Background and Objectives Affordability is probably an impediment to improving diets in India. However, evidence for the relationship between the healthfulness of foods and price is scarce. In addition, little is known about the underlying cost taxonomies for alternate food systems. To address these gaps in the literature, the present study endeavours to determine the cost of a nutritionally balanced, healthy North-Indian vegetarian thali (platter). Further, the price differential between organic and conventional thalis has been determined.
Methods This research is an exploratory attempt to quantify what it costs to prepare nutritionally balanced organic and conventional North-Indian vegetarian lunch and dinner thalis for an Indian adult male and female engaged in moderately active work. The quantities and nutritional value of dishes are based on Nutrient Requirements for Indians (ICMR-NIN, 2020). DietCal was used for dietary calculations. Two stages of accounting led to cost accumulation and assignment to the cost object, i.e., the thalis. Further, differential costing of the organic vis-à-vis conventional thali was determined.
Results From a nutritional point of view, the Indian thali is a balanced meal providing both macro- and micro-nutrients. However, organically grown ingredients are relatively more expensive than conventional ones, from between 4 per cent to 358 per cent. The total cost per day of two square meals (in terms of organic thalis) is &x20B9;215.66 for females and &x20B9;252.05 for males. Further, the organic thalis are slightly over 50 per cent more expensive than conventional ones (table 1).
Conclusions The trade-off between sustainability and affordability challenges our food system. Direct organic marketing initiatives can be a win-win situation for producers and consumers, leading to a ready market and better access at lower prices. From a policy perspective, a gradual expansion of organic agriculture and the integration of best organic management practices into conventional farming is the way forward.
Acknowledgements SG and RKJ are Co-investigators, Research Councils U.K. funded TIGR2ESS Research Project)
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