Ethiopia has offered to Indian investors 1.8 million hectares of farmland, equalling nearly 40 percent the total area of principal grain-growing state of Punjab, in what could give a big push to the country's food security.
I'm not getting into the argument about some sort of colonialism here. My frustration is with the strategy. We are going to lease some land in Ethiopia, farm the crops, harvest and then ship that to India, all in the name of food security. And this is supposed to be cost effective. Really! Who are we kidding here?
Let's look at out local option. India has an arable land of approx. 158 million hectares as of 2007. One third of crops that are grown in India is wasted due to lack of better storage facilities. This translates into 50 million hectares of arable land.
More and more farm land is being rendered infertile due to the rampant use of fertilizers. The arable land has come down by approx. 8 million hectares. Adding this gives us 58 million hectares. Apart from this we have 68 million hectares of wastelands. Considering that we convert 10 percent of this to fertile land, we get another 6 million. The total comes up to be 64 million. Assuming that the land produces 1/10 of the Ethiopian lands, we still get 6.4 million which is twice the land we get from Ethiopia. If the same money and effort are invested in creating better storage and transport facilities, preserving and improving existing farmland with sustainable practices, and developing wastelands into farmlands, we could achieve a greater food security.
Look at the Ethiopian option. Leaving the moral part alone, look at the costs and risks involved. Some or the other day the local populace is going to revolt against this. With the middle east in a turmoil, the shipping costs are going to increase sooner or later. The uncertainties are too huge to depend on this for our food security.
Things like these happen in companies too. We go for a PPV advantage and pay for quality and delivery misses later. Looks like we, as humans, don't always think rationally. Instant gratification and short timeline drives us more towards making decisions. This is one reason why Lean fails in most companies. If you are on a Lean journey, get prepared to lose some battles to win the war.
Visit this to see how waste lands could be converted to a fertile land with minimal investment : www.csm-fanaa.blogspot.com