultural produce. Production of rice, cassava, sugar, pulses, coffee, fruit, meat, fish and seafood has been increasing at a fairly high during the last three decades. But consumption, except that of sugar, has remained more or less static. Production of cereals has been rising at a compound rate of 3 percent per annum, while consumption has declined from a high of around 190 kg per capita per annum in the early seventies to around 150 kg now. Thailand exports about one third of its production of cereals and pulses, almost all of its production of cassava and coffee, more than half of its production of sugar, much of fruit, especially pineapple, about 10 percent of its produce of meat and more than half of fish and seafood. Thailand thus is among the few countries of the world where exports of staple and other foods take precedence over domestic consumption.

Myanmar, our immediate neighbour in the east, and the only other country outside the Indian sub-continent in our list, seems to be doing surprisingly well in terms of availability of food. Average per capita consumption in the country amounts to 2448 calories per day. And, 2074 of these calories are contributed by staple foods alone. This is to be compared with the average of only around 1600 calories of staple consumption in India. Myanmar in fact manages about 240 kg of cereals and pulses per capita per year, which is significantly higher than the average of around 180 kg in India.

Thus of the Asian countries outside the Indian sub-continent only Yemen and Thailand seem to be as deficient in food as us, though staple consumption in the latter is supplemented by substantial quantities of fruit and coconuts. Average consumption of calories per capita in some of the other countries may be as low as in India, but all of them have a fairly high consumption of staple foods.

Indian sub-continent

Within the India sub-continent, Nepal is fairly well-off in terms of staple consumption. Average consumption of calories in Nepal is about the same as in India, but a larger proportion of these calories in Nepal consist of staple consumption. Thus, of about 2250 calories of average daily consumption as many as 1970 come from staple foods, as against only around 1600 in India. Availability of cereals and pulses in Nepal at around 220 kg per capita per year is about 40 kg more than in India, and total availability of staple foods at around 270 kg, with a large proportion of it consisting of cereals, puts Nepal in a far better position in terms of food availability than its south Asian neighbours. The somewhat low consumption of calories in Nepal seems to be largely due to the relatively low consumption of sweeteners, a large proportion of which has to be imported. Incidentally, in almost all other components of its food-basket, Nepal happens to be largely self-sufficient.

Availability of staple foods, and of average daily calories, in Sri Lanka seems to be as low as in India. But, Sri Lanka also consumes about 70 kg per capita per year of coconuts, which is essentially a part of the staple consumption there. This adds substantially to the total volume of staple consumption, as well as to the staple calories. Sri Lanka however depends upon imports for almost one-third of its supply of cereals, a major fraction of its supply of vegetable oils, and almost all of its supply of sugar. It is remarkably that in spite of this Sri Lanka does manage to provide a fairly high level of staple consumption.

Average consumption of calories per capita is somewhat low in Bangladesh, even in comparison with other countries of south Asia. But staple consumption in Bangladesh is significantly higher than India or Pakistan. Average availability of cereals and pulses in Bangladesh is 30 kg per capita per year more than India. Availability of staple calories in Bangladesh therefore turns out to be nearer 1850 calories per day, which is significantly higher than the 1600 available in India. Thus in the matter of staple consumption, Bangladesh, notwithstanding its high density of population, seems more like Nepal, than India or Pakistan. Incidentally, contrary to the prevalent impression, Bangladesh does not import much cereals, except for some little wheat.

Afghanistan and Pakistan thus seem to be the only two countries in Asia with staple consumption comparable to India. Average cereals consumption in Afghanistan is almost exactly the same as in India, consumption of pulses is about 10 kg per capita per year less and that of meat is about 10 kg more, thus making the total staple consumption about equal with that in India. Average consumption of cereals, roots and pulses in Pakistan is considerably less than that in India, part of the shortfall is compensated by somewhat higher consumption of meat, but this still leaves the average consumption of staple foods in Pakistan about 25 kg per capita per year below that of India.

The situation of Afghanistan is however not really comparable with that of India or Pakistan. Afghanistan has been almost continuous war within itself for the last more that a decade. During this period production and consumption and consumption of different components of food have declined considerably. In the mid-seventies Afghanistan produced about 4.5 million tons of cereals, which in 1990 came down to around 2.7 million tons. During the same period, production of fruit and milk declined by about one-third. Correspondingly, average food consumption came down from more than 2300 calories to just about 1700 calories per capita per day. In its better days, Afghanistan consumed about 250 kg per capita per year of cereals and about 15 kg of potatoes, in addition to about 15 kg of meat. Staple consumption in Afghanistan thus used to be much higher than the Indian average of about 200 kg per capita per year, and nearer the worldwide standard of around 300 kg.
Appendix 4

Table A6: Changes in Consumption 1961-1990, India (g per cap/year)

 

1961

1965

1970

1975

1980

1985

1990

Cereals

144.9

149.3

156.7

147.7

166.0

163.9

166.1

Pulses

23.0

19.7

17.6

13.9

10.9

13.3

13.4

Starchy roots

10.4

12.7

16.4

18.9

18.2

20.8

20.5

Gur and Khandasari

14.2

13.8

12.7

12.3

10.7

11.9

9.1

Sugar, raw eq.

4.9

5.4

6.4

6.2

8.1

9.9

13.2

Vegetable Oils

4.0

4.1

4.0

4.4

5.2

5.3

5.9

Vegetables

43.2

45.4

46.5

49.6

54.5

57.0

56.1

Fruits

26.1

26.6

25.2

24.3

25.7

28.3

28.5

Tea and Coffee

0.4

0.4

0.4

0.5

0.5

0.7

0.7

Alcoholic bev.

0.3

0.3

0.5

0.6

0.8

0.9

1.2

Meat and Offal

4.2

4.1

4.1

4.0

4.1

4.2

4.2

Butter and Ghee

1.0

0.9

0.8

0.9

0.9

0.9

1.1

Milk

38.7

32.7

32.0

35.0

38.6

50.5

56.7

Eggs

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

0.9

1.0

1.3

Fish and Seafood

1.9

2.5

2.8

3.2

3.1

3.3

3.3


Appendix 5

Table A7: Production and Supply of Oilcake and Meat (million tons in 1990)


Prod.

Imports

Exports

Supply

WORLD

23.3

39.0

38.5

23.8

EUROPE

10.8

27.5

6.5

31.8

USA

45.9

0.3

5.7

40.5

AUSTRALIA

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

USSR

6.9

2.8

0.0

9.6

SOUTH AM.

30.6

0.6

16.7

14.4

AFRICA

4.8

1.2

0.9

5.2

ASIA

44.5

5.0

8.2

41.3

INDIA

11.5

0.0

2.4

9.1

PAKISTAN

1.8

0.0

0.0

1.8

BANGLADESH

0.2

0.0

0.0

0.2

SRI LANKA

0.2

0.0

0.0

0.2

NEPAL

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

MYANMAR

0.4

0.0

0.0

0.4

CHINA

21.4

0.1

3.2

18.3

JAPAN

0.2

0.8

0.0

1.0


J. K. Bajaj
Centre for Policy Studies,
Madras
November 1994