The original objectives of India’s public food management system were threefold: to maintain a reasonable degree of price stability; to provide some producer incentives to cultivators by ensuring that prices remained above estimated costs; and to provide a degree of food security to consumers. The system rested on the twin pillars of public procurement with minimum support prices provided at farm gate for a range of major crops, and public distribution organised at the state level through a network of Fair Price Shops providing some food items at subsidised prices. Of course, the system was never completely successful, either in terms of its spread, or in terms of fully achieving its basic objectives. Public food grain procurement remained confined largely to certain established .surplus. states (such as Punjab, Haryana, Utter Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh) without stretching its regional purview. In terms of food distribution for consumers, most of the rural population (except in some states such as Kerala and Andhra Pradesh) did not have access to Fair Price Shops and the rationing system. And the attempt at universal provision, in a context of inadequate resources being allocated for the purpose, inevitably meant that many of those requiring cheaper food were in fact the ones who did not have access. Nevertheless, over the 1970s and 1980s, the network did certainly expand in physical terms and Indian food and agricultural prices were certainly more stable than world market prices for such commodities. However, in the 1990s the system came under increasing pressure, and even under attack as various measures aimed at first targeting access to the Public Distribution System to only those officially defined as .poor. and then at reducing the subsidy offered to other consumers, undermined the consumer network. These measures, which were supposed to reduce the food subsidy, had precisely the opposite effect of increasing it, because they led to declining off-take (sales) from the Fair Price Shops. Because procurement levels did not decline but rather increased, this led to the growth of stocks held by the public system, and therefore to higher carrying costs of holding all this excess food grain. In the years after the turn of the century, the level of publicly held food stocks reached around 64 million tonnes, compared to the buffer norms of 16-24 million tonnes. However, cultivators have been under greater pressure, and increasingly have felt inadequately served by the public system, because they have had to cope with rising input prices, as various explicit and implicit agricultural subsidies are reduced, at the same time that trade liberalisation has exposed them to import competition from highly subsidised production in the developed countries. All this has been taking place in a context of overall deterioration of per capita availability of food grain. Unlike the previous decades since Independence, the 1990s witnessed no trend increase in per capita availability of food grain, and in recent years the situation has deteriorated even relative to the levels achieved thirty years earlier. In fact, per capita cereals availability in 2001, at 417 grams per day, was the lowest it had been since 1975, which was itself an outstandingly bad year. Per capita calorie consumption also declined over this period, as mentioned above. Clearly, therefore, while the food procurement and distribution system played a positive but limited social role especially in the 1970s and 1980s, since the early 1990s it has been undermined to the point where it is almost on the verge of being dismantled and replaced with entirely private operations.