Food self-sufficiency has been one of the key thrust areas emphasized by the global community for it implies the extent to which a country or a region can satisfy its food needs from its own domestic production. Therefore, in the context of food security, self-sufficiency typically refers to countries and provinces that seek to produce all or most of their own food for domestic consumption. In other words, food production should be at par with food consumption within specified political geography.
Perhaps, this was the mantra and the message chief minister N Biren wanted to convey when he stated that his government’s priority is to make Manipur a self-sufficient state while extending his wishes to the people on the occasion of Manipur Statehood Day on Tuesday. The chief minister said Manipur could not produce requisite amount of food grains for exporting outside the state but there was a necessity of making the state self-sufficient so that the people could save money which are being wasted in importing essential food items.
What Biren had stated takes us back to the reality that agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of Manipur. We know that wet rice cultivation is practiced in the fertile plains of the valley region whereas jhum (shifting) cultivation is a tradition in the hilly terrains of Manipur to produce a variety of agricultural produce. The principal crop is paddy and others are maize, cucumber, beans, arum, ginger, mustard, sesame, cotton etc.
Agriculture and crop production provides livelihood and employment opportunities to over 80% of the rural population. However, erratic rainfall, absence of regular irrigation, lack of infrastructure, farm technology, mechanisation, improper arrangement for procurement, stocking and distribution have hampered a rapid stride in food production. Moreover, one needs to note that there has been no mechanism for post harvest hurdles and lack of agricultural extension services. Observers have also noted that insufficient credit flow and support from financial institutions are major contributing factors for agricultural performance hitting south.
Despite the odds, we know for sure that Manipur has plenty of raw materials for industry mostly from forest, agriculture and horticulture. But all of these are not in a position to garner adequate push to the much-needed boost for self-sufficiency.
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Added to these woes is the lack of conceptual clarity on details when the concept of self-sufficiency is applied in practice. No one can say for sure whether or not the state authorities define food self-sufficiency as closing Manipur’s borders to all food trade – both imports and exports – and concentrating its resources on agriculture sector so as to be able to produce all of its food requirements domestically. In the name of self-sufficiency, would Manipur be aiming for complete autarky in its food sector? In the given national and global context, such policy would only weaken and not strengthen the efforts of the farmers. Here, it would be wise to note that large food exporter countries even if they are fully self-sufficient, typically import at least some items while reaping dividends from exporting quality surplus. Let’s hope, the chief minister’s clear intent is as good as conceptual clarity on dependency and inter-dependency.manipur agriculture, food supply, food grains