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India’s Farming Plans and Traditions - 30/07/2007
 
A Londoner’s Impressions While Shopping Down the Ealing Road

Structural changes in food consumption and nutritional intake from livestock products in India receive a review from Assistant Professor Jabir Ali of the Agriculture Management Centre at the Institute of Management at Lucknow...
Structural changes in food consumption and nutritional intake from livestock products in India receive a review from Assistant Professor Jabir Ali of the Agriculture Management Centre at the Institute of Management at Lucknow (South Asia Research 2007, 27(2), 137-151). It makes chilling reading and emphasizes a trend towards intensification of livestock rearing and exportation of the products to capture a stronger position in world trade and to satisfy increasing tastes for westernized dietaries (and the emerging evidence of the ills of westernized lifestyles, notably in China and Japan, two oriental countries whose demands for imports India hopes to meet).

“Livestock as an important sub-sector of the Indian agricultural economy plays a multi-faceted role in providing livelihood support and food security, especially to the country’s rural population”, states Professor Jabir Ali. There is a growing market for livestock products in India and it is well-documented that consumption patterns have been undergoing significant changes towards high-value commodities like fruit and vegetables, milk, meat, and eggs. Between 1983 and 1999 consumption of fruits increased by 553%, of vegetables by 167%, and of milk and milk products 105%. Consumption of meat, eggs, and fish rose by 85% over the same period and these trends have continued since”. It is not all bad, then; but his article analyses some significant recent structural changes in consumption of livestock products in India and examines their future scope in providing national security.

Professor Jabir Ali argues that “despite reservations about meat consumption, livestock products have great potential to contribute significantly to the rural economy and in providing better nutritional security for a still growing population”.

Only a few miles from VEGA’s research base, Southall at the Western end of the London borough of Ealing, the local politically eventful constituency most closely represents the Punjabi influence, while the Ealing Road running from Wembley to Alperton and Perivale is to be reckoned a part of Gujarat, with an abundance of veggie restaurants (including at least one boasting suitability for Jains) and a wonderful retail outlet for nuts, cereals (and, of course, rice), almost fully vegan. This is more the stamping and shopping ground of adherents to the eating plans in the Portfolio of lifestyles being developed by nutritionists and environmentalists in the VEGA-style. Portents for next year’s cereal harvest are not good, because of extremes of drought and flood in this year’s farming economies and the need to grow food for direct human consumption not feed for intensified high-input systems of unthrifty and cruel farming. Many foodies visit Brixton in London for adventurous culinary experiences. For them the Ealing road between Bakerloo and North London lines is worth a visit. Some local supermarkets reflect the local trade, notably a warehouse of oriental foodstuffs and its restaurant close to Alperton station or by a walk along towpath of the Grand Union Canal or by boat from London or from Southall in the West.

Exotic and fascinating to many of us and representing vast journeys of food miles the ware in the Ealing Road in northwest London are as local to a significant recently transposed population as a sack of potatoes to others frequenting their local farmers’ markets or joining a box scheme. As consumers we can rejoice in the great variety of provender within our reach. It is even more important to think before we bite, chomp, and gulp, keep our teeth in good order, and chew well. A city such as London still preserves a global village atmosphere in a conglomeration of cultures that represents the wanderings of our common forebears from the Garden of Eden in a Babylon that is now lamentably rent with strife.
 
 
 

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