Agriculture in India

Agriculture is an important economic sector in India and it also offers plenty of employment opportunities.

Scenario of Agriculture in India

Agriculture in India has an extensive background which goes back to ten thousand years. At present, India holds the second position in the world in agricultural production. It also contributes a major share in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. In addition, the sector recruits about 50% of the entire manpower.

Regardless of the fact that there has been a gradual slump in its contribution to GDP of the country, agriculture is currently the biggest industry in India. On the whole, it plays a key role in the socioeconomic growth of the country.

In terms of agricultural contribution, some of the most developed states in India are:
  • Punjab
  • Uttar Pradesh
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Haryana
  • Bihar
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Maharashtra
  • West Bengal
  • Gujarat

All these states play a key role in the agrarian development of India.

The total arable territory in India is 15,73,50,000 km2, which represents about 52.92% of the overall land zone of the country. Arable land in India is diminishing because of continuous strain from an ever-increasing number of inhabitants and growing urbanisation.

Salient Features of Agriculture

There are certain salient features of agriculture in India. Some of these are:
  1. Subsistence Agriculture: In India, usually the farmers, along with their family members, grow crops in their small plot of land. The crops yield in this practice are mainly consumed by the farmer and his family with very little surplus left for sale in the market. This type of agriculture has been the most common practice in the country for over 700 years and still prevails in many parts of India.

  2. Pressure of Population on Agriculture: The population in India is increasing at a high rate and this puts pressure on the agriculture sector. Agriculture has to provide food and employment to large sections of the society. This means that there is a requirement of additional land for agriculture but on the contrary the rapid growth in urbanisation has converted the agricultural land into non-agricultural use.

  3. Mechanisation of Farming: In India, Green Revolution began in the sixties. Even after four decades, complete mechanisation has not yet been achieved.

  4. Dependency upon Monsoon: Agriculture in India mainly depends upon monsoon, which is unreliable, uncertain and irregular. Even though, since Independence, there has been a rapid expansion in the irrigation facilities, still about two-thirds of the cropped area is dependent upon monsoons.

  5. Importance of Animals: In India, animals play an important role in agricultural activities such as irrigation, ploughing, threshing and transportation of agricultural products. The full-fledged mechanisation of agriculture in India is a distant dream and active participation of animals in agricultural activities will continue in future.

  6. Variety of Crops: There is diversity in climate, topography and soil in India, hence, a wide range of crops are grown in the country. India experiences both tropical and temperate climate and therefore support the cultivation of crops suitable for both these climates. Throughout the world, there are only few countries which have similar variety as compared to India.

  7. Predominance of Food Crops: It is of utmost priority for the farmers to produce and provide food crops to the people of India. Farming is practiced in almost every part of the country and about two-thirds of the total land is being used for agricultural purposes in India.

  8. Seasonal Patterns: There are three distinct agricultural or cropping seasons in India - kharif, rabi and zaid. Some specific crops are only grown during a particular season, for instance, rice is a kharif crop and wheat is rabi crop.

Problems Faced by the Agriculture Sector

There are certain problems and challenges faced by the agriculture sector in India. Some of these are long-standing and some are emerging due to the ongoing agricultural practices. Some such problems are:
  1. Stagnation in Production of Major Crops: The production of some of the major crops in India like wheat has become stagnant for some time now. It is worrisome for the policy makers and planners of the country as there is a huge gap between the demand and supply of growing population and production.

  2. Soil Exhaustion: Although, Green Revolution has brought a positive impact in India, but on the other hand it has also resulted in negative impact. One of the biggest impacts is soil exhaustion which means depletion of nutrients in the soil due to farming of same crops again and again. Soil exhaustion generally takes place in rain forest areas.

  3. Decrease in Fresh Ground Water: Another negative impact of Green Revolution is the decreasing amount of ground water. Green Revolution is successful in some areas due to the use of chemical fertilizers and irrigation. In dry regions agricultural practices are done with the help of irrigation activities which is carried out by ground water usage. This has led to an alarming situation in context of ground water situation. The continuous practice of such farming activities may result in famine-like situation.

  4. Costly Farm Inputs: The past few years have witnessed an increase in the prices of farm inputs such as pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, farm labour and others. The increasing cost puts the low and medium land-holding farmers at a disadvantage.

  5. Agricultural Marketing: In rural India, agricultural marketing is in a bad shape. The farmers depend on local traders and middlemen to sell their products at very low prices. Sometimes, under socio-economic situations they are forced to sell their produce at low rates. Lack of organised market structure, middlemen and traders dominate the market and they also take away a large share from the sale of farm produce.

  6. Lack of Storage Facilities: There is a lack of adequate food storage facilities available in the rural areas of the country. Due to this, the farmers are not left with any other option but to sell their products instantly after harvesting, and that too at prices which are below the prevailing market rates. Better storage facilities are essential for the benefit of the farmers as well as the consumers.

  7. Affect of Global Climate Change: In recent years, there has been a global climate change which has had a great impact on the Indian agriculture. The change in the climatic conditions has resulted in an increase of about 2-3°C which affects the agricultural practices.

  8. Farmer Suicides: Farmers committing suicide is another problem faced by the agriculture sector in the country. It accounts for a major share in the total number of suicides committed in India. A high number of suicides are reported in areas where there is high commercialisation of agriculture and high peasant debt. The suicide rate is higher among the farmers who are involved in cash crop farming than those who grow food crops. Commercialisation, privatisation and withdrawal of bank credit at the time of soaring prices are some of the reasons which intensify the problems.

Agricultural Products in India

India ranks first in producing the following agricultural outputs:
  • Anise
  • Fresh fruit
  • Badian
  • Fennel
  • Tropical fresh fruit
  • Coriander
  • Pigeon peas
  • Jute
  • Spices
  • Pulses
  • Castor oil seed
  • Millets
  • Safflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Limes
  • Lemons
  • Dry chillies and peppers
  • Cow's milk
  • Cashew nuts
  • Chickpeas
  • Ginger
  • Okra
  • Guavas
  • Turmeric
  • Goat milk
  • Mangoes
  • Meat
  • Buffalo milk

In addition, the country also ranks as the top producer of millets such as Bajra, Jowar, and Ragi. In terms of rice production, India holds the second position after China.

India produces about 10% of the fruits produced in the world. The country holds the first position in the world in producing the following fruits:
  • Papaya
  • Mangoes
  • Sapota
  • Banana

India also holds a high rank in the world in the production of the following:
  • Sorghum
  • Tobacco
  • Coconuts
  • Rapeseed
  • Tomatoes
  • Hen's eggs

India ranks sixth in the world in the production of coffee. India has the biggest number of livestock in the world. India also ranks high as the producer of the following:
  • Cabbages
  • Cashews
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Cotton seed and lint
  • Brinjal
  • Garlic
  • Silk
  • Goat meat
  • Cardamom
  • Nutmeg and Mace
  • Wheat
  • Onions
  • Sugarcane
  • Rice
  • Dry beans
  • Lentil
  • Tea
  • Groundnut
  • Cauliflowers
  • Green peas
  • Pumpkins
  • Potatoes
  • Gourds
  • Squashes
  • Inland fish

The population of India is increasing at a faster pace than its capacity to produce wheat and rice.

India holds the second position in the production of wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane, and groundnuts. It is also the second biggest harvester of vegetables and fruits, representing about 9% and 10% of the overall vegetable and fruit production in the world respectively.

The country is the top producer of jute, milk, and pulses and holds the second rank in the production of silk and is also the biggest consumer of silk in the world.

What are the initiatives taken by the Government?

In a huge country like India, the necessary extent of outlay for the expansion of merchandising, warehousing, and cold storage arrangement is expected to be massive.

The Government of India has been earnestly trying to put into operation different plans to increase investment or outlay in merchandising and commercialising. Some of the known plans and strategies of the Indian government include the following:
  • Market Research and Information Network
  • Construction of Rural Godowns
  • Grading and Standardisation
  • Development/Strengthening of Agricultural Marketing Infrastructure

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is the principal authority in farming and ancillary industries, which comprise learning and research.

The post of the President of the ICAR is held by the Union Minister of Agriculture.

The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) was set up in the year 1905. The institute played a key role in the studies and explorations that resulted in the Green Revolution in the 1970s. IARI formulates new methods for the planning of agricultural testing. It also evaluates information associated with cultivation and offers expert advice in statistical methods for livestock and cultivation of trees.

Of late, the Government of India has established Farmers Commission to fully assess the cultivation plan. Nonetheless, the suggestions received varied responses.

Interesting Facts about Indian Agriculture

India enjoys the second position all over the world in terms of agricultural production. Farming and associated industries such as lumbering, forestry, and fishing represent a high percentage of the Gross Domestic Product of the country. These industries also recruited about 50% of the overall manpower of India.

Outputs on a unitary basis for every type of harvest have increased since 1950. This has been possible since the government has put particular focus on farming operations in the five-year plans (Panchabarshiki Parikalpana) and stable developments in the domains of engineering science, irrigation, implementation of contemporary farming operations, and supply of cultivation loans and grants after the Green Revolution took place in the country.

Nonetheless, worldwide evaluative studies disclose that the mean agricultural output in the country is typically 30%-50% of the maximum average output in the world.


Last Updated on : May 5, 2015