By Payal Seth, Bhaskar Mittra, and Prabhu Pingali
In Pandemic Prices: Price Shocks from COVID-19 and Their Implications on Nutrition Security in India, TCI researchers assess the impact that India’s COVID-19 lockdown had on Indian food prices. They demonstrate that the lockdown disrupted the supply chains for some foods more than others, driving up prices and potentially changing Indian diets for the worse.
In the report, researchers analyze the weekly average price of cereal grains, vegetables, pulses, and eggs in 11 Indian cities from March 1 to May 31, 2020, comparing them to 2019 and the weeks before the lockdown was instituted. While cereal grain prices remained relatively stable, the price of vegetables, pulses, and eggs increased. Since the lockdown was lifted, vegetable and egg prices have stabilized, but the price of pulses remains elevated.
Price patterns have shown the food systems in India to be resilient, but the difference in trends between cereal and non-cereal food groups could have implications for nutrition security, especially for vulnerable populations. The rise in non-cereal prices may divert consumer spending toward staples like wheat and rice, resulting in inadequate consumption of protein-rich food groups, like pulses. Unemployment and income loss resulting from the pandemic will further exacerbate the problem.