Agriculture R&D spend: A reality check

Agriculture R&D spend: A reality check


  1. The article elaborates on the history of research in agriculture and the necessity of increasing R&D in agriculture to fulfil the objective of doubling farm incomes by 2022.

Important analysis:

  1. According to the Economic Survey 2017-18, the total R&D expenditure in India as percentage of GDP has been stagnant at 0.6 to 0.7 per cent in the last two decades.
  2. It is much lower than the US (2.8 per cent), China (2.1 per cent), South Korea (4.3 per cent) and Israel (4.2 per cent).

Spending on research vs basic necessities

  1. Research is a capital intensive business with a very long gestation period and highest level of uncertainty in terms of results. This is the reason why developing countries are seen struggling to balance spending between research and basic necessities.
  2. Why agriculture research is a necessity
  • millions of Indians dependent on agriculture
  • the country expects to have 1.63 billion people to feed by 2050
  • ever shrinking cultivable land due to rising urbanisation
  • Hunger and malnourishment prevalent in the country
  • R&D in agriculture is needed not only to increase production but to respond to the biggest problems of Indian agriculture, be it cost effectiveness, productivity, water scarcity, market making, food processing, etc.
  1. Research institutions in India

India has well laid out network of research institutions with plenty of skilled human resources.

  • In 1880- establishment of Department of Agriculture in each Indian province.
  • In 1919- as a response to Montagu-Chelmsford reform- Imperial Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) was established.

  • Provincial governments were vested in agricultural developmental activities. State Agricultural Universities (SAU) were made.
  • Agriculture research centres across the country come under Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR).

  1. Human resource involved in R&D

National Agricultural Research System includes some 27,500 scientists and more than 1,00,000 supporting staff actively engaged in agricultural research, which makes it probably the largest research system in the world.

  1. Actual spending

Agriculture Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) data reveals that India currently spends 0.30 per cent of agriculture GDP on agricultural research, which is just half the share invested by China (0.62 per cent).

  1. Private sector in agri R&D
  • Recent data about private sector investment is not available.
  • In 1995, the share of private investment in total agriculture R&D spend was 3 per cent which grew to 9 per cent in 2000 and 16 per cent in 2006 in China.
  • The return on investment in agriculture sector is far better than other infrastructure projects.
  1. For sustainable development
  • According to Director-General of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), agriculture is key to meeting half of the 17 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets set for 2030. These SDG targets include eliminating poverty and hunger and reducing inequalities.
  • Thus, the spending on agri R&D would lead to sustainable development with comparatively more equal distribution of resources.
  • Increasing R&D spending on agriculture is not only a vital necessity for ensuring food security, but also important from the socio-economic development.
  • So the onus is on the government to increase financial allocation to research and create an enabling environment for private investments.
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