Agriculture in India

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Agriculture in India

Agriculture in India has a long history dating back to ten thousand years.
Today, India ranks second worldwide in farm output. Agriculture and allied sectors like forestry and logging accounted for 16.6% of the GDP in 2007, employed 52% of the total workforce and despite a steady decline of its share in the GDP, is still the largest economic aman and plays a significant role in the overall socio-economic development of India.

India is the largest producer in the world of milk, cashew nuts, coconuts, tea, ginger, turmeric and black pepper.It also has the world's largest cattle population (281 million).It is the second largest producer of wheat, rice, sugar, groundnut and inland fish.It is the third largest producer of tobacco. India accounts for 10% of the world fruit production with first rank in the production of banana and sapota.
India's population is growing faster than its ability to produce rice and wheat.


The required level of investment for the development of marketing, storage and cold storage infrastructure is estimated to be huge. The government has not been able to implement various schemes to raise investment in marketing infrastructure. Among these schemes are Construction of Rural Go downs, Market Research and Information Network, and Development / Strengthening of Agricultural Marketing Infrastructure, Grading and Standardization.

The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), established in 1905, was responsible for the research leading to the "Indian Green Revolution" of the 1970s. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is the apex body in agriculture and related allied fields, including research and education. The Union Minister of Agriculture is the President of the ICAR. The Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute develops new techniques for the design of agricultural experiments, analyses data in agriculture, and specializes in statistical techniques for animal and plant breeding.

Recently Government of India has set up Farmers Commission to completely evaluate the agriculture program. However the recommendations have had a mixed reception.

1. mixed farming

In August 2001 India's Parliament passed the Plant Variety Protection and Farmers' Rights Act, a sui genera's legislation. Being a WTO member, India had to comply with TRIPS and include PVP. However, farmers' rights are of particular importance in India and thus the Act also allows for farmers to save, sow and sell seeds as they always have, even if it is of a protected variety. This not only saves the livelihoods of many farmers, it also provides an environment for the continuing development and use of land races, says Suman Sahai.


Slow agricultural growth is a concern for policymakers as some two-thirds of India’s people depend on rural employment for a living. Current agricultural practices are neither economically nor environmentally sustainable and India's yields for many agricultural commodities are low. Poorly maintained irrigation systems and almost universal lack of good extension services are among the factors responsible. Farmers' access to markets is hampered by poor roads, rudimentary market infrastructure, and excessive regulation.

The low productivity in India is a result of the following factors:

* According to World Bank's "India: Priorities for Agriculture and Rural Development", India's large agricultural subsidies are hampering productivity-enhancing investment. Over regulation of agriculture has increased costs, price risks and uncertainty. Government intervenes in labor, land, and credit markets. India has inadequate infrastructure and services. World Bank also says that the allocation of water is inefficient, unsustainable and inequitable. The irrigation infrastructure is deteriorating.The overuse of water is currently being covered by over pumping aquifers, but as these are falling by foot of groundwater each year, this is a limited resource.
* Illiteracy, general socio-economic backwardness, slow progress in implementing land reforms and inadequate or inefficient finance and marketing services for farm produce.
* Inconsistent government policy. Agricultural subsidies and taxes often changed without notice for short term political ends.
* The average size of land holdings is very small (less than 20,000 m²) and is subject to fragmentation, due to land ceiling acts and in some cases, family disputes. Such small holdings are often over-manned, resulting in disguised unemployment and low productivity of labour.
* Adoption of modern agricultural practices and use of technology is inadequate, hampered by ignorance of such practices, high costs and impracticality in the case of small land holdings.
* Irrigation facilities are inadequate, as revealed by the fact that only 52.6% of the land was irrigated in 2003–04,which result in farmers still being dependent on rainfall, specifically the Monsoon season. A good monsoon results in a robust growth for the economy as a whole, while a poor monsoon leads to a sluggish growth. Farm credit is regulated by NABARD, which is the statutory apex agent for rural development in the subcontinent. At the same time over pumping made possible by subsidized electric power is leading to an alarming drop in aquifer levels.


Indian agriculture began by 9000 BCE as a result of early cultivation of plants, and domestication of crops and animals. Settled life soon followed with implements and techniques being developed for agriculture.Double monsoons led to two harvests being reaped in one year.Indian products soon reached the world via existing trading networks and foreign crops were introduced to India. Plants and animals—considered essential to their survival by the Indians—came to be worshiped and venerated.
The middle ages saw irrigation channels reach a new level of sophistication in India and Indian crops affecting the economies of other regions of the world under Islamic patronage. Land and water management systems were developed with an aim of providing uniform growth. Despite some stagnation during the later modern era the independent Republic of India was able to develop a comprehensive agricultural program.

(Compiled by Harsh Saxena)                                                                         Back to Homepage
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