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The situation of Indian Agriculture

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 05, Jan 2021
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Indian Agriculture: A Brief Outlook

  1. Agriculture accounted for 14% of India’s GDP in 2016-17 and provided employment to more than half a billion people. The share of Agriculture in employment is close to 54% as on 2016-17.
  2. Indian Agriculture is dominated by the small-scale farming and is characterised by low productivity.
  3. The average size of land holding in Indian Agriculture is less than 2 hectares.
  4. The low land holding size means that most of the Indian farmer practices subsistence farming, where they consume the majority of what they produce and sell whatever is left.
  5. The Indian Agriculture remains the largest employer of the female labour force in India. The share of women labour force out of total women labour force employed in agriculture is close to 65%.
  6. The Indian agriculture suffers from the twin problem of low productivity and excess workforce employed in it. Due to which the per capita productivity of workforce is very low.
  7. The low productivity results in depressing the wages in the agriculture sector leading to high level of poverty.
  8. Agriculture’s importance in India’s Trade is declining, but it still has a share of about 10% in India’s total exports.
  9. Compare to the high growth in other sectors of the Indian economy, the performance of the Indian agriculture remains poor due to slow and erratic growth rates. The average growth rate of India’s agriculture over the past decades remains low at less than 2%.
  10. At such a low growth rate of the agriculture sector, it is impossible to uplift millions of rural poor out of poverty.
  11. The agriculture sector in India has undergone very limited liberalisation. The state still plays a predominant role in the Indian agriculture.
  12. Concerns about food security and poverty with respect to the second largest population in the world lead the government to remain strongly involved in regulating India’s agriculture through fixing prices for key agricultural products at the farm and consumer levels, high border protection, bans on or support for exports, and massive subsidies for key inputs such as fertilisers, water and electricity.
  13. The Indian agriculture remains one of highly subsidised sector of the economy.
  14. Total foodgrains production in India is estimated to be 272 million tonnes in the year 2016-17.
  15. The estimated production of key cereals like wheat, rice and pulses will be 96.6 million tonnes, 106.7 million tonnes and 22.1 million tonnes respectively in the year 2016-17.
  16. The other major crops grown in India are oilseeds with an estimated production of 33.6 million tonnes, sugarcane at 309 million tonnes, cotton at 32.5 million bales.
  17. As per the land use statistics 2013-14, the total geographical area of the country is 328.7 million hectares, of which 141.4 million hectares is the reported net sown area and 200.9 million hectares is the gross cropped area with a cropping intensity of 142 %.
  18. The net sown area works out to be 43% of the total geographical area. The net irrigated area is 68.2 million hectares.
  19. The sharp deceleration in the growth of the agricultural sector against the backdrop of an impressive growth of the larger economy is widening disparities between the incomes of workers in non-agricultural and agricultural activities.

Role of Agriculture in Indian Economy

  • A growing agriculture sector is a prerequisite for the development of India.
  • The growing surplus form the agriculture sector is needed to feed the millions of people who live below poverty line and can hardly sustain themselves.
  • The agriculture sector has to maintain a very high growth rate of above 4% in order to sustain the pressure of rising population.
  • A growing agriculture sector controls inflation because increased food supplies and agricultural raw materials keep the prices down and stable.
  • The agriculture sector has an important backward linkage with the industrial sector. The rural consumers are an important source of demand for the industrial goods.

(b) Cropping Patterns

Cropping Patterns in India: Factors Affecting; Most Important Cropping Patterns

Cropping Pattern in India

Back to Basics: Cropping Pattern mean the proportion of area under different crops at a point of time, changes in this distribution overtime and factors determining these changes.

Cropping pattern in India is determined mainly by rainfall, climate, temperature and soil type.

Technology also plays a pivotal role in determining crop pattern. Example, the adoption of High Yield Varieties Seeds along with fertilisers in the mid 1960’s in the regions of Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh increased wheat production significantly.

The multiplicity of cropping systems has been one of the main features of Indian agriculture. This may be attributed to following two major factors:

  1. Rainfed agriculture still accounts for over 92.8 million hectares or 65 percent of the cropped area. A large diversity of cropping systems exists under rainfed and dryland areas with an overriding practice of intercropping, due to greater risks involved in cultivating larger area under a particular crop.
  2. Due to prevailing socio-economic situations (such as; dependency of large population on agriculture, small land-holding size, very high population pressure on land resource etc.), improving household food security has been an issue of supreme importance to many million farmers of India, who constitute 56.15 million marginal (<1.0 hectare), 17.92 million small (1.0-2.0 hectare) and 13.25 million semi-medium (2.0-4.0 hectare) farm holdings, making together 90 percent of 97.15 million operational holdings.
  3. An important consequence of this has been that crop production in India remained to be considered, by and large, a subsistence rather than commercial activity.

Factors Determining Cropping Pattern in India

Cropping Pattern in India

30 most important cropping patterns in India

Specific Issues Related to the Cropping Pattern

Crop Pattern Region/State Issues Related to Crop Pattern
Rice-Wheat UP, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh.

Over the years there is stagnation in the production and productivity loses.

The main reasons for stagnation are:

Over Mining of Nutrients from the soil.

Declining Ground Water Table.

Increase Pest Attacks and Diseases.

Shortages of Labour.

Inappropriate use of Fertilizers.

Rice-Rice Irrigated and Humid coastal system of Orrisa, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.

The major issues in sustaining the productivity of rice-rice system are:

Deterioration in soil physical conditions.

Micronutrient deficiency.

Poor efficiency of nitrogen use. Imbalance in use of nutrients. Non-availability of appropriate trans planter to mitigate labour shortage during the critical period of transplanting.

Rice- Groundnut Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Orrisa and Maharashtra.

The major issues in the pattern are:

Excessive Rainfall and Water Logging.

Non-availability of quality seeds.

Limited expansion of Rabi Groundnut in Rice grown areas.

Rice-Pulses Chhattisgarh, Orrisa and Bihar.

Factors limiting Productivity are:

Droughts and Erratic Rainfall distribution.

Lack of Irrigation.

Low coverage under HYV Seeds.

Weed Attacks.

Little attention to pest attacks and diseases.

Marginalisation of land and Removal of Tribal from their own land.

Maize-Wheat UP, Rajasthan, MP and Bihar

The Reason for Poor Yields are:

Sowing Timing.

Poor Weed Management.

Poor Plant Varieties.

Poor use of organic and inorganic fertilizers.

Large area under Rain Fed Agriculture.


UP, Punjab and Haryana accounts for 68% of the area under sugarcane.

The other states which cover the crops are; Karnataka and MP.

Problems in Sugarcane-Wheat system are:

Late Planting.

Imbalance and inadequate use of nutrients.

Poor nitrogen use efficiency in sugarcane.

Build-up of Trianthema partu lacastrum and Cyprus rotundus in sugarcane.

The stubble of sugarcane pose tillage problem for succeeding crops and need to be managed properly.

Cotton-Wheat Punjab, Haryana, West UP, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu.

Problems in Cotton-Wheat system are:

Delay Planting.

Stubbles of cotton create the problem of tillage operations and poor tilth for wheat.

Cotton Pest like Boll Worm and White Fly.

Poor nitrogen use efficiency in cotton.

Soya bean-Wheat Maharashtra, MP and Rajasthan

Constraints limiting the soybean production and productivity are:

A relatively recent introduction of soybean as a crop.

Limited genetic diversity.

Short growing period available in Indian latitudes.

Hindered agronomy/availability of inputs at the farm level.

Rainfed nature of crop and water scarcity at critical stage of plant growth.

Insect pests and diseases, Quality improvement problems.

Inadequate mechanization and partial adoption of technology by farmers have been identified.

Legume Based Cropping Systems (Pulses-Oilseeds) MP, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

The major issues in Legume based system are:

Lack of technological advancement.

Loses due to erratic weather and waterlogging.

Diseases and Pests.

Low harvest index, flower drop, indeterminate growth habit and very poor response to fertilizers and water in most of the grain legumes.

Nutrient needs of the system have to be worked out considering N-fixation capacity of legume crops.


Horticulture Crops in India

India has made a good place for itself on the Horticulture Map of the World with a total annual production of horticultural crops touching over 1490 million tones during 1999-00.

The horticultural crops cover about 9 percent of the total area contributing about 24.5 percent of the gross agricultural output in the country. However, the productivity of fruits and vegetables grown in the country is low as compared to developed countries.

Vegetable Crops

Vegetable crops in India are grown from the sea level to the snowline. The entire country can broadly be divided into six vegetable growing zones:

Low productivity is the main feature of vegetable cultivation in India as farm yields of most of the vegetables in India are much lower than the average yield of the world and developed countries.

The productivity gap is more conspicuous in tomato, cabbage, onion, chilli and peas. The preponderance of hybrid varieties and protected cultivation are mainly responsible for high productivity in the developed countries.

Constraints in vegetable production:

  1. Lack of planning in Production
  2. Non-availability of seeds of improved varieties.
  3. High cost of basic production elements
  4. Inadequate plant protection measures and non-availability of resistant varieties.
  5. Weak marketing facilities
  6. Transportation limits
  7. Post-harvest losses