The expenditure on cereals in Gujarat,both in urban and rural areas,is lower than the average national expenditure,according to recently released figures from the Household Consumer Expenditure Survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) for 2011-12. Gujarat is also one of the lowest ranked among all states in terms of expenditure on rice,wheat,bajra,millet and jowar.
Expenditure on cereals in rural areas of Gujarat is only Rs 128 per month,which is lower than the average national expenditure of Rs 153 in rural areas. Only Haryana and Punjab rank below Gujarat with an average expenditure of Rs 122 on cereals.
In urban Gujarat,the expenditure on cereals is Rs 155 per month,whereas,the national average is Rs 175 per month. Only five states,Haryana (Rs 142),Madhya Pradesh (Rs 139),Punjab (Rs 139),Rajasthan (Rs 145) and Uttar Pradesh (Rs 147) rank below it.
According to NSSO data,the share of expenditure on cereals in Gujarat is presently only half of what was spent in 1993-94,when the proportion of Monthly Per-capita Consumer Expenditure on cereals was 16.7% in rural areas and 11.3% in urban areas. These figures have fallen to 8.2 % in rural areas and 5.9 % in urban areas of Gujarat,lower than the national average of 10.7% and 6.6% for rural and urban areas respectively.
Experts feel this gradual shift away from cereals,in both diet and cropping patterns,is a major cause of widespread malnutrition in Gujarat,where food grain production decreased by 8 lakh tonnes in 2011-12 from 100.71 lakh tonnes in 2010-11.
Less cereals means less calories and that would ultimately lead to malnutrition, said Niti Mehta,director of city-based Sardar Patel Institute of Social and Economic Research.
Mehta pointed out the state has poor nutritional indicators with more than 36% children (below five years) in the wealthiest households showing stunted growth,while 30% are under-weight.
Problems for the state increase as the cropping pattern shows a shift towards capital intensive crops and away from cereals like jowar and bajra.
Even among cereals,the expenditure on rice and wheat has increased,while that on traditional nutri-cereals like bajra,jowar and ragi has gone down, Mehta added.
Gujarat government figures for 2011-12 show the area under food crops like wheat,jowar and bajra registered a decline,while the area under cotton and tobacco had increased.