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India is poised to become the most populous nation in the world. The UN Report on World Population Prospects estimates that India’s population is expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2030. The global population is estimated to reach 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050. This will put pressure on the global food systems including India. Ensuring food security for the rising population will become a new challenge in this decade. A further challenge will be added by the impending climate change and its impact on agriculture yields. India is among the largest producers of food (grains, fruits/vegetables, pulses, sugarcane among other crops). This is partly due to large proportion of arable land in India, rather than high agriculture yield. In this context, several agriculture experts argue that further rise in agriculture production in India can be achieved through enhancing agriculture yield as competing land-use has limited further expansion of arable land.
What is the current status of agri yields in India?
India’s agriculture yields are below the global average in almost all major crops, and much below the global maximum level of yield e.g., India’s wheat yield is 3.44 tons/hectare while global average is 3.51 tons/hectare. China’s yield is 5.74 tons/hectare.
Similarly, India’s cotton yield at 450 kg/hectare is only ~22% of China’s yield of 2000 kg/hectare. India’s corn yield (3.2 tonnes/hectare) is only about ~55% of global average (5.67 tonnes/hectare).
What are the reasons for low Agriculture Yield in India?
Small and Fragmented Landholdings: According to 2010-11 Agriculture Census, the total number of operational holdings was 35 million with average size of 1.15 hectares (ha). According to 77th Survey of the NSO (2019), ~85% landholdings are smaller than 1 hectare. Small landholdings prevent modern scientific and mechanized farming which lowers yields.
Subsistence Farming: Majority of farmers are engaged in subsistence farming. There is little surplus to invest in capital formation in agriculture (like machinery, irrigation). Low capital formation reduces yields.
Poor Access to Credit: Low-access to credit and prominent role of unorganised creditors affects decisions of farmers in purchasing of inputs and selling of outputs.
Low use of Technology: Low level of mechanization and technology use (including scientific use of fertilizers etc.) contributes to poor yields.
Seeds: High-yielding varieties (HYV) of seeds contributed to green revolution. However, access to HYV seeds is limited and small farmers practicing subsistence farming lack resources to use these seeds.
Irrigation: According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Rainfed agriculture occupies about 51% of country’s net sown area and accounts for nearly 40% of the total food production. Dependence on erratic monsoon results in high wastage (damage due to high/scanty rainfall).
Low investment in Agriculture Research: Total agriculture research spending in India grew from US$ 0.5 billion in 1981 to US$ 4 billion in 2016. During this period, spending in China grew from US$ 0.2 billion to US$ 7.7 billion. Further, a weak IPR regime discourages the private sector to invest and innovate. India’s research and extension services are stagnating due to chronic underfunding.
Vicious Cycle: Low agriculture yields implies low production and little surplus for capital formation. This prevents adoption of modern techniques and scientific methods of production, keeping productivity suppressed.
What steps can be taken to improve Agriculture Yields?
NITI Aayog has suggested several steps to improve India’s agriculture yield.
Promoting New Technologies and Reforming Agricultural Research and Extension: Reforming and strengthening of India’s agricultural research and extension systems is crucial. Productivity enhancement requires research toward discovery of robust seed varieties and other inputs, appropriate crops and input usage for a given soil type and effective extension services. Judicious and safe exploitation of modern technology including genetically modified (GM) seeds is necessary.
|Read More: GM Crops in India: Issues and challenges – Explained, pointwise|
Adoption of modern methods like precision farming can ensure judicious use of resources, reduce wastage and enhance yields.
|Read More: Precision Farming: Technologies, Benefits and Challenges – Explained, pointwise|
Agri-entrepreneurship and Agri-Startups can play a vital role in this aspect.
|Read More: [Kurukshetra October Summary] Artificial Intelligence in Agripreneurship (AI in Agriculture) – Explained, pointwise|
Irrigation: Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) provides a sound framework for the expansion of as well as effective use of water in irrigation. NITI Aayog suggests that the impact of the scheme can be greatly enhanced by blending it with asset creating initiatives under MNREGA. It can help undertake lasting and efficient minor irrigation projects such as irrigation tanks. At the same time focus should be on judicious use of water through techniques like System of Rice Intensification and sprinkler and drip irrigation system. Government can provide financial support to install such systems.
Seed Banks: Hybrid seeds are expensive and out of reach of poor farmers. Creating community Seed Banks can reduce dependence on market for seeds. The seed banks not only protect the existing crop varieties but also ensure supply of seeds to the farmer to meet contingency.
PPPs: PPPs could help bring cutting-edge technologies and approaches to India’s agricultural sector. Use of IT and biotech can transform agriculture, raising its production levels and outputs. PPPs focused on getting farmers access to vital information, methodologies and the latest technology to help them in areas such as crop rotation, weather patterns, fertilizer use etc. can revolutionize agriculture and enhance agriculture yields.
Diversification: Encouraging farmers to diversify to higher value commodities such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fisheries, animal husbandry and poultry will be a significant factor for higher agricultural growth, particularly in rain-fed areas. Shift into high value commodities such as .
Focus States: Extensive focus has to be placed on States with low agriculture yield in the Eastern region. Rices yields in Eastern States of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, eastern Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are 40-50% lower than Punjab. Focused Government intervention through expansion of irrigation, access to seeds, support through MSP and insurance schemes can help transform agriculture in these States.
Improving Agriculture yield will be the major lever to drive growth in the agriculture sector in this decade. At the same time, it assumes importance in the context of rising population and the impacts of impending climate change. The focus should be to increase output not just per unit of land but also with respect to water and fertilizer use. Improved yields will contribute to enhance farm incomes and address rural distress. It will help increase India’s per capita income and facilitate transition towards a developed economy.
Syllabus: GS III, Indian Agriculture