The worse nightmares about the existence of food grains might be turning into a reality. It is getting utilized to manufacture ethanol, and what’s more distressful is the consent approval provided by the Modi Government. An appalling storyline on the food grains was enthralled when the stories regarding the accumulation of central pool stocks procured from the farmers at the Minimum Support Price erupted. The government has decided to allocate 78,000 tonnes of rice for ethanol.
What is more concerning is the price of rice quoted to the distilleries for their procurement. Rs 2,000 per quintal is much lower than the economic cost, and the MSP derived cost prevalent across food grains’ markets across India. The MSP for common paddy in the Kharif season accounts for Rs 1,940 per quintal, but the proportion of recovery from rice stands at 67 per cent. In the context of the rice price, it’s being recouped at MSP to Rs 2,895.5 per quintal, and the economic costs are extravagant. A developing economy like India can not afford to derail its food grains into manufacturing blending products; otherwise, we would enrich a humungous hunger crisis.
Let’s dwell into the conception behind the offloading of food grains for ethanol-
India’s projection of accomplishing ethanol blending by 2025 enacts a massive headway in the conception of utilizing food grains. The synopsis of the decision was undertaken and prepared by June 2021 expert committee. Niti Aayog headed it along with the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and considerably adhered to disseminating the proportion of pool stocks. The senior officials from the organizations didn’t give a think tank to food security, which should have been the priority amidst the global crisis.
India’s import bill of petroleum products is escalating rapidly with limited resources available on the domestic front. A staggering 85 per cent of petrol is imported in India, a grieving figure for the second-largest population in the world. According to the estimates procured, India’s import bill for the fiscal year 2020-21 stood at $55 billion, and if the ethanol blending comes with flying colours, the government could save Rs 30,000 crore. But that doesn’t coincide with the fact that utilizing food grains is a bad tactic and could introduce a debacle dilemma to India’s hunger existence.
Why are other food grains utilized and their consequences on India’s population?
Our living standards revolve around fulfilling necessities, and food availability play an indispensable role in it. Imagine an outline where the majority of the population is disregarded for attaining staples. It would be problematic as lakhs of households would get deprived of acquiring a full-time meal. Indeed, we can’t head towards the global hunger epidemic. In contrast to food security, the Union Government has recommended utilizing sugar in ethanol blending, and it has comprehensively been targeted with the revamp in policies.
In 2018, the senior official members had pronounced the National Policy on Biofuels, which asserted that 20 per cent of ethanol blending be achieved by 2030. However, in December last year, the administration changed its policy and confined the target of ethanol in gasoline by 2025. A five-year reduction would have grasped the manufacturers for fast-paced production; hence the government is seeking alternatives. The Cabinet Committee acceded to the proposal of DFPD on deciding the stance of providing financial assistance to the ongoing ethanol program. It claimed for dispensation of rice, wheat, sugarcane and other products, and additionally an interest subvention scheme for the distilleries for acquiring the listed items.
India controls a sizable production of sugar of around 300-310 lakh tonnes, and that’s why its distribution in ethanol blending is proclaimed in huge concentration. The domestic demand comparatively resides at 250-260 million lakh tonnes, which leaves the producers with an excessive amount. Hence, the current season will observe the sugar diversification into ethanol, inducing a vibrant factor in the sugar mills. The lookout of the policy in the ten-year horizon will have a deferred impact as the government should not get centred on establishing new sugar mills, contemplating the situation in water-deficient regions in India.
Even though ethanol manufacturing has been substandard since 2019-20, it sounds like a well-conceived plan focusing on converting sugar into ethanol. However, a subsidized form of incentive to the sugar sector would only be applicable if the government parts ways with fixing higher prices than the global prices.
Amidst the Incentives, We could Succumb to A Massive Fall Out.
The Global Hunger Index ranks the world’s economies through criteria of food availability, distribution and so on. India’s rank is lower than its neighbours, placed at the 94th position out of 107 countries. In a skeletal and chronically developing country like India, ethanol blending is inappropriate yet unethical. India’s poorly run policy on food grains issuable under public distribution schemes will get highlighted. The blend of petrol into ethanol might be upright in a scenario where the population is well nourished, unfortunately, which isn’t the case in our nation.
The idealism of manufacturing over the poor has reeled more people into the poverty line. According to an estimate provided by Azim Premji University, the urban areas have succumbed to a 20 per cent increase in poverty. It is predominantly in the aftermath of the pandemic, leaving aside the second wave’s consequences. If the actual representation of India’s poor population is discovered, we will get a perspective on the hunger crisis. The state of affairs continues to deteriorate, and it might take years before it could reach the pre-pandemic levels.
How Could the Government Mend their Approach Into a Fruitful One
Ideally, in a hunger crisis, the Government of India should be stepping up and procuring the needs of the citizens. The Department of Food and Public Distribution should dispense any surplus in food supply to the fallen out poverty population, rather than developing it for ethanol. In ten years, agroecology demands would present a dramatic problem for ethanol manufacturing. There would be no incentive distribution of food grains available due to the cut down of produce. The concept of issuing subsidized food grains to the distilleries seems futile following the scope of prospects.