Timeline of food and nutrition in India

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This is a timeline of food and nutrition in India, describing agricultural and industrial food production, organizations, government policies and infrastructure related to food, as well as the level of nutrition of the population.

Big picture

Time period Development summary More details
Before AD Pre-Christian times At around 2000 BC, the Ayurvedic tradition of cooking (a complete holistic approach to cooking) evolves, laying the foundation of the concept that everything we eat affects both our body and mind, therefore food should be pure, from nature, and balanced. At around 1000 BC, the roots of Hinduism are shaped, the Vedas are developed as well as the caste system, which divides food habits of people broadly by caste. The Brahmins are mostly vegetarians while the Kshatriyas are non-vegetarian. Buddhism and Jainism develop in the 6th century BC, with the latter having a marked influence on the cuisine in some parts of India. Jains are strong believers in non-violence, and their cuisine, apart from being cooked without meat is also cooked without onion and garlic. Starting at around 300 BC, during Maurya Empire, the economy is agriculture driven which results in the base of all the grain cuisine in India.[1]
AD–1200 Early Christian times Several North Indian dynasties develop, including the Gupta Empire, which is noted for its love of the arts and gives rise to the Golden Age of India, in which several travelers visit the country and carry with them knowledge and products like tea and spices.[1]
1500–1600 European contact Portuguese and Spanish seafaring people bring food plants from South and Central America into India.[2] The Portuguese notably influence the development of the Goan cuisine.[1] Portuguese sailors introduce potatoes, tomatoes, pineapples, guavas, and cashews from Brazil to India. The chili pepper, also introduced by the Portuguese, would become immensely popular as a very important spice for wider Indian cuisine. The Portuguese also introduce beef and pork to converts to Catholicism, meats which are considered a taboo by Hindus.[3]
1500–1800 Mughal Empire Moglai cuisine emerges. Several seasonings are introduced, like saffron, the addition of nuts and cooking in the “Dum” or sealed pot method of cooking. The Syrian Christian cuisine is introduced in Kerala.[1] In South India, during the Sultan dynasty, Hyderabadi cuisine develops, comprising a broad collection of rice, wheat and meat dishes along with the skilled use of various spices and herbs. The Hyderabadi introduce the Dum Pukht method, a slow and sealed method of cooking.[4] In the 18th century famines abound in India. The British become interested in new food plants in order to cope with constant starvation.[5]
1800–1947 British rule Debates on the Indian diet begin, with two areas of colonial concern: famine and prisons.[5] The British regime in India supplies the irrigation works but rarely on the scale required.[6] By the early 20th century, 3 out of 4 Indians are employed in agriculture, famines are common, with food consumption per capita tending toward decline.[7]
Since 1947 Independent India Partition of the country reduced Indian cereal production per capita. Imports of food are necessary to maintain reserves. The food policy is examined and a program for self sufficiency is started. In the 1950s, prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru embarks on a policy of state-led industrialization modeled partly by the Soviets.[8]
1968–1991 The Green Revolution The Green Revolution in India develops with wide diffusion of technologies that achieve a spectacular growth in agricultural outputs.[8] An increased production of staple food crops like rice and wheat reduces hunger and boosts incomes and overall economic growth.[9] Rapid growth in farm productivity enables India to become self-sufficient by the 1970s.[10] Also, the ‘White Revolution’ by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) makes milk and other dairy products more easily and widely accessible. The usage of ghee, butter, paneer, and cheese enhances the diet of Indians, especially in the urban areas thus pushing up the averages for the national daily intake of dairy and animal product.[11] In the 1980s India manages to get along with very few food imports because of the growth in food-grain production and the development of a large buffer stock against potential agricultural shortfalls, all this despite three years of meager rainfall and a drought in the middle of the decade.[12] By the early 1990s, India becomes self-sufficient in food-grain production.[12]
21th century Present time India has moved away from dependence on food aid to become a net food exporter. However, the country continues to suffer severe levels of malnutrition, which remains a leading cause of deaths in infants. As of 2017, India ranks 100th out of 118 countries with a serious hunger situation. There are around 195 million undernourished people, a quarter of the global hunger burden. Nearly 47 million or 4 out of 10 children in India do not meet their full human potential because of chronic undernutrition or stunting.[13]

Full timeline

Year Category Event type Details
9000 BC Food Production Indian agriculture arguably begins by this time as a result of early cultivation of plants, and domestication of crops and animals.[14]
3000 BC Food Production The water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) is domesticated by Indians possibly around this time.[15][16]
3000 BC Food Production Turmeric, cardamom, black pepper and mustard are harvested in India.[17][18]
3000 BC Food Origin Coconut oil, an important part of Ayurvedic medicine, starts to be produced in India around this time.[19]
2000 BC Food Origin The earliest known reference to the cultivation of mangoes are traced to India at around this time.[20] The mango is the national fruit of the country.[21]
2000 BC Foog Introduction Ragi (Eleusine coracana) is introduced from Africa to India around this time.[2]
2000 BC–1800 BC Food Origin Ghee is invented in the northeast corner of the Indian subcontinent.[22]
500 BC Food Origin Indian farmers discover and begin farming many spices and sugarcane.[23]
300 BC Nutrition Diet Maurya Empire. A lot of Hindus feel that animal sacrifices add to the karma. Animal sacrifices become less popular, and meat consumption decreases.[24]
200 BC Nutrition Literature A famous manual of statecraft is written, containing the description of the Arthashastra of Kautilya (a balanced meal of a gentleman). It consists of rice: 500g, dhal: 125g, oil: 56g and salt: 50, respectively.[2]
200 BC–101 BC Food Introduction Emperor Ashoka popularizes vegetarian dishes as an alternative food source.[25]
100–500 AD Food Introduction Okra (Bhindi in Hindi), is introduced in India.[26]
650 AD Nutrition Diet Gupta Empire. Hindus begin to worship a Mother Goddess. Cows are sacred to her, so Hindus stop eating beef pretty much completely.[24]
900 AD Food Production Lemons and purple carrots are introduced in India from Central Asia.[24]
1100 AD Nutrition Diet With the Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent, most people in India stop eating pork. People can still eat lamb or goats or chicken, but most of the people in India become vegetarians, and only eat meat very rarely or not at all. Along the coasts and rivers, though, people still eat plenty of fish.[24]
1400–1500 Food Introduction Tamarind is introduced in India.[27] It is one of the most popular sourcing agents in Indian and Asian cooking.[28]
1550 Food Introduction Chili pepper (Mirch in Hindi) is introduced in India by Portuguese traders.[29]
1615–1619 Food Production Potato in India is first mentioned in an account of the voyage of English chaplain Edward Terry, who writes: "In the northernmost part of this empire they have a variety of pears and apples; everywhere good roots as carrot, potatoes, and other like them...are grown".[30]
1784 Food Preparation method During a famine, Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah builds the Bara Imambara in Lucknow in order to create employment for the starving people. Huge quantities of food are cooked in large vessels, degs, in massive double-walled ovens called "Bukharis". This event represents the introduction of the "Bukhari" cooking into the royal court.[31]
1788 Food Company EID Parry is founded. It specializes in sugar and distillery. It is one of the oldest companies in the world.[32]
1800 Food Infrastructure Some 800,000 hectares are irrigated in India.[33]
1820s Food Production The British East India Company begins large-scale production of tea in Assam, of a tea variety traditionally brewed by the Singpho people.[34]
1822 Food Introduction Cauliflower is first introduced in India, from England by the British.[35]
1871 Food Organization The Government of India creates the Department of Revenue, Agriculture and Commerce.[6]
1876–1878 Nutrition Crisis The Great Famine of 1876–1878 occurs after an intense drought results in crop failure in the Deccan Plateau.[36] Affecting south and southwestern India (the British presidencies of Madras and Bombay, and the princely states of Mysore and Hyderabad) for a period of two years, and spreading northward to some regions of the Central Provinces and the North-Western Provinces, and to a small area in the Punjab.[37], the famine reaches an area of 257,000 km2 and an estimated death toll to be in the range of 5.5 million people.[38]
1880s Nutrition Infrastructure The Indian Famine Codes are developed by the colonial British as famine scales. Comprehensive and sophisticated by their time, they compare well with many relief systems drawn up a century later.[39]
1892 Food Company Britannia Industries is founded. It specializes in food products.[40]
1896 Nutrition Policy The Indian National Congress passes two resolutions linking poverty and hunger to the burdens of British rule, and urge the government to go further in saving lives in famine.[39]
1929 Food Company Parle Products is founded. It specializes in food.[41]
1936 Nutrition Program launch The Planning Commission (India) defines goals to alleviate poverty by setting targets in terms of nutrition (2400 to 2800 calories per adult worker), clothing (30 yards per capita per annum) and housing (100 sq. ft per capita).[42]
1940s Food Production The Grow More Food Campaign launches as a special program initiative.[43]
1943 Nutrition Crisis The Bengal famine of 1943 breaks out, leaving a death toll at about 1.5 million. It is considered one of the world's worst food disasters.[11][44]
1946 Food Company Amul is founded. It specializes in dairy products.[45]
1947 India becomes an independent country.[8] Partition of the country leaves India with 82% of the total population of undivided India but only 75% of the cereal production. The surplus province of Punjab is partitioned and West Punjab, which has a well-established network of irrigation canals, goes to Pakistan, as well as Sindh, also a surplus province.[46]
1947 Food Preparation method Punjabi refugees bring Tandoori style of cooking to Delhi. Since then, the Punjabi tandoori cooking would start becoming popular throughout India.[47]
1947 Food Policy The Foodgrains Policy Commission is followed by a number of Commissions which examine the food policy from time-to-time.[46]
1947–1948 Food Policy The food policy of independent India is examined by a Foodgrains Policy Commission, and concludes that imports are necessary to enable maintenance of central reserves to guard against crop failures and such reserve could be of the tune of two million tons. A rationing system, introduced during the World War II, is recomended as also the need to import foodgrains.[46]
1948–1975 Food Production The average output per hectare of an Indian wheat increases from 0.8 tons to 4.7 tons of wheat in the period.[10]
1949 Food Policy The Foodgrains Investigation Commission once again stresses self sufficiency.[46]
1950s Food Production The Integrated Production Programme launches, focusing on cash crops.[43]
1950 Food Policy The Foodgrains Procurement Commission stresses on maintaining a reasonable level of foodgrains prices to ensure adequate supplies to consumers.[46]
1950–1951 Food Production A reported 50 million tons of food grain are produced in the country.[13]
1951 Food Infrastructure India's irrigation potential reaches 22.6 million hectares.[48]
1951 Food Production India embarks on the path of planned economic development and launches the first Five Year Plan, giving highest priority to agriculture. In this year, the total foodgrain production is just 51 million tons.[46]
1951 Nutrition Intake Per capita availability of cereals is recorded at 334 grams per day.[12]
1955 Food Infrastructure The Konar Project and the Lower Bhawani Project are completed as major irrigation projects during the First Five Year Plan.[49]
1956 Food Infrastructure The Tungabhadra Project and the Hirakud Dam project are completed as major irrigation projects during the First Five Year Plan.[49]
1957 Food Infrastructure The Maithon Project is completed as a major irrigation project during the First Five Year Plan.[49]
1957 Food Organization Forced by a decline in production, the Indian Government establishes the Foodgrains Enquiry Committee under the eminent economist Ashok Mehta.[46]
1958 Food Organization The Price Increase and Famine Resistance Committee is formed a mass movement in West Bengal by the Communist Party of India and other Left groups, in response to the food crisis at the time.[50]
1960 Food Infrastructure Gandhi Sagar Project is completed as a major irrigation project during the First Five Year Plan.[49]
1961 Nutrition Intake The average Indian daily calorie intake is reported to be 2,010. It consists of 43% grains (378g), 23% produce (199g), 12% dairy & eggs (108g), 12% sugar and fat (108g), 2% meat (17g) and 8% as other (68g).[11]
1963 Food Production Norman Borlaug, the principal scientist of the Green Revolution, is deputed to India to establish a program to adapt hybrid wheat varieties from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Mexico, to Indian conditions.[8]
1965 Food Organization The National Dairy Development Board is established under the auspices of Operation Flood at Anand, in Gujarat, to promote, plan, and organize dairy development through cooperatives; to provide consultations; and to set up dairy plants, which were then turned over to the cooperatives.[51]
1965 Food Organization The Food Corporation of India is established as the public sector marketing agency responsible for implementing government price policy through procurement and public distribution operations.[46][52]
1965–1966 Food Policy India suffers two years of severe drought. This would convince the Indian Government to reform its agricultural policy and that they could not rely on foreign aid and imports for food security. Further significant policy reforms would be adopted, focusing on the goal of food grain self-sufficiency, and ushering India’s Green Revolution.[10]
1965–1980 Food Production Wheat production in India nearly triples in this period while rice production increases 60 percent with the new strains and new methods.[53]
1969 Food Introduction Sunflower as an oilseed crop is introduced in India.[54]
1970 Food Program launch The Operation Flood launches as a project of India's National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). The world's biggest dairy development program, it would transform India from a milk-deficient nation into the world's largest milk producer, surpassing the United States in 1998.[55][56] Initially, the Phase 1 covers wight rural districts and later on extends to 27 districts with a participation of 1.4 million rural families.[57]
1978 Food Program launch The Indian Council of Medical Research laids down a balanced diet essentially matching the Arthasastra of Kautilya writen in 300 BC.[2]
1981 Food Workforce There are 195.1 million rural workers in the country: 55.4 million are agricultural laborers who depend primarily on casual farm work for a livelihood.[12]
1985 Food Company Bonn Group of Industries is founded. It specializes in baked goods.[58]
1987 Food Production Field crops are planted on about 45 percent of the total land mass of India. Almost 37 million hectares are double-cropped, making the gross sown area equivalent to almost 173 million hectares. About 15 million hectares are permanent pastureland or are planted in various tree crops and groves. Approximately 108 million hectares are either developed for nonagricultural uses, forested, or unsuited for agriculture because of topography. The remaining land, About 29.6 million hectares, are classified as cultivable but fallow, and 15.6 million hectares are classified as cultivable wasteland.[12]
1989 Food Production The gross value of output from animal husbandry in India is Rs358 billion in the fiscal year, an amount that constitutes about 25 percent of the total agricultural output of Rs1.4 trillion.[51]
1990–2000 Nutrition Statistics The number of people undernourished in India drops from 210 million to 177 million in the period.[11]
1990–2015 Nutrition Intake The average daily protein consumption rises from 55g per day to 59g per day in the period, with the protein from animal consumption increasing from 9g per day to 12g. The share of dietary energy supplied from cereals and roots decreases from an average of 66g per day to 59g.[11]
1990 Food Dairy production Milk production is estimated to have reached 53.5 million tons, and egg production reaches a level of 23.3 billion eggs.[51]
1990 Nutrition Intake Per capita availability of cereals reaches 470 grams per day, up from 334 grams in 1951.[12]
1990 Food Production Approximately 127.5 million hectares are sown with food grains, about 75 percent of the total planted area, during the fiscal year. An increase of 31 percent of the total number of hectares is calculated over the forty-year period from FY 1950 to FY 1990.[59]
1990s Food Exports Agricultural exports grow at well over 10.1% annually through the decade.[60]
Early 1990s Food Dairy production More than 63,000 Anand-style dairy cooperative societies are counted in India, with some 7.5 million members.[51]
Early 1990s Workforce The rural workforce grows to 242 million, of whom 73.7 million are classified as agricultural laborers. Approximately 33 percent of the employed rural workers are classified as casual wage laborers.[12]
1992 Food Livestock production India has approximately 25 percent of the world's cattle, with 193 million heads. There are also 110 million goats, 75 million water buffaloes, 44 million sheeps, and 10 million pigs.[51]
1993 Food Industry India stands as the largest producer of sugar worldwide, harvesting 12 million tons in the year, followed by Brazil's 9 million tons and China's 7 million tons.[59]
1993 Food Production The value of fish and processed fish exports reaches 3.6 percent in the fiscal year, increasing from less than 1 percent of the total value of exports in FY 1960.[61]
1993–1994 Food Production The total foodgrain production reaches 180 million tons, a 253% increase within four decades.[46]
1995 Nutrition Program launch The Indian government starts midday meal scheme, serving millions of children with fresh cooked meals in almost all the government run schools or schools aided by the government fund.[62]
1995 Food Infrastructure India’s irrigation potential reaches about 90 million hectares at the end of the year.[48]
1997 Food Company Organic India is founded. It specializes in organic foods.[63]
1998 Food Production India becomes the world's largest milk producer, surpassing the United States.[55]
2000 Food Production Indian farms adopt wheat varieties capable of yielding 6 tons of wheat per hectare.[64][65]
2003 Food Company Suminter India Organics is founded. It specializes in organic products.[66]
2004–2006 Nutrition Statistics The number of people undernourished in India fluctuates, dropping from 210 million to 177 million between 1990 and 2000 before dramatically increasing between the years 2004-2006 where the recorded number of undernourished people rises from 177 million to almost 240 million in the space of just 5 years.[11]
2005 Nutrition Statistics An estimated 40% of women in rural areas, and 36% of women in urban areas are found to have mild anaemia.[67]
2005 Nutrition Statistics According to repport, 60% of India's children below the age of three are malnourished, a greater figure than the statistics of sub-Saharan African of 28%.[68]
2007 Food Production The National Development Council adopts a resolution to launch a Food Security Mission comprising rice, wheat and pulses to increase the annual production of rice by 10 million tons, wheat by 8 million tons and pulses by 2 million tons by the end of the harvest season 2011-12. Accordingly, a Centrally Sponsored Scheme, 'National Food Security Mission' (NFSM), is launched during the year.[69]
2008 Food Production India stands as the world's sixth largest producer of marine and freshwater capture fisheries and the second largest aquaculture farmed fish producer.
2008 Food Statistics Report claims that India's population is growing faster than its ability to produce rice and wheat.[70]
2009 Food Production India stands as the world's third largest producer of eggs, oranges, coconuts, tomatoes, peas and beans.[71]
2009 Food Production The Statistics Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization reports that, per final numbers for 2009, India is the world's largest producer of the following agricultural products: Fresh Fruit, lemons and limes, buffalo milk, castor oil seeds, sunflower seeds, sorghum, millet, spice, okra, jute, beeswax, bananas, mangoes, mangosteens, guavas, pulses, indigenous buffalo meat, tropical fruits, ginger, chick peas, areca nuts, pigeon peas, papayas, chillies and peppers, anise, badian, fennel, coriander, and goat milk.[71][72]
2009–2010 Food Production India stands first in milk production, with 112.5 million tons of milk produced in 2009-2010.[73]
2010 Nutrition Statistics National obesity rates in the country are reported at 14% for women and 18% for men with some urban areas having rates as high as 40%.[74]
2010 Food Infrastructure It is estimated that only about 35% of agricultural land in India is reliably irrigated.[75]
2011 Food Workforce The agricultural sector workforce in the Indian subcontinent is composed by a 75 percent of women.[76]
2011 Nutrition Intake Study shows the average Indian having a daily calories intake of 2,458. Their daily diet consists of 34% produce (450g), 32% grains (416g), 18% eggs and dairy (235g), 10% sugar and fat (129g), 2% meat (29g) and 4% as other (58g).[11]
2012 Food Production The national production from horticulture exceeds grain output for the first time.[77]
2012 Nutrition Statistics India is firmly established among the world's most hunger-ridden countries, with 21% of its population undernourished, nearly 44% of under-5 children underweight and 7% of them dying before they reach five years. Only Congo, Chad, Ethiopia or Burundi, are in worse conditions, but India situation is worse than Sudan, North Korea, Pakistan or Nepal.[78]
2013 Food Production India becomes the second largest producer of horticultural products after China, with a total horticulture produce reaching 277.4 million metric tons.[79] During the fiscal year, the exported horticulture products worthed nearly double the value of the 2010 exports.[79]
2013 Nutrition Policy The Parliament of India enacts the National Food Security Act, 2013 (Also called as the Right to Food Act), in order to provide the Right to food to every citizen of the country. This legislation seeks to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India's 1.33 billion population.[80][81][82]
2013 Food Production India stands as the world's largest dairy herd (composed of cows and buffaloes), at over 304 million strong.[73]
2013–2017 Food Production Agrifood start-ups in India receive funding of US$ 1.66 billion in 558 deals in the period.[83]
2014 Food Production According to statistics by the FAO, India is the world's largest producer of many fresh fruits like banana, mango, guava, papaya, lemon and vegetables like chickpea, okra and milk, major spices like chili pepper, ginger, fibrous crops such as jute, staples such as millets and castor oil seed. India is the second largest producer of wheat and rice, which are the world's major food staples.[84]
2014 Nutrition Intake Study on Indian vegetarian diets conclude that, overall, these are found to be adequate to sustain nutritional demands according to recommended dietary allowances with less fat. However, lower vitamin B12 bio-availability remains a concern and requires exploration of acceptable dietary sources for vegetarians.[85]
2014–2015 Food Production A reported 250 million tons of food grain are produced in the country, this time becoming a net food exporter.[13]
2014–2017 Food Infrastructure Agriculture storage capacity in India increases at 4 % compound Annual Growth Rate between in the period, reaching 131.8 million metric tons.[83]
2015 Food Policy The Government of India launches the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana as a national mission to improve farm productivity and ensure better utilization of the resources in the country. An amount of Rs 50,000 crore (US$ 7.7 billion) is invested for development of irrigation sources for providing a permanent solution from drought.[83][86]
2015 Nutrition Statistics According to study, India accounts for the highest number of deaths of children with 50% of such deaths caused by malnutrition.[87]
2015 Nutrition Study IMRB International releases results of its Protein Consumption in the Diet of Adult Indians Survey, and reports that nine out of 10 Indians consume less than adequate proteins daily, and that 91% of the vegetarians and 85% of the non-vegetarians are deficient.[88]
2016 Food Organization The Electronic National Agriculture Market (eNAM) is launched to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities by networking existing Agricultural produce market committees.[83]
2016 Food Organization The Government of India establishes the Farmers Commission to completely evaluate the agriculture program.[89]
2016 Food Statistics As of date, agriculture accounts for 23% of the Indian GDP, and employs 59% of the country's total workforce.[90]
2016 Food Program launch The Indian Government launches a number of programs to double farmers’ incomes by 2022.[13]
2017 Nutrition Statistics The 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report by the International Food Policy Research Institute ranks India 100th out of 118 countries with a serious hunger situation. Amongst South Asian nations, India ranks third behind only Afghanistan and Pakistan with a GHI score of 29.0 ("serious situation").[91]
2018 Nutrition Statistics The 2018 Global Hunger Index Report ranks India 103rd out of 119 countries with a serious issue of child wasting. At least one in five children under the age of five years in India are wasted.[92]
2018 Food Production Indian Tea Giant Goodricke Group parent Camellia Plc becomes the world's largest private tea producer producing 103 million kgs.[93]
2018 Food Policy The Agriculture Export Policy is approved by Government of India, with aims at increasing the agricultural exports to US$ 60 billion by 2022 and US$ 100 billion in the next few years with a stable trade policy regime.[83]
2018 Food The first mega food park in Rajasthan is inaugurated.[83]

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