Understanding food inflation: The gastronomy of GDP

Manasi Phadke | Updated on: Dec 22, 2021
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Trick is to add monetary value to already produced stuff

I spent a very fruitful Sunday, contributing handsomely to the GDP of the country and feeling decidedly poor, but also rather accomplished at the end of the endeavour. For the very first time in my life, I decided to go for home cleaning services on a phone app. You just point and click and book your home cleaning services. I must say that I was annoyed when the doorbell rung at the exact time that I had booked.

As an Indian consumer, I have always had the luxury of getting all services late and then getting into a delightful yelling match between me and the service provider to fix whose fault it was. I was quite looking forward to the quarrel and you can imagine how disappointed I was when the doorbell was rung on time. I opened the door to receive a team of three super-efficient — there is no other word for this — Arnold Schwarzeneggers! All clad in black, they entered the house and took out the guns, errr, the vacuum cleaners and other stuff and started polishing off the dust and the grime. Within two hours, the Terminators had cleaned the place up impeccably.

Heehee, I was Sarah Connor, admittedly sans the muscles or the will power, for two entire hours, with a team of supers working under my guidance. ‘Would you like to enter an AMC with our company, ma’am’, T-1 asked me politely. My filmy instincts now taking over, I imagined the good fellows growling ‘We’ll be back’ if I signed the AMC. I stammered a reply about wanting to think it over and bid goodbye to my Terminator gang. Back inside the now-sparkling house, I couldn’t help but think that the AMC would make sense. I am not tired as hell, the house looks decently clean and the thankless damn job is getting monetary valuation.

Welcome to GDP! The GDP, you see, is the monetary value of all final goods and services produced in an economy in a year. The trick is not always to produce more. The trick is also to get monetary valuation attached to what one has always produced — G har Baithe GDP Badhao yojana!

The phone interrupted my smug thoughts. It was mom. The routine Sunday call to ask about me and hubby and the grand-kid and everyone else in the family. And then invariably, how have the vegetables become so expensive, beta , what is the rate for potatoes in Pune? Well, I did not quickly have the courage to tell her that I did not know the rate for potatoes in Pune!

The thing is that we simply order fruits and vegetables together with groceries and a hundred other things at one go. It’s been ages since potatoes received any attention from me at all and to receive my pure, unadulterated attention as the definitive Villain No.1 on the shopping list was a far cry. But, whilst my mom will receive this piece of news about my carelessness with dismay, let me tell you that this behaviour of mine too is a handsome contributor to the aforementioned Ghar Baithe GDP Badhao yojana.

Running the kitchen

Just think of how the senior citizen mothers have run their kitchens till date. You basically shop for all fruits and vegetables you need, and then go overboard to get the coriander free. And I mean, over-board. The vegetable vendors of yore might be strong enough to heave 50 kg of vegetables single-handedly from the tempo to their shops, but I am yet to meet one strong enough to look an Indian grandmother in her eye and ask her to shell out ₹10 for coriander. It is one of those wondrous things — a little green twig transforming a fluffy, sweet, white haired granny into a tigress of bargain.

It fills me with indignation to think of the crores of rupees of GDP we have lost to keep the grannies happy. But I am excited to report that my generation has set it right, and how! We not only buy potatoes at ₹80/kg without so much as a whimper, but we actually pay a killer of a price of ₹40 for the frilly chlorophyll topping as well.

On top of this, err, economic nationalism, we also display oodles of gastronomic nationalism. Our senior generation used to have only two meals in a day, how boring is that! We now gorge food through the day, leading to an entire middle-aged, middle-income group that looks strong around the middle. We are now paying dieticians to tell us that we need to eat only twice in a day. Ghar Baithe GDP Badho , but Vajan Ghatao yojana!

The writer is a brave economist trying to laugh against the odds

Published on December 23, 2021

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