Agri Business

‘Food system needs a radical rethink’

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 11, 2018

Vinita Bali

Vinita Bali says prevention of food wastage should be top priority for sustainability

The food scenario in the country needs to undergo a drastic change and efforts should be hastened to prevent food wastage, both at the household level as well as in the supply chain, according to business leader Vinita Bali.

Stating that a major transformation in agricultural systems is the need of the hour, Bali is emphatic that the primary challenge lies in finding the point of equilibrium in the trade-off between economic development, environmental conservation, and in food supply and safety.

Need for change

“Ideally, the food scenario in India must change on multiple dimensions, both in terms of supply and demand dynamics,” she told BusinessLine.

Bali has served as the CEO of Britannia Industries and is currently serving as an advisory board member of PwC India, among other companies. She also chairs the Board of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).

While almost every country in the world is dealing with some form of malnutrition, food production is the single most important driver of climate change and environmental damage, she said.

Tackling the food crisis, without exacerbating climate change and environmental damage, requires radical rethink on the entire food system, from producer to the end-consumer. Not an easy task, she admits, but there are priorities that can change the current paradigm.

Farmer is pivot

“If we want to double farmers’ income by 2020, we have to focus on increasing productivity and yield, reducing loss in the supply chain, improving crop diversity and ensuring remunerative prices for farmers,” Bali said.

Another facet is improving nutrition and minimising the environmental footprint of the food system by making food supplies more diverse, nutritious and sustainable.

From a demand perspective, Bali said, “It is about adding nutrition to the food we consume, both through increasing diet diversity and greater awareness of nutrition. The recent emphasis on attracting investment in food processing is also critical as the inefficiency of our supply chain wastes 30-40 per cent of the cereals, fruits and vegetables we grow.”

Bali has been appointed to the Board of Bunge Ltd, a global agribusiness and food company operating in over 40 countries. In India, Bunge sells the Dalda brand of edible oils.

Speaking about her appointment, she said, “It is exciting to be on the global board of a large company whose core business is agricultural produce. This fits well with my interest in food systems, nutrition, branding and marketing on a global scale.”

Bali was among 27 global leaders appointed by the UN to help improve maternal and child health as part of its SUN (Scaling up Nutrition) initiative.

"Food is a complex business that intersects science, social systems, nutrition and health. Globally, the number of people who depend on agriculture directly and indirectly, is the largest of any sector and every single living being is a consumer,” Bali said. “That also makes it a highly emotional sector with great responsibility for sustainability of the entire planet.”

Published on January 11, 2018

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