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Cornell University

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

Agricultural Policy and Nutrition Outcomes – Getting Beyond the Preoccupation with Staple Grains


There is a growing disconnect between agricultural policy and contemporary nutritional challenges, the persistent problem of micronutrient malnutrition and child stunting, as well as the emerging challenges of overweight and obesity. Diversification of production systems and the market supply of enhanced diversity will only happen when the current distortions to farm and market level incentives are corrected. Data on the diet transition that is taking place across the developing world is presented and the growing divergence between staple crop demand and supply trends discussed. The reasons for the low producer response to rising demand for non-staple food, such as vegetables, are examined. Finally, the paper presents the main elements of a crop neutral agricultural policy, one that creates a level playing field which allows farmers to respond to market signals rather than a policy that is biased toward a particular set of crops.

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