The lush rural stretches of India don't just make fantastic backdrops for epic Bollywood love stories. This is where the elements of nature conspire with the people of the land to nourish the rest of the country. Nutrition is the science of food and its relationship to your health.
To live a healthy life, one needs to consciously eat foods that provide essential nutrients needed to energise and fortify the body. Thanks to advancements in technology, infrastructure and communication that came with the turn of the century, India, which was once known for only producing food grains, has diversified into the cultivation of high-value nutritious crops like fruit and vegetables. Today, the country's growth is driven by high-value segments such as dairy, horticulture and inland fisheries, which ensure that farmers have year-round income. 60 per cent of India's agricultural GDP comes from them. In 2014-15, the production of fruit and vegetables overtook Indias food-grain production by 31 million tonnes. One of the many reasons for the growth in Indian horticulture is awareness about the impact of food on one's health, which has led to an increase in demand. So, it's safe to say that India is well on its way to becoming a healthier nation.
For the past several decades, the world has made tremendous progress in reducing hunger and undernutrition. The percentage of hungry people were reduced from 23.3% in 1990/92 to 12.9% in 2015 in the developing world. In India, the percentage declined from 23.7 to 15.2% during the same period. Between 1990 and 2015, child stunting prevalence globally was reduced from 39.6% to 23.2%, and the number of children affected fell from 255 million to 156 million. In India, Within just 8 years, the prevalence was reduced from 48% in 2005-06 to 39% in 2013-14.
However, challenges remain grave. The current agri-food systems have not succeeded in providing a nutritious diet for all our people. Worldwide, an estimated 2 billion people suffer micronutrient deficiencies and 795 million people are undernourished. Although undernutrition is slowly declining, 162 million children still suffer from stunted growth, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
We must reshape our agri-food systems for improving nutrition. The 2016 Global Food Policy Report, a flagship publication of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) proposes key policy ptions to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs) through new food systems. The key components of the new food systems are nutrition led or nutritionally driven and the ways forward include the following:
Developing countries must re-prioritise agricultural R&D investments to produce more nutritious and diverse food crops such as fruit, vegetables, beans and dairy products. Evidence has shown that when farmers diversify their production to these crops, the nutrition status of family members, particularly children and women, improves significantly. Moreover, increased production of these crops has also reduced price levels, leading to improved access of consumers to more nutritious foods. R&D investment in bio-fortification, which boosts nutrient levels in varieties of staple food crops, must also be increased. We have seen significant improvements in the Vitamin A intake from communities that have adopted bio-fortified Vitamin A sweet potato.
Current subsidy policies must be reformed. Globally, US$500 billion are used to subsidise cereal crop production every year through water, energy, fertilizer and output price supports. These subsidies are not economically efficient nor are they environmentally sustainable. Worse, they do not even promote nutritious food production. They should be reformed to support the production of nutritious food like fruit, vegetables, beans, and dairy products.
Social protection should also be linked to improvements of diets, nutrition and health of vulnerable families. IFPRI studies show that if these programs are linked to asset building, access to agricultural technology and extension, the impact on reduction in hunger and undernutrition can easily double. Gender plays an important role in building nutrition-driven agri-food systems, given womens important roles in agricultural production and as consumers and caregivers. IFPRIs gender-related research shows, for instance, that empowering women in agriculture can help improve their households dietary diversity and reduce child stunting. In conclusion, IF PRI is committed to using its Compact 2025 initiative to support national governments, global initiatives and various other stakeholders to reshape food systems for nutrition using its data, evidence, knowledge and research.
Founded by Rajnikant D Shroff in 1962, UPL is a global plant health and seed company headquartered in Mumbai, India. It recognises the need to bring farmers high quality, modern and ecologically compatible solutions. It is the third largest post-patent agrochemical company in the world. The vision: To ensure sustainable, conscientious agricultural growth and rural prosperity to meet the demands of an ever-increasing population. UPL's offerings range from pre-planting to post-harvest requirements. It’s portfolio comprises 1,344 products, some of which include herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, miticides, soil and plant health products, rodenticides, grain fumigants, fruit coatings, cleaners, sanitizers and storage treatments. With a presence in 124 countries, the company has 13 manufacturing units across India, many of which have won awards for efficient water usage and Green Manufacturing Excellence.
UPL's quality control approach is based on the clear target of zero-defect. Each stage of production, from raw material sourcing and manufacturing to post-production, is closely monitored. Better still, the organisation has committed substantial investments to maintain and improve its high standards of environmental care and consciousness.
Aptly put by the World Factbook (2006), better nutrition equals less poverty. It is no secret that poor
nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood lead to a failure of complete development, both physical
and mental. And there is enough evidence to show how this stunts economic growth. To begin with, it reduces
competitiveness and productivity due to impaired cognitive functions. Education and schooling gets disrupted
due to bad health. It increases medical costs and worse, raises the rate of mortality, all resulting in
losses when it comes to investing in human capital (Global Nutrition Report 2014). The loss per individual
due to under-nutrition is estimated at 10 per cent of a person's lifetime earnings, while the deficit to
national productivity can be as high as two to three per cent of the annual output (World Factbook 2006).
Agriculture therefore plays a pivotal role in improving the health and wealth of a country. That's perhaps why the United Nations General Assembly recently passed a resolution proclaiming the period between 2016 and 2025 as UN Decade of Action on Nutrition. The aim of this resolution is to improve income and ensure universal access to healthier, more sustainable diets and plans. This resolution will involve governments to set national nutrition targets based on internationally agreed indicators. Thankfully, along with attempts to develop our social and economic conditions, several processes have been put in place to improve health through better nutrition, so that the India Shining story becomes a strong reality.
A farmer's work is only half done at harvest time; transportation and storage are equally important in determining the final crop quality. As mentioned earlier, better food quality leads to a healthier nation, which eventually results in conomic growth. That's why it is not only important to protect crops from post-harvest pests, but it is also essential that they do not lose their nutritional value. DECCO, which is short for Decay Control, is a post-harvest services company of the UPL Group that brings you three ways to preserve the nutrients in food crops and increase their shelf-life. Allow us to elaborate.
DECCO produces high quality FDA, EU and PFA approved surface protection solutions to preserve fruit and vegetables. In major fruit growing and exporting regions like USA, Spain, Italy, South Africa and Asia, significant volumes of fresh fruit like citrus and apple are preserved with DECCO's technology. It is also used on Kinnows from Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, oranges from Maharashtra and lemons from Gujarat. While it prevents fungal infection, it also controls shrinkage and dehydration, thereby making transportation for a longer period of time easier. Better still, it gives fruit and vegetables a healthy shine so that they look as good as they taste.
While we are constantly talking about pre-harvest grain yield, post-harvest preservation often takes a backseat. The total value of post-harvest losses in India every year is estimated at Rs. 58,000 crore (approx. $ 10 Billion). To prevent this wastage, UPL introduced QuickPhos (phosphine and its application technologies), which has been globally acknowledged as the safest, most effective way of preserving grains and other perishable commodities. With its principal ingredient aluminium phosphide, it keeps storage pests at bay on all food grains without any compromise on grain quality for consumption.
A potato sprout suppressant, Oorja ensures that you get fresh and nutrientrich potatoes all year round. 95 per cent of potatoes are harvested in the Indo - Gangetic plains, between February and March. To ensure a steady supply of potatoes through the year, they are preserved in cold storages at two degrees centigrade for nine months at a stretch. During this time, a significant portion of starch in the potatoes turns to sugar. Due to the increase in the sugar content, the potatoes begin sprouting within four days of being taken out of cold storage. Not only does the shelf life reduce, but it can also lead to poor quality and a supply shortage. Oorja goes a long way to prevent this situation and ensures that the crop stays fresh during its journey from the farm to your table. Currently UPL is the leading company to provide services to protect potatoes after they've been harvested and an important partner to the potato value chain.