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Food security policies in India and China: implications for national and global food security


Food insecurity is a much more serious concern in India than China. In addition to income and poverty differences, we argue in this paper that differences in food policies can further explain the different food security outcomes across the two countries. First, India mostly uses price-based input subsidies to support agricultural incentives whereas China has recently adopted direct transfers to support agricultural incentives, which are believed to be less distorting and more efficient. Second, the two countries apply quite different approaches to address poor consumers’ access to food, with India adopting a widely criticized public distribution system and China mainly using direct income transfers and other social safety nets. Third, although both committed considerable fiscal resources to insulating their respective domestic markets, especially during recent food price spikes, India’s heavy dependence on price-based measures causes relatively larger and more volatile fiscal burdens, thereby likely making it more vulnerable in dealing with similar events in the future. These findings have important implications for food policy and food security in the two countries in the future.

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  1. 1.

    Utilization of food refers to the ability to reach a state of nutritional wellbeing through an adequate diet, clean water, sanitation and health care. A related concept is malnutrition which is the result of deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in the consumption of macro- and/or micronutrients (FAO 2008). Malnutrition is often caused by an inadequate diet but can also result from poor hygienic conditions etc.

  2. 2.

    Other measures include the basic pension and medical schemes for urban and rural residents who are not covered elsewhere.

  3. 3.

    Source: Statistical Bulletins on Social Service Development of Ministry of Civil Affairs of China, and the Chinese Statistics Yearbooks.

  4. 4.

    Simply put, the AMS or total AMS is the total value of all domestic support provided to agricultural producers that are not exempt under the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture. See for further explanation.


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The authors acknowledge valuable comments and suggestions from two anonymous referees and the guest editor on an earlier draft of the paper, and useful discussions with Lijuan Cao on China’s income support programs. This paper was part of a workshop sponsored by the OECD Co-operative Research Programme on Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems.

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Correspondence to Wusheng Yu.

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Yu, W., Elleby, C. & Zobbe, H. Food security policies in India and China: implications for national and global food security. Food Sec. 7, 405–414 (2015).

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  • Agricultural and food policy
  • Food security
  • India
  • China