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‘The future of Indian agriculture’

  • Posted By
    10Pointer
  • Categories
    Economy
  • Published
    5th Feb, 2021
  • Context

    Sub topics:

    GS-1

    • Agricultural Resources- Contribution to Economy, Employment & Output
    • Cropping patterns in different agro-climatic zones of the country.

    GS-3

    • Agriculture
    • Issues related to Direct and Indirect Farm Subsidies and Minimum Support Prices

    The question of future of Indian agriculture has been around for some time now since the agrarian distress and crisis in the sector.

    It has become more important in the context of the spate of recent reforms that include permitting private wholesale markets, contract farming, direct purchase from farmers and land leasing across states both under the earlier state-level Acts, and now under the central Acts.

  • Background

    • India is an agricultural country. However, the sector is facing various issues and challenges due to the recent reforms introduced by the Centre.
    • These reforms led to the dispute, which raises questions not only about agriculture but about dwindling populations in rural India where small communities are already struggling to survive.
    • Future of agriculture is a very important question for the planners and all other stakeholders.  However, its future depends on many existing and missing policies and directions of policy reforms.
    • But, it is sad to note that India does not have a policy for the same. The sector loses its policy focus as it is a state subject, but practically being run by the Centre for long time.
    • When the sector is faced with economic, social and environmental crisis, absence of policy is the major factor in the crisis not being attended by any stakeholder.
  • Analysis

    Assessing the profile the Indian agricultural sector 

    • Contribution to GDP: The farm production sector contributes only 13 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Small farmers contribute 51 percent of agricultural output with 46 percent of operated land, and a much higher share (70 per cent) in high-value crops. 
    • Employment generation: The sector engages 44 percent workforce.
      • This presents a dismal picture of the sector as compared with other sectors, as the earnings are poor.
    • Land division:85 percent of India’s farmers operate less than five acres of land, half of which in many parts of India may be dry / rain-fed and only a part of their income comes from farming activity now with others coming from wages, off-farm and non-farm activities.
    • Self-sufficient India: Although the sector’s contribution in the GDP has reduced to less than 20 percent, agricultural production has grown. This has made us self-sufficient and taken us from being a begging bowl for food after independence to a net exporter of agriculture and allied products.
      • Total foodgrain production in the country is estimated to be a record 291.95 million tonnes, according to the second advance estimates for 2019-20.
    • Crops: India is the top producer of milk, spices, pulses, tea, cashew and jute, and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables, sugarcane and cotton.
  • The increasing pressure on land

    • Increasing population, increasing average income and globalisation effects in India will increase demand for quantity, quality and nutritious food, and variety of food.
    • As per the estimates of Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), demand for foodgrain would increase to 345 million tonnes by 2030.
    • Therefore, pressure on decreasing available cultivable land to produce more quantity, variety and quality of food will keep on increasing. 

    Agro-Climatic Zones

    • India is blessed with large arable land with 15 agro-climatic zones as defined by ICAR, having almost all types of weather conditions, soil types and capable of growing a variety of crops.
      • Western Himalayan Region: Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and the hill region of Uttarakhand
      • Eastern Himalayan Region: Arunachal Pradesh, the hills of Assam, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, and the Darjeeling district of West Bengal
      • Lower Gangetic Plain Region: West Bengal (except the hilly areas), eastern Bihar and the Brahmaputra valley
      • Middle Gangetic Plain Region: Parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar
      • Upper Gangetic Plains Region: Central and western parts of Uttar Pradesh and the Hardwar and Udham Nagar districts of Uttarakhand
      • Trans-Ganga Plains Region: Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi and the Ganganagar district of Rajasthan
      • Eastern Plateau and Hills: Chhotanagpur Plateau, extending over Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Dandakaranya
      • Central Plateau and Hills: Bundelkhand, Baghelkhand, Bhander Plateau, Malwa Plateau, and Vindhyachal Hills
      • Western Plateau and Hills: Southern part of Malwa plateau and Deccan plateau (Maharashtra)
      • Southern Plateau and Hills: Interior Deccan and includes parts of southern Maharashtra, the greater parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu uplands from Adilabad District in the north to Madurai District in the south
      • Eastern Coastal Plains and Hills: Coromandal and northern Circar coasts of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa
      • Western Coastal Plains and Ghats: Malabar and Konkan coastal plains and the Sahyadris
      • Gujarat Plains and Hills: Hills and plains of Kathiawar, and the fertile valleys of Mahi and Sabarmati rivers
      • Western Dry Region: West of Aravalli (Rajasthan)
      • Island Region: Andaman-Nicobar and Lakshadweep

    In spite of all these facts, the average productivity of many crops in India is quite low. 

  • What are the key-trends expected in the sector?

    • Changing demand due to increase in incomes, globalisation and health consciousness is affecting and going to affect more the production in future. Demand for fruits and vegetables, dairy products, fish and meat is going to increase in future.
    • Innovation: Researches, technology improvements, protected cultivation of high value greens and other vegetables will be more. There will be more demand of processed and affordable quality products.
    • Competition among private companies: More competition will be there among private companies giving innovative products, better seeds, fertilisers, plant protection chemicals, customised farm machinery and feed for animals etc in cost effective ways at competitive prices giving more returns on investment by farmers.
    • Eco-friendly and climate resilient crop: Use of biotechnology and breeding will be very important in developing eco-friendly and disease resistant, climate resilient, more nutritious and tastier crop varieties.
    • Adoption of AI: Precision farming with soil testing-based decisions, automation using artificial intelligence will be focused for precise application inputs in agriculture. Sensors and drones will be used for precision, quality, environment in cost effective manner. Use of GPS technology, drones, robots etc controlled by smart phones etc can make life of farmers easy and exciting with good results.
    • Nano-technology: Usage of nano-technology for enhancement of food quality and safety, efficient use of inputs will be in near future.
    • Digitalization: Retailing in agriculture will largely be digitalised. 
      • A study estimates that over 90 percent of kirana stores across the country will be digitalised by 2025 with modern traceable logistics and transparent supply chain.
  • What are the major constraints in Indian agriculture?

    • Small land holding: Farming for subsistence which makes scale of economy in question with majority of small holdings.
    • According to 2010-11 Agriculture Census, the total number of operational holdings was 138.35 million with average size of 1.15 hectares (ha).
    • Of the total holdings, 85 per cent are in marginal and small farm categories of less than 2 ha (GOI, 2014).
    • Low access of credit: Low-access of credit and prominent role of unorganised creditors affecting decisions of farmers in purchasing of inputs and selling of outputs
    • Less utilisation of technology: Less use of technology, mechanisation and poor productivity for which first two points are of major concern
    • Less value addition: Very less value addition as compared to developed countries and negligible primary-level processing at farmers level.
    • Poor infrastructure: Poor infrastructure for farming making more dependence on weather, marketing and supply chain suitable for high value crops.
  • How these key-challenges can be addressed?

    • Cost-effective technologies: There is a need for work on cost-effective technologies with environmental protection and on conserving our natural resources.
    • Fair and responsible production: The sector needs to engage with fair and responsible production and trade issues on a priority basis even for domestic markets.
    • Value chain approach: A combination of livelihoods and agribusiness or value chain approach can help leverage the sector for betterment of its stakeholders i.e. farmers, workers and others around it.
    • Protective measures for small producers: There is a need for a policy at union and state levels and even more effective regulation to protect small producer interest in a globalised market context to leverage the strengths of modern and large players in the agribusiness value chains for a win-win for all stakeholders involved so that inclusive and effective sustainable agricultural development could be attempted.
    • Institutional innovation: There is also a need for institutional innovations besides product, process and organisational innovations in the sector to deal with existing and emerging challenges and problems of sustainability in the sector which can be converted into opportunities.
  • Way forward

    India is among the world’s most essential food producers. However, the agricultural sector deserves attention and support as it evolves. The sector needs innovation, and entrepreneurship is the best way forward. The potential is mind-boggling.