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Cornell University

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

Market Access, Production Diversity, and Diet Diversity: Evidence From India



Recent literature, largely from Africa, shows mixed effects of own-production on diet diversity. However, the role of own-production, relative to markets, in influencing food consumption becomes more pronounced as market integration increases.


This paper investigates the relative importance of two factors – production diversity and household market integration – for the intake of a nutritious diet by women and households in rural India.


Data analysis is based on primary data from an extensive agriculture-nutrition survey of 3600 Indian households that was collected in 2017. Dietary diversity scores are constructed for women and households is based on 24-hour and 7-day recall periods. Household market integration is measured as monthly household expenditure on key non-staple food groups. We measure production diversity in two ways – field-level and on-farm production diversity – in order to account for the cereal centric rice-wheat cropping system found in our study locations. The analysis is based on Ordinary Least Squares regressions where we control for a variety of village, household, and individual level covariates that affect food consumption, and village fixed effects. Robustness checks are done by way of using a Poisson regression specifications and 7-day recall period.


Conventional measures of field-level production diversity, like the number of crops or food groups grown, have no significant association with diet diversity. In contrast, it is on-farm production diversity (the field-level cultivation of pulses and on-farm livestock management, and kitchen gardens in the longer run) that is significantly associated with improved dietary diversity scores, thus suggesting the importance of non-staples in improving both individual and household dietary diversity. Furthermore, market purchases of non-staples like pulses and dairy products are associated with a significantly higher dietary diversity. Other significant determinants of dietary diversity include women’s literacy and awareness of nutrition. These results mostly remain robust to changes in the recall period of the diet diversity measure and the nature of the empirical specification.


This study contributes to the scarce empirical evidence related to diets in India. Additionally, our results indicate some key intervention areas – promoting livestock rearing, strengthening households’ market integration (for purchase of non-staples) and increasing women’s awareness about nutrition. These are more impactful than raising production diversity.

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