Making Indian Agriculture Future-Ready 

By Neelam Gupta April 23, 2023

The National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, scientific warehousing and deployment of drone technologies need to be promoted and facilitated for small scale farmers, too

Making Indian Agriculture Future-Ready 
The government has also taken several steps to increase investment in the agriculture sector such as setting up an Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund, promoting organic farming through Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana.

The Indian economy holds the fifth position in the world’s top economies in 2023 GDP rankings.  The majority of the country’s population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. The agricultural sector is a central pillar of the Indian economy, employing 60 per cent of the nation’s workforce and contributing to about 17 per cent of its GDP.  

The Indian economy is an agro-economy, which is highly dependent on the cycle of production, distribution and consumption. Another problem with the agro-economy is productivity. Currently, Indian farmers produce 2.4 tonnes of rice per hectare of land, which is far behind its actual potential. On the other hand, China and Brazil produce 4.7 and 3.6 tonnes of rice per hectare. 

Since more than half of the population of India indulges in agriculture, the importance of agriculture in the economy is highlighted with two important factors. Firstly, it provides employment opportunities to rural agricultural and non-agricultural labourers. Secondly, it plays a significant role in international trade and import and export activities. With only 4 per cent of the world's water resources and 2.4 per cent of the world's land, India supports 17.8 per cent of the world's population and 15 per cent of the livestock population. 

Indian agriculture is typically identified with the ‘Green Revolution’ that started in the 1960s, enabling the nation to make great strides in domestic food production and significantly contributing to progress in agriculture and allied sectors. It transformed India from a food-deficit nation to a food-surplus, export-oriented country. Although the agriculture sector plays a crucial role in the Indian economy, there is a constant drop in this sector while the service sector is comparatively improving. Now the country is facing second-generation problems, especially related to sustainability, nutrition, adoption of new agricultural technologies and, perhaps most importantly, income levels of the population dependent on farming.

The redressal measures are also high up on the government agenda. Through the introduction of various welfare schemes the government is indeed continuously engaged in addressing these challenges, and relevant departments are involved in the administration of existing programmes and policies. To enhance and secure the household income of farmers, the government has given income support through PM KISAN Scheme, crop insurance through the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, and irrigation facilities under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana. Access to institutional credit is being provided through Kisan Credit Card and other channels. Under the e-NAM initiative, markets across the length and breadth of the nation are now open to farmers to enable them to get more remunerative prices for their produce. The umbrella scheme Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA) ensures Minimum Support Price (MSP) to farmers for various Kharif and Rabi crops while also keeping a robust procurement mechanism in place. 

Although the efforts have shown results in the National Sample Survey, which estimates average monthly income per agricultural household increased from Rs. 6,426 in 2012-13 to Rs. 10,218 in 2018-19. However, there is a recognised need for more long-term directional reorientation of food, agriculture, and farm policies. The country is known for its diversity of farming practices. It is important to get diverse points of view engaged in a national-level dialogue to find suitable solutions for the future.

To make Indian agriculture future-ready, initiatives like National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, the promotion of scientific warehousing and the adoption of drone technologies have to be promoted and facilitated for small scale farmers, too. The government has also taken several steps to increase investment in the agriculture sector such as setting up an Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund, promoting organic farming through Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, and creating a Long-Term Irrigation Fund and Micro Irrigation Fund. Under the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund, entities such as farmers, start-ups, government agencies and local bodies benefit from setting up eligible infrastructure projects. Under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) Scheme, grants-in-aid are given to state governments on the basis of the projects approved in the State Level Sanctioning Committee Meeting (SLSC). More of such schemes need not be just introduced, but has to be facilitated for small scale farmers, too. 

With such large chunk of human and resource investments, agriculture continues to be the prime pulse of the Indian economy and is at the core of the socio-economic development of the country. The growth of other sectors and the overall economy hinges on the performance of agriculture to a considerable extent through its backward and forward linkages. It is not only a source of livelihood and food security for a large population of India but also has a special significance for low-income, poor and vulnerable sections.

(Dr. Neelam Gupta is Founder President & CEO of AROH Foundation.)