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The Economics of a Plate of Food in India

Thalinomics,” the 11th chapter in the Economic Survey 2020, has quantified what a commoner pays for a plate of food in India and therefore relates economics to their everyday lives. Thali prices are computed using average monthly price data, used for the Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers (CPI-IW), from April 2006 to October 2019, and the nominal gains that a consumer has achieved in the last fi ve years are estimated as a difference between the inflation-based projected prices and the actual prices of food commodities forming a thali. The estimates reveal that after 2015–16, an average household gained ₹ 10,887 and ₹ 11,787 per year on average from the moderation in vegetarian and non-vegetarian thali prices respectively.

While the chapter talks about improving affordability of food, especially since 2015–16, the results must be taken with some caution. In measuring the affordability of a thali, the estimates have considered only about 3.3% of the total workforce of the country. This is just a subset of the workforce associated with the organised manufacturing sector. It must be noted here that households who depend on agriculture are both producers and consumers at the same time, and any decline in prices of food implies a decline in their income.

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