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In the next decade, nutritional security must be given top priority by the policy makers beyond just increasing food production and the livestock sector is poised to play a major role in it, said B Soundararajan, Chairman, CLFMA of India, commenting on the announcement of the US$200 million grant by the World Bank to India for addressing malnutrition among children. The funding is said to be predominantly for the National Nutrition Mission (POSHAN Abhiyaan), an overarching scheme for holistic nourishment of vulnerable sections of the population.
“The time has come for us to focus on holistic nutrition and health of the billion-plus population and make concerted efforts towards reducing malnutrition particularly among children. They are our future and we need to ensure they remain our top priority while making policies at the Central and State levels,” added Soundararajan.
For example, India’s per capita egg consumption – 63 per person a year - is only a third of the recommendation by the National Institute of Nutrition. Already several State governments, under their policy initiatives to address malnutrition, are already supplying eggs in their mid-day meal schemes for school children. “Eggs are packed with essential nutrients and are one of the wholesome and healthiest foods especially for children. By including an egg in the mid-day meals every day, the problems of under-weight, wasting and stunting among school children can be addressed effectively. We are surprised as to why there are many other States that are yet to include eggs in their mid-day meal schemes,” he wondered.
Similarly, at 4.4 kg per person a year, India has one of the lowest meat consumption figures globally. Chicken meat, fish and seafoods contain several essential amino acids, which aid in muscle, bone and brain development as well. “Animal protein (meat, milk and egg) is one of the easiest and most affordable means to achieve wholesome nourishment. They perfectly compliment plant proteins as our country has such a unique culinary heritage of over thousands of years that combine both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods perfectly while not compromising health for taste or vice versa. While children that belong to the poorer sections of the society need nutritious diets, the wealthier ones need to be educated about healthy eating and balanced nutrition”, opined Soundararajan.
He further added, “Our country enjoys such a demographic dividend that most others can only imagine. It is the advantage of having a greater share of young population. We need to leverage it to the fullest extent in the next few decades. We cannot afford to let it pass by not addressing the roadblocks. But for that holistic and inter-sectoral approach in policy making is vital. We need to be promoting innovative technologies that not only improve crop yields but inherent nutritional composition as well. Policy makers and regulators must take a balanced, logical and long-term view while evaluating innovations including genetically modified crops.”
“Simultaneously, we need to step up consumer education and create awareness about how food is really produced. Of late, there has been a significant increase in negative propaganda by some vested interests against the food industry as a whole and consumers are heavily influenced by their half-truths and unfounded claims. What these groups refuse to understand is all these have profound impact on the health and nutrition of people ultimately,” he added.
Soundararajan concluded by saying “While several global funding agencies and other non-profit organisations are willing to support us in our fight against malnutrition, we must continue to review our current food, agriculture, and health policies for their effectiveness and their impacts on the ground. It must be regular, unbiased and rigorous. At CLFMA, we are concerned not only about our industry (livestock) but the country’s overall nutrition security, economic growth and prosperity in a larger perspective. We continue to work with diverse stakeholders to strongly advocate for holistic policies where agriculture, food, health and nutrition sectors meet.”
CLFMA of India is the apex association or the voice of the country’s livestock sector. It currently has over 230 members representing diverse sub-sectors of animal protein value chain including feed manufacturing; poultry, dairy and aquaculture business; animal nutrition and health, veterinary services, machinery and equipment; processing, distribution and retailing of meat; and ancillary services such as banking.