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India Must Focus On Food Supply Chain To Improve Malnutrition Rates

The cause of malnutrition in India — which “results in a loss of productivity, indirect losses from impaired cognitive development, and losses from increased long-term health care costs” — is “not so much a lack of nutrient-rich food, but rather a weakness in the food supply chain,” William Thomson, a research assistant at the U.S. Naval War College, writes in an opinion piece in The Diplomat. “Rather than correct supply chain issues, which would increase availability of food while reducing costs, the government” has passed a National Food Security Bill that would subsidize grain purchases “at a time when it can ill afford the expense associated with underwriting grain purchases for almost two thirds of the country’s population,” he continues.

“Rather than an increased government intervention into the food economy, an influx of [foreign direct investment (FDI)] and foreign expertise in supply chain modernization would be a surer route to freedom from malnutrition,” Thomson says, noting that allowing Western big-box companies such as Wal-Mart to move into the country would bring “expertise in supply chain management.” He concludes, “Absent legislative progress and further market liberalization, market distortions, along with vested interests by middlemen in perpetuating the existing lengthy supply chains, will continue to plague the population of India for some time. The result of this sad situation will surely be a continuation of the ongoing malnutrition epidemic, which will continue to handicap an already slowing economy” (4/2).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.