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Consumer Expenditure Survey shows Indians are spending more than ever on food

May 1, 2007
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The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) has recently released a survey (they do similar surveys every five years or so) of 79,298 people in rural areas and 45, 346 people in urban areas and has come up with some interesting findings regarding expenditure on food. The survey shows that Indians are spending more on the “good” stuff. According to a TOI article, Indians are eating healthier food than before.

I don’t quite buy that. True, more is being spent on fruits and vegetables (5 to 15 percentage points) and there is a decline in usage of vanaspati, coconut and mustard oils. Thats good, but the switch to sunflower, corn and soya oils which are seen to be healthier, is not necessarily good for health, not if the switch is to refined oils. Refined oils are not as nutritious as filtered oils. People are also eating more chicken (three times more) and eggs (60 percent more) …its really a matter of opinion whether chicken and eggs are better for health than a vegetarian diet. Vegetarians would definitely say no.

The survey also reports that consumption of coarse grains like Jowar and Bajra had decreased and that people are switching to pulses and thats healthy. Well, as far as I know pulses are not a substitute for grains and in any case coarse grains are quite nutritious and rich in iron. Wheat can be substitute for coarse grains, not pulses. Pulses are to be eaten anyway.

So while the headline of this article said that Indians are eating more healthy food, I would say that Indians are spending more on food but have not necessarily improved their diet. Fruits are fairly expensive (unless one counts fruits like bananas or guavas) and if Indians are spending more on fruits, it means more disposable income. It remains to be seen whether we are eating fruits wisely, after cleaning them properly as fruits have a high pesticide content.

In fact the other things that the survey brought out is that we are spending more on everything, from readymade clothes (75 percent more), telephones (up by 230 percent in urban areas and 515 percent in rural areas), education (from 45 percent to 57 percent in urban areas and 29 percent to 44 percent in rural) to LPG connections (up from 30 percent to 59 percent in urban and 2 percent to 12 percent in rural). Gadgets like TV’s are becoming common even in rural areas (26 percent penetration in rural areas and 66 percent in urban areas). In fact sales of almost all products are up, from refrigerators and motorcycles to cars and electric fans!

The fact is that India is becoming more prosperous, but whether it is becoming more healthy, I have my doubts.

Related Reading: Food Expenditure going up all over the world

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 2, 2007 12:20 am

    Nice layout. I know propably I am late in noticing, but it rocks.

    I concur with your doubts. Again , I doubt the survey itself, it is impossible to survey entire India. It is just representative data of probably few thousands (I wonder if they have published the method and number of participants).

    Mere consuming health food and fruits do not make people healthy. Overall pollution leverl is hightest because many reasons . Further prosperity brings its own evils. I just assume that increased income means probably more spending on liquor, guthkhas etc., which is also run against the idea of increase in overall healthiness.

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