Why the industrial food chain need not be India’s destiny

In my first piece about the debate between industrial food chain and peasant food web, I had listed the four components for a grassroots food web revolution to take place: No use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides; diversity in seed banks; small landholdings by farmers and growers; and proximity to end consumer markets (urban centres).

If we examine these factors, we can see why India could be an epicentre for this food revolution. Let me start with the third and fourth factors. Farmers today barely get 25-30% of the consumer price, especially for horticultural products like fruits and vegetables.

Shortening the supply chain and bringing farmers closer to customers mean that the end markets are closer to production. Another advantage of proximity is greater understanding of seasonal consumer demand, and flexibility in production for the farmers. This is also related to farm size, a counter-intuitive idea, compared to current received wisdom that we need to increase farm holdings. Smaller holdings that are closer to urban centres can result in significant benefits for farmers, but only if they are part of a complete new food system.