Agriculture in India I. P. Abrol Centre for Advancement of Sustainable Agriculture

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Agriculture in India

I.P. Abrol

Centre for Advancement of Sustainable Agriculture


India’s record of progress in agriculture over the past four decades has been quite impressive. The agriculture sector has been successful in keeping pace with rising demand for food. The contribution of increased land area under agricultural production has declined over time and increases in production in the past two decades have been almost entirely due to increased productivity. Contribution of agricultural growth to overall progress has been widespread. Increased productivity has helped to feed the poor, enhanced farm income and provided opportunities for both direct and indirect employment. The success of India’s agriculture is attributed to a series of steps that led to availability of farm technologies which brought about dramatic increases in productivity in 70s and 80s often described as the Green Revolution era. The major sources of agricultural growth during this period were the spread of modern crop varieties, intensification of input use and investments leading to expansion in the irrigated area. In areas where ‘Green Revolution’ technologies had major impact, growth has now slowed. New technologies are needed to push out yield frontiers, utilize inputs more efficiently and diversify to more sustainable and higher value cropping patterns. At the same time there is urgency to better exploit potential of rainfed and other less endowed areas if we are to meet targets of agricultural growth and poverty alleviation. Given the wide range of agroecological setting and producers, Indian agriculture is faced with a great diversity of needs, opportunities and prospects. Future growth needs to be more rapid, more widely distributed and better targeted. These challenges have profound implications for the way farmers’ problems are conceived, researched and transferred to the farmers. On the one hand agricultural research will increasingly be required to address location specific problems facing the communities on the other the systems will have to position themselves in an increasingly competitive environment to generate and adopt cutting edge technologies to bear upon the solutions facing a vast majority of resource poor farmers.

In the past agriculture has played and will continue to play a dominant role in the growth of Indian economy in the foreseeable future. It represents the largest sector producing around 28 percent of the GDP, is the largest employer providing more than 60 percent of the jobs and is the prime arbiter of living standards for seventy percent of India’s population living in the rural areas. These factors together with a strong determination to achieve self-sufficiency in food grains production have ensured a high priority for agriculture sector in the successive development plans of the country.

An important facet of progress in agriculture is its success in eradication of its critical dependence on imported foodgrains. In the 1950’s nearly 5 percent of the total foodgrains available in the country were imported. This dependence worsened during the 1960’s when two severe drought years led to a sharp increase in import of foodgrains. During 1966 India had to import more than 10 million tonnes of foodgrains as against a domestic production of 72 million tonnes. In the following year again, nearly twelve million tonnes had to be imported. On the average well over seven percent of the total availability of foodgrains during the 1960s had to be imported.
Indian agriculture has progressed a long way from an era of frequent droughts and vulnerability to food shortages to becoming a significant exporter of agricultural commodities. This has been possible due to persistent efforts at harnessing the potential of land and water resources for agricultural purposes. Indian agriculture, which grew at the rate of about 1 percent per annum during the fifty years before independence, has grown at the rate of about 3 percent per annum in the post independence era.

Agriculture – sub-sectors

Indian agriculture broadly consists of four sub-sectors. Agriculture proper including all food-crops oilseeds, fiber, plantation crops, fruits and vegetables is the largest accounting for nearly 70 percent of the agriculture sector as a whole. The rapid growth in this sub-sector through exploitation of wastelands and fallows, spread of irrigation and adoption of production enhancing technologies was critical in transforming India from a country vulnerable to food shortages to one of exportable surplus. Although this sub-sector has made impressive progress its share in the sector as a whole has declined from 78 percent in 1960-61 to less than 70 percent by early 90s (Table 1).

Correspondingly the share of livestock sector has increased considerably. The livestock industry has grown from Rs. 15 billion in early 1960s to Rs. 100 billion by 1980-81 and Rs. 672 billion by 1993-94. In nominal terms the sector grew at almost 15 percent per annum during 1980s. Milk production, which was almost stagnant for two decades ending 1970, grew by over 5 percent per annum in the 80s. Similarly, production of eggs increased at the rate of about 6.5 percent during the same period. As a result the share of livestock increased from about 17 percent till early 80s to 25 percent by 1993-94.
Though it plays relatively a minor role within the sector as a whole, fishing sub-sector activities have been on the rise. The sub-sector has grown from only Rs. 3 billion in 1970-71 to nearly Rs. 90 billion in 1993-94. The growth was particularly rapid in 70s and 80s. Value added increased at over 5 percent per annum during this period.
In real terms forestry and logging activities have been on the decline since mid seventies. As of 1993-94, the size of the industry in terms of value of output was 103 billion.
Over the past three decades, the country has successfully transformed itself from a food deficit economy to one which is essentially self sufficient in availability of foodgrains and other essential commodities, albeit only at the prevailing level of effective demand. Annual aggregate foodgrains production (Table 2), which averaged about 82 million tonnes in 1960-61 increased to 123.7 and 172.5 million tonnes for the trienniums ending 1980-81 and 1990-91 respectively. Current (1998-99) production level is 195 million tonnes and the country has been able to accumulate substantial, (35 million tonnes) stocks of foodgrains to cope up with any sudden difficulties arising from drought or a similar situation in any part of the country.
Increased outputs, have been achieved chiefly by adopting, since mid sixties, a strategy aimed at increasing foodgrains production by concentrating public sector efforts and resources in regions with a high potential for quick and substantial productivity gains through increased cropping intensity and average yields. These were the areas favoured by agroclimatic resource conditions and where irrigation facilities already existed or could be developed relatively rapidly. The main elements of this strategy were: (i) expansion of irrigation coverage, (ii) increased provision and utilization of key inputs – mainly high yielding varieties (HYVs) of crops, mainly of wheat and rice and chemical fertilizers and plant protection chemicals, (iii) expansion and improvement of institutional support services such as research and extension and (iv) price policies favourable to producers of major foodgrains.
The success of this strategy was made possible by development and availability of replicable production technology packages, so called ‘Green Revolution’ technologies. Irrigation facilitated double cropping and widespread adoption of HYVs. The HYVs performed particularly well under irrigated conditions, were highly responsive to fertilizers and their short duration permitted increases in cropping intensities.
Irrigation development was the cornerstone of the strategy. Undivided India was amongst the largest irrigated areas in the world. With partition nearly one-third of the irrigated area went to Pakistan. At the time of independence the net irrigated area was 20.9 million ha (gross irrigated area 22.6 million ha). Recognizing large-scale development of irrigation facilities as critical to rapid agricultural growth, the country has spent about Rs. 45,000 crores on irrigation development in the first four decades after independence. During the period 1950-51 to 1965-66 development of irrigation through government canals grew from 7.2 million ha to 9.8 million ha – a growth rate of 2.1 percent per annum. During 1970s this pace dropped slightly to 1.9 percent. In 1980s the rate of increase dropped significantly to 1.1 percent per annum. The growth of tube-well irrigation, however, increased rapidly from 4.5 million ha in 1970-71 to 9.5 million ha in 1980-81 and then to 14.3 million ha by 1990-91. The net irrigated area increased from 31 million ha in 1970-71 to 53.5 million ha in 1995-96 which corresponds to 22 percent of the net sown area in 1970-71 and 37.63 percent in 1995-96 (Tables 3, 4). With improvements in irrigation efficiency the gross irrigated areas has increased to 71.51 million ha. The percentage of gross cropped area service by irrigation increased from 18.3 percent in 1960-61 to 23.0 percent in 1970-71 and to over 38 percent at present.
Fertilizers have constituted yet another key input in addition to expanded irrigation and spread of HYVs in achieving goals of high production and productivity. India currently occupies third position in the world, after China and USA, in terms of fertilizer production and consumption. Consumption of fertilizers has increased from 1.54 million tonnes in 1967-68, representing the pre green revolution era, to 17.31 million tonnes currently (1997-98). The average per hectare use of fertilizers currently around 85 kg per hectares is the lowest among several Asian countries. However, rice and wheat account for a major fraction, around 65 percent of the total fertilizer consumed in the country, with very little fertilizers going to the rainfed areas. According to some current projections, fertilizer’s use will need to increase to 30-35 million tonnes to meet the foodgrains need of 2020. The demand for nutrients will stretch by almost another 15 million tonnes if requirements for horticulture, vegetables and plantation and commercial crops are included. At present domestic production of N and P fertilizers (13.42 million tonnes) falls short of consumption by over 20 percent. In addition the entire requirement of K fertilizer is imported.
Most agricultural development programmes initiated in 1960s were concentrated in regions of high potential. Thus five states, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu account for 50 percent of the country’s net irrigated and 53 percent of the gross irrigated area. The combination of expanding irrigation coverage and widespread adoption of short duration HYVs led to significant increases in cropping intensities. Acreage cropped more than once per year increased from 13 million ha in 1950-51 to about 44 million ha at present (Table 5). Average cropping intensity for the country as a whole rose from 115 percent in 1960-61 to 131 in 1993-94. By 1993-94 cropping intensity has risen to 187 percent in Punjab, 167 percent in Haryana and 142 percent in Uttar Pradesh.
An important consequence of the strategies adopted since sixties has been to boost production of, chiefly, two crops rice and wheat. Their share in total foodgrains production went up from 57 percent in 1970-71 to more than 75 percent in 1990-91 (Table 6). Production of foodgrains other than rice and wheat did not increase significantly (Table 7) and in the eastern region even the yield of rice did not increase. Agricultural production and income rose substantially in the north-western states of Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh, parts of Rajesthan, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. By contrast productivity and output growth have been modest in eastern and central India and in deccan plateau. Progress was particularly slow in rainfed areas, which account for over 60 percent of the cropped area and where a great majority of rural poor are concentrated. An important impact of the strategies pursued in the ‘Green Revolution’ period has been intensification of regional disparities and imbalances in agricultural development and food availability and hence levels of food security. For the country as a whole while per capita availability of cereals has increased substantially, that of pulses has decreased significantly (Table 8).
In summary (Table 7) an annual increase in foodgrains production of 3.22 percent during fifties was mainly because of expansion in area. Sixties recorded a low annual growth rate of 1.72 percent necessitating large-scale imports of foodgrains. Annual growth of 2.08 percent was recorded during seventies. This decade was the turning point in India’s foodgrains economy leading to self-sufficiency through significant productivity increase first in wheat and later in rice in the eighties. An annual growth of 3.5 percent in foodgrains in eighties was the hallmark of green revolution that enabled India to become self-sufficient and even a marginal exporter. The pace of growth slowed in nineties barely making or even slower than the population growth rate. This is a matter of concern.

The diversity of physiographic, climate and soil characteristics enables India to grow a large variety of horticultural crops – fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, aromatic and medicinal plants, plantation crops etc. India is the largest producer of fruits in the world and second largest producer of vegetables. The area under fruits estimated at 1.45 million ha in 1970-71 grew to 2.8 million ha in 1991-92 and then more rapidly to 5 to 6 million ha by 1994-95. This sector is likely to grow rapidly in the future both on account of internal demands and export opportunities.

Animal Husbandry and Fisheries

Animal husbandry and dairying sub-sector plays an important role in overall economy and in social development. The contribution of the sub-sector is estimated to be about 25 percent of the total value of output of agricultural sector. The sector also plays a significant role in supplementing family incomes and generating employment in the rural sector particularly among the land-less, small and marginal farmers and women besides providing nutritious food. Production of suitable cross breeds and their wider adoptions has contributed to increasing country’s milk production, which has now reached 75 million tonnes annually. Similarly, genetic improvement and better management practices have markedly pushed up production of poultry and eggs.

Through the overall contribution of fisheries sub-sector is small, development of prolific and fast growing forms of several common fish species coupled with breakthrough in breeding under captivity, fish seed production and multi-layer fish culture has resulted in registering a very high annual growth of 11 percent in aquaculture production during the past decade (Table 9).
Sustainability Concerns

Several indicators highlight increasing concerns of sustainability in areas which have largely contributed to increased production in the ‘Green Revolution’ era. Adoption of high yielding cultivators is virtually complete. Almost entire wheat and rice crops in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh are irrigated. In the higher production regions yields are plateauing and most traditional sources of productivity growth having been exhausted future gains in production have to come from elsewhere.

At farmers’ level concerns are being expressed in several ways. Many farmers believe that the input levels have to be continuously increased in order to maintain high yields. In sixties and seventies most farmers used only nitrogenous and phosphate fertilizers to achieve high yields. Due to widespread deficiencies of several secondary and micronutrients (Fig.1), most farmers now have to apply higher doses and a greater variety of fertilizers to maintain crop yields. Results from many long term studies on rice-wheat cropping system show a declining yield trend when input levels were kept constant – thus the growth rate of system productivity has been declining relative to growth rate of nutrients use. Lowering of groundwater tables due to intensive rice-wheat system in many areas is resulting in increased costs of lifting water in the intensively cultivated high production areas, diseases and pest problems are turning more serious than ever before and pose both short and long large problems. It is reported that some weeds have developed resistance to the commonly used herbicides. What this implies is that the farmers are applying increasing amount of herbicide incurring increasing cost without the benefit of effective control. Pesticide residues entering the food chain and overall safety in use of pesticides continue to be serious problems.
Other emerging problems threatening sustainability of intensive cropping system e.g. rice-wheat include loss in biodiversity related issues. Large areas planted to a single/few varieties of a crop is a potential cause of concern. As the diversity is reduced natural processes that control and affect habitat quality and genetic expression weaken and for this reason internal and natural control mechanisms must be replaced by more externally applied artificial controls in the form of management and inputs which in due course lead the system towards unsustainability.
Groundwater is the major source of meeting the irrigation needs of irrigated agriculture. Currently about half the area under irrigation in the country is irrigated from groundwater sources. Large-scale groundwater development has led to fall in the water table in many areas. Over pumping is leading to declining water table levels and failure of tube-wells. Pumping costs are increasing, as is the energy consumption. In the coastal areas this has led to ingress of sea water, with serious environmental implications.
Changes in water quality are adversely affecting agriculture and vice-versa. Inefficient and/or over use of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture and untreated disposal of industrial and urban wastes are leading to increasing contamination by such elements as lead, zinc, copper, chromium, cadmium particularly in areas having high industrial activity e.g. in districts of Ludhiana, Faridabad, Kanpur, Varanasi etc.
An increase in the content of arsenic has been reported in several of the districts of West Bengal. This is attributed amongst other causes to the lowering of groundwater table due to excessive groundwater withdrawal and is leading to serious and widespread toxicity problems adversely affect the health of hundreds of thousands people of the region.
Changing Land-Use and Future of Agriculture

One of the most important consequences of growing pressure on land is the declining trend in the average farm size and the pattern of holdings (Tables 10 and 11). According to the latest Agricultural Census in 1970-71 there were 70 million holdings operating 162 million ha. By 1990-91 there were 105 million holdings operating 165 million ha. The average farm size decreased from 2.30 ha in 1970-71 to 1.57 ha in 1990-91. As of 1990-91 about 78 percent of holdings were small (1.0 to 2.0 ha) and marginal (<1.0 ha). A little more than 20 percent of the farmers were semi-medium (2.0 to 4.0 ha) and medium (4.0 to 10.0 ha). Large farmers (>10.0 ha) constituted only 1.6 percent of the total holdings. Over the twenty-year period since 1970 the proportion of marginal farmer has increased from 50 to 59 percent and that of large farmer has declined from about 4 to 1.6 percent. The proportion of total area operated by marginal farmers increased from nine percent in 1970-71 to nearly 15 percent in 1990-91 while the proportion of large farmers declined from about 31 percent to 17 percent in the same period. The size of average holding is very unevenly distributed among the states. States with relatively large average size of operational holding are a mixed lot – they include states with large tracts of barren lands e.g. Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh on the one hand and agriculturally advanced state like Punjab on the other. These trends in farm size changes will have a profound effect on the future agricultural development strategies.

Although India’s population growth rate has slowed from 2.1 percent in 1980s to 1.8 percent in the 1990s and is expected to slow further in the coming decades, yet the population is projected to reach 1.33 billion by 2020 from the current one billion. The urban share of total population is projected to increase from 26 percent to 35 percent of the total population. Although incidence of poverty is falling, it is estimated that in 93-94 (upto which data is available) 320 million people constituting 36 percent of the population were below the officially defined poverty line.
The nature of the poverty line has been shifting. About 30 years ago 48.4 percent of those living in rural areas were poor and 20 percent of those living in the urban areas were classed as poor. Recent studies show that the number of poor in urban areas have been increasing at relatively higher rate compared to the rural areas. At present those below the poverty line in rural sector constitute 37 percent of the population while in the urban sector the percentage is 32 percent. In the context of poverty alleviation, therefore, emphasis will be required to be placed both on production of food by the poor as well as on the availability of food for the urban poor. It needs to be recognized that a large proportion of the rural poor are located in regions of low potential for food production e.g. arid and semi-arid areas, hilly regions, degraded land and forest areas. Widespread hunger and malnutrition are the direct manifestation of poverty and will call for increasing efforts to produce more food at affordable price.
Increasing population and economic growth are changing patterns of land use making potentially unsustainable demands on the country’s natural resources.

  • Since early fifties the net area sown was expanded rapidly at first but at a diminishing rate since 1970 to reach approximately 142 million ha at present. During 1950s and 1960s areas under agriculture expanded substantially as the fallows were reduced and cultivable wastes were put under the plough. The net area sown increased from 119 million ha in 1950-51 to 133 million ha by 1960-61 and further to 140 million ha by 1970-71. Fallow lands declined from 28 million ha in 1950-51 to 20 million ha by 1970-71. Cultivable wastelands declined from 23 to 17.5 million ha.

  • Land use intensity i.e. fraction of net sown area to total geographical area increase from 36 percent in 1950-51 to 40.5 percent in 1960-61 and 43 percent by 1970-71 where it has since stabilized.

  • Cropping intensity i.e. gross sown area as percent of net sown area increased from 111 percent in 1950-51 to 115 percent in 1960-61, 118 percent in 1970—71 and 130 percent by mid 1990s.

  • While the contribution of increased area in the growth of agriculture has declined over time, that of productivity has increased. The yield of all crops grew at 1.5 percent per annum between early 1950s and mid 1960s. the pace accelerated to 1.7 percent in the 1970s and then to 3 percent per annum between early 1980s and mid 90s. Unlike the gains in area, which benefited non-foodgrains, the gains in productivity accrued mostly to foodgrains.

  • India’s forest resources have been dwindling. According to the ‘State of Forest Report’ (1997) the total forest cover of the country is estimated at 63.34 million ha i.e. 19.27 percent of the geographic area of the country. Of these the dense forest (crown density more than forty percent) and open forest (crown density 10 to 40 percent) occupying about 11 and 8 percent of the geographic area respectively and mangroves occupy 0.15 percent of the geographic area. The country has lost about 5482 sq. km. of forest cover since the 1995 assessment. By any estimate the area under forest is far below the national policy goals and many areas nominally under forest are being used for non-forest purposes. Similarly ‘uncultivated lands’ such as permanent pastures, miscellaneous tree crops, cultivable wastes and fallow is subject to increasing competition from uses other than feeding livestock.

  • The growth of livestock population is an important source of competition for land. The increase in number of major classes of livestock are shown in table 13.

  • The area sown to fodder crops is not recorded. Information available from other sources provide an estimate ranging from 4 to 5.5 percent of the net sown area and suggest that the area under fodder crops will have to increase to 10 percent or more to support increasing livestock based activity.

The pressure on India’s land and water resources is seriously threatening native plant and animal diversity. India has uniquely rich and diverse genetic base. With increasing agriculture and economic development the genetic pool is declining. This decline, if unchecked and poorly managed can have unforeseen and adverse consequences for the sustainability of agriculture of the region.

Agriculture in the Changing Global Scenario

Steady globalization of trade has profound implications for future agricultural development. The diversity of India’s agro-ecological setting, high bio-diversity and relatively low cost of labour provide potential for agricultural competitiveness in a globalized economy. It is expected that with increasing globalization of markets over the years there will be demands for agricultural intensification. This will also be favoured because of greater backward and forward linkages between agriculture and food industry. Therefore, increase in production and productivity are bound to be strategically important to economy. Intensification will not only favour alleviation of rural poverty but will also improve resource conservation particularly in the small farming sector where farmers can be encouraged to take up organized production of high value crops such as fruits, specialty vegetables, flowers medicinal and aromatic herbs etc. Stronger demands for crops of the small farmers’ will not only improve incomes and welfare but will also make investments in technology and resource conservation more attractive.

The General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) and liberalization of global trade is bound to have impact on future land use and production pattern. Understanding the local, national and international environment under which agricultural production is taking shape will be crucial in developing our own strategies.
Extension Strategies

Since early fifties a number of public by funded agricultural development programmes have been sponsored. These have included programmes like the National Extension Service (NES) Blocks in 1953, the Intensive Agricultural District Programme (IADP) in 1961-62, the Intensive Agricultural Area Programme (IAAP) 1964-65, the High Yielding Variety (HYV) programme 1966-67 and the Small and Marginal Farmers’ Development Programmes (SMFDP) in 1969-70. Though these programmes had a perceptible impact the efforts did not get replicated over different areas and categories of farmers. In mid seventies based on pilot level project in Rajasthan Canal and Chambal command area a ‘Training and Visit’ (T&V) system of extension was promoted in different states. Extension efforts of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research through its research Institutes and the State Agricultural University were largely limited to demonstration of new technologies through such programmes as National Demonstration Project, Operational Research Project, the Lab to Land Programme and the Krishi Vigyan Kendras. However, there appears much to be desired in the way that extension programmes are conceived and implemented.

At present extension programmes are implemented in largely a top-down fashion leaving little scope for localized planning and action. Farmers are almost passive receivers and their involvement in the process of technology generation and adoption is almost absent. Extension services, at present, are almost exclusively in the public sector domain and there is no effort or institutional support for other operators e.g. the NGOs, the corporate bodies etc.
Extension programmes sponsored by the government operate largely in isolation and there appears a strong need to view the extension programmes as an integral part of the research and development process.
The challenges facing agricultural development call for fundamental changes in our approach to technology transfer/extension programmes. Changes are necessary in the context of changing economic environment following policy adjustments in relation to privatization, deregulation and globalization calling for greater efficiency and effectiveness of the extension system. More importantly there is need for

  • Greater emphasis on providing producers with knowledge and understanding needed to overcome the problems or to exploit opportunities of their own specific production systems. Correspondingly there will be a need to de-emphasize ‘package of practices’ or the blanket recommendations, top down approach followed thus far.

  • Shift in the focus of public extension systems from promoting inputs use to one on sustainable management of resources and improvements in the production system as a whole.

  • Closer interaction between farmers, extension scientists and production system researchers in diagnosing problems and identifying location specific recommendations emphasizing participation and education rather than being prescriptive.

  • Widening the range of extension delivering agencies. While the publicly operated extension systems will continue to be important, there will appear a greater role for NGOs, farmers’ associations and corporate sectors in particular situations. Role of commercial suppliers of seeds, agrochemicals, machinery, vaccines and medicines in providing advisories, as is already being done in a limited way, will need to be encouraged and factored into public system’s own priorities.

  • Wider and more creative use of mass media in tune with current developments in information technology to get information across to the farming community whose ability to overcome constrains at farm level will increasingly depend on access to reliable and up-to-date information.

Technological Needs and Future Agriculture

It is apparent that the tasks of meeting the consumption needs of the projected population are going to be more difficult given the higher productivity base than in 1960s. There is also a growing realization that previous strategies of generating and promoting technologies have contributed to serious and widespread problems of environmental and natural resource degradation. This implies that in future the technologies that are developed and promoted must result not only in increased productivity level but also ensure that the quality of natural resource base is preserved and enhanced. In short, they lead to sustainable improvements in agricultural production.

Productivity gains during the ‘Green Revolution’ era were largely confined to relatively well endowed areas. Given the wide range of agroecological setting and producers, Indian agriculture is faced with a great diversity of needs, opportunities and prospects. Future growth needs to be more rapid, more widely distributed and better targeted. Responding to these challenges will call for more efficient and sustainable use of increasingly scarce land water and germplasm resources.
Technical solutions required to solve problems will be increasingly location-specific and matched to the huge agroecological/climatic diversity. Detailed indigenous knowledge and greater skills in blending modern and traditional technologies to enhance productive efficiency will be more than ever before, key to the farming success and sectoral growth. Most technological solutions will have to be generated and adapted locally to make them compatible with socio-economic conditions of farming community.
New technologies are needed to push the yield frontiers further, utilize inputs more efficiently and diversify to more sustainable and higher value cropping patterns. These are all knowledge intensive technologies that require both a strong research and extension system and skilled farmers but also a reinvigorated interface where the emphasis is on mutual exchange of information bringing advantages to all. At the same time potential of less favoured areas must be better exploited to meet the targets of growth and poverty alleviation.
These challenges have profound implications for products of agricultural research. The way they are transferred to the farmers and indeed the way research is organized and conducted. One thing is, however, clear – the new generation of technologies will have to be much more site specific, based on high quality science and a heightened opportunity for end user participation in the identification of targets. These must be not only aimed at increasing farmers’ technical knowledge and understanding of science based agriculture but also taking advantage of opportunities for full integration with indigenous knowledge. It will also need to take on the challenges of incorporating the socio-economic context and role of markets.
With the passage of time and accelerated by macro-economic reforms undertaken in recent years, the Institutional arrangements as well as the mode of functions of bodies responsible for providing technical underpinning to agricultural growth are proving increasingly inadequate. Changes are needed urgently to respond to new demands for agricultural technologies from several directions. Increasing pressure to maintain and enhance the integrity of degrading natural resources, changes in demands and opportunities arising from economic liberalization, unprecedented opportunities arising from advances in biotechnology, information revolution and most importantly the need and urgency to reach the poor and disadvantaged who have been by passed by the green revolution technologies.
Another important implication of increasing globalization relates to the need for greater attention to the quality of produce and products both for the domestic and the foreign markets. This would imply that production must be tuned to actual rapidly changing product demand. Such adaptation to global markets would require state of the art research, which can be achieved only by setting global standards of research, focus on well defined priorities and mechanisms which permit close interaction of farmers with researchers, the private sector and markets.


Indian Council of Agricultural Research, 1998: National Agricultural Technology Project, pp 193,

ICAR, New Delhi.
CMIE 1997: Directory of Indian Agriculture, pp 402 Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt.

Ltd., Mumbai.
Indian Agriculture in Brief 2000: Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Department of Agriculture

and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India, New Delhi.

Table 1. Agriculture sub-sectors – value of output (%)
Sub-sector 1960-61 1970-71 1980-81 1993-94

Agriculture 78.0 79.3 75.3 68.5

Livestock 16.6 15.1 17.2 24.5
Forestry 4.4 4.4 5.9 3.8
Fisheries 1.0 1.2 1.6 3.2

100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

Total value at 89 218 615 2740

Current price

(Rs. Billion)

Table 2. Foodgrains Production
Year Area Production Yield

(million ha) (million tonnes) kg/ha

1950-51 97.32 50.82 522
1960-61 115.58 82.02 709
1970-71 124.32 108.42 872
1980-81 126.67 129.59 1023
1990-91 127.84 176.39 1379
1998-99 124.0 195.25 1574
Table 3. India – irrigated area
Year Net Gross Net as % Gross as %

of net sown of gross cropped

------ million ha ------ -------- % ---------

1970-71 31.10 38.19 22.17 23.04
1980-81 38.72 49.78 27.66 28.83
1990-91 48.02 63.20 33.61 34.03
1995-96 53.51 71.51 37.63 38.33
Table 4. Sources of irrigation
Year Net Irrigated Sources

Area (million ha)

Canals Tanks Tube-wells Other wells Other Sources

(% net irrigated area)

1960-61 24.80 10.4 4.6 0.2 7.2 2.4
1970-71 31.10 41.28 13.22 14.34 23.88 7.29
1980-81 38.72 39.49 8.22 24.62 21.08 6.59
1990-91 48.02 36.34 6.13 29.69 21.73 6.11
1995-96 53.01 32.04 5.81 33.52 22.16 6.47

Table 5. Cropping intensity

Years Net sown Gross cropped Area cropped Cropping

area area more than once intensity

_________________ million ha ___________________ ________ (%) ________
1950-51 118.8 131.9 13.1 111.1
1960-61 133.2 152.8 19.6 114.3
1970-71 140.3 165.8 25.5 118.2
1980-81 140.0 172.6 32.6 123.3
1990-91 143.0 185.7 42.7 129.9
1993-94 142.0 186.4 44.4 131.2
Table 6. Rice and Wheat Production
Production (million tonnes)
Year Rice Wheat Foodgrains R+W as % of Foodgrains

____________ million tonnes _________________

1970-71 40.80 20.86 108.4 57.4

1980-81 49.91 34.55 129.6 65.4
1990-91 72.78 53.03 176.4 75.0
1996-97 81.74 69.35 199.4 75.0

Table 7. Annual compound growth rate of foodgrains production

Crop 1950-51 to 1960-61 to 1970-71 to 1980-81 to 1990-91 to

1959-60 1969-70 1979-80 1989-90 1997-98
Rice 3.28 - 8.05 1.91 4.29 1.53
Wheat 4.51 5.90 4.69 4.24 3.67
Coarse 2.75 1.48 0.74 0.74 - 0.49

Total cereals 3.00 2.51 2.37 3.63 1.84

Pulses 2.72 1.35 - 0.54 2.78 0.76

Total 3.22 1.72 2.08 3.54 1.66

Table 8. Per capita net availability of cereals and pulses per day (g)

Year Cereals Pulses Total
1951 334 61 395
1961 400 69 469
1971 418 51 469
1981 417 38 455
1991 468 42 510
1998 451 33 484

Table 9. Production of milk, eggs and fish in India
Year Milk production / availability Fish Eggs

million tonnes/annum g./day (000 tonnes) (million)

1950-51 17.0 124 752 1832

1960-61 20.0 124 1160 2881

1970-71 22.0 112 1756 6172
1980-81 31.6 128 2442 10060
1990-91 53.9 176 3836 21101
1998-99 75.0 210 5388 28400
Table 10. Number of holdings (million)

Category of

Farmers 1970-71 1980-81 1990-91

Marginal 35.7 (50.6)* 50.1 (56.4) 62.1 (59.0)

Small 13.4 (19.0) 16.1 (18.1) 20.0 (19.0)
Semi-medium 10.7 (15.2) 12.5 (14.0) 13.9 (13.2)
Medium 7.9 (11.2) 8.1 (9.1) 7.6 (7.3)
Large 2.8 (3.9) 2.2 (2.4) 1.7 (1.6)

All groups 70.5 (100) 89.0 (100) 105.3 (100)

*Figures in parenthesis represent the percentage of holdings.

Table 11. Area operated - % of total area
Category of

Farmers 1970-71 1980-81 1990-91
Marginal 9.0 12.1 14.9
Small 11.9 14.2 17.3
Semi-medium 18.5 21.1 23.1
Medium 29.7 29.6 27.2
Large 30.9 23.0 17.4

All groups (million ha) 162.1 (100) 163.8 (100) 165.6 (100)

Table 12. India – Land Use Categories (million ha)

Classification 1960-61 1970-71 1980-81 1990-91 1993-94
Reporting area 298.5 305.0 305.0 305.0 305.0
Area under non-

agricultural uses 14.8 16.5 19.7 21.1 22.0

Barren and

un-cultivable 35.9 28.2 20.0 19.4 19.0

Cultivable waste 19.2 17.5 16.7 15.0 14.5
Old fallow 11.2 8.8 9.9 9.7 9.7
Forests 54.1 63.9 67.5 67.8 68.4
Permanent pastures 14.0 13.3 12.0 11.8 11.2
Land under misc.

trees etc. 4.5 4.3 3.6 3.8 3.7

Net sown area 133.2 140.3 140.0 143.0 142.1
Current fallow 11.6 11.1 14.8 13.7 14.3

Table 13. Livestock and poultry population (million)
Category 1982 1987 1992
Cattle 192.45 199.69 204.53
Buffaloes 69.78 75.96 83.49
Sheep 48.76 45.70 50.79
Goats 95.25 110.20 115.28
Total (Livestock) 419.59 445.28 470.15
Total Poultry 207.74 275.32 307.10

Fig 1. Progressive Expression in the Occurrence of Nutrient Deficiencies in Northern India


Mn Mn Mn




Fe Fe Fe Fe Fe Fe Fe

Zn Zn Zn Zn Zn Zn Zn Zn



Year 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000

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