ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Determinants and Dynamics of Food Insecurity during COVID-19 in Rural Eastern India

Using comprehensive telephone survey data from 2,599 households, the paper estimates the status of food insecurity using the food insecurity experience scale in rural households in eastern India. The results indicate that households belonging to lower social strata with less land and fewer years of education are more likely to suffer from food insecurity.


India had imposed one of the strictest and longest lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic; this has affected the livelihoods of millions of people. Movement restrictions and closure of businesses have adversely affected income. In rural areas, where the economy is largely informal and cash dependent, the lockdown has also resulted in liquidity constraints (Varshney et al 2021). There has been wide reporting of unemployment-induced income shocks, increased expenditure on hygiene products and on other health-related services because of the pandemic, and increased prices of essentials due to supply-side disruptions (Narayanan and Saha 2020; Jhajhria et al 2020; Cariappa et al 2021; Mishra et al 2021; Varshney et al 2020, 2021). All the sectors, with the exception of agriculture, recorded negative growth in the first quarter of 2020.

Even though the agriculture sector has performed well and there has been no shortfall in either production or availability, food security at the household level may be negatively affected by reduced incomes, temporary unavailability of food items due to supply chain issues, and increased food prices (Gundersen et al 2020; Ahn and Norwood 2020; Ziliak 2020; Hirvonen et al 2021; Unglesbee et al 2020). The literature suggests that such effects could be disproportionately large for the weaker sections of society (Ziliak 2020) and that food insecurity due to such shocks can persist for many years and can be difficult to reverse. The literature indicates, for example, that the food insecurity that began during the 2008 recession persisted for 10 years after the shock (Gundersen et al 2020; Ziliak 2020; Maziya et al 2017). Estimating the extent of food insecurity is important for both the government and donor organisations if they are to effectively target relief measures; however, evidence on the extent of food insecurity in India during COVID-19 has been either scarce or anecdotal.

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Updated On : 5th Mar, 2022
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