Agriculture in India began by 9000 BCE, yes, its that old (yet that old). With that history, India holds one of the largest fertile land pool of the world. India is 4th largest country in terms of water area with over 9.55% in-land water area. Yet, the experience and resources aren’t depicting the picture what it should and that’s what makes it The Great Indian Agriculture (TGIA).
~37% of world population is dependent on agricultural income and India only betters that number. As the largest private enterprise of country, agriculture employs over 118 million farming households in India. Over 650 million people are dependent on agricultural and allied income in the country which is larger than even population of United States, world’s 3rd most populous country.
In last budget, Government of India proposed an outlay of over $28 Billion for rural, agriculture and allied sectors which is larger than national GDP of over 110 countries. The budget for this sector is ever increasing with years passing by, however it never resulted in a double digit growth for farmer’s income. In fact, it reached to 2.5% (real income growth) CAGR for the period of 2014-17. The current estimation of average agriculture income from crop cultivation for a household is around $47 per month, lesser than even minimum wages proposed in the country.
60.4% of India’s land mass is arable and out of which 47.7% is reliably irrigated, with such annual budgetary spend and a large pool of inland water, still India’s farm productivity remains way below than global standards. That’s the reason India’s urbanization rate is expected to increase over 60% in the next 30 years.
Lets understand the business of farming further more –
Over 194 million Indians are going hungry daily. By 2050, India is expected to have a population of 1.7 billion. So from the same or a lesser arable land we need to feed 30% more population. Just to share an example, more than 500 Million metric tons of cereals alone will be required in 2050, which is currently 260 Million metric tons.
With large scale of urbanization, India has already started witnessing an acute shortage in farm labor and in fact many of the farmers themselves have started leaving farming as an occupation. With growing population and climate change it is expected to have lesser arable land in 2050.
Even with that huge divide in supply and demand, the business of farming hasn’t been an occupation to vouch for. In fact we need a double of supplies and yet not a glory picture of farming for farmers and there falls the beauty of The Great Indian Agriculture.
Lets take farm as a factory and every other input like water, sunlight, soil, seed, fertilizer, pesticide etc. as raw material. But this factory doesn’t have roof so an erratic supply of main raw material i.e. water & sunlight keeps disturbing the production. now as a factory manager we are controlling the controllable that is other inputs seed, pesticide, fertilizer to increase the production while we are running away from a one time investment of building a roof to control the water and sunlight supply.
From years we are talking about river linking projects, but the ground is yet to witness the same. The water distribution in India is very uneven and such projects are an urgent need.
“Spending INR 10 lakh on agricultural R&D can help lift 328 people out of poverty, whereas allocating the same for fertiliser or power subsidies can bring only 26 and 23 people above the poverty line.”
But are we really a R&D friendly country, think of last invention happened in India, stop, the time travel is taking you to Aryabhata for the great Zero. R&D better to be called as Risk in Development (as you put resource to develop something unknown or partially known with a huge risk of non-achievement) hasn’t been that rewarding in India.
The due impetus of state on promotion of R&D and the optimization of hard to control inputs may pave path for a greener tomorrow, the happy farmers and well nourished human being. We have all the resources and potential to do that for the world and that’s what I call The Great Indian Agriculture.
(Please excuse the grammatical errors and slight typos in stats – on the run courtesy to mobile revolution.)
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