Indian agriculture: A rising force in global market
India has rapidly emerged as the net exporter of agricultural products in recent years
The Indian agriculture sector is projected to grow by 3.5% in 2022-23, the fiscal policy statement presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha this year on February 1, said.
In 2022-23, the agriculture exports touched $50.2 billion. As per the provisional figures released by the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCI&S), agricultural exports have grown by 19.92% during 2021-22.
Driven by rising productivity levels, improved infrastructure, and favourable government policies, India's exports of agricultural commodities have been steadily increasing. As a result, the country's agricultural economy is gaining greater attention from investors, policymakers, and international organizations. In fact, agriculture continues to be the prime contributor to India’s growth story. It accounts for over 19 % of the GDP and about two-thirds of the population is dependent on the sector.
India's role in global food security
India actively contributes to initiatives like the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. Some UN SDG objectives include a target to end hunger and achieve food security by 2030. It also participates in several World Food Program initiatives like providing food aid to disaster-stricken communities.
An example of India's rising stature as an agricultural powerhouse is the India-Africa Agriculture Partnership. The initiative's primary goal is to promote agricultural development and food security in Africa. It aims to achieve the objective through knowledge-sharing between India's farmers and those in Africa, as well as cooperation in various areas, including research and combating crop diseases.
Agriculture in India; past and present
Agriculture in India has a long and rich history. Agricultural practices in the country have evolved over thousands of years, with the earliest known agrarian settlements dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization over 5,000 years ago.
In modern times, the sector has undergone significant changes. The introduction of modern farming techniques and technologies (i.e., the Green Revolution) transformed the country into an agricultural powerhouse.
The Green Revolution that began in the 1960s enabled India to make great strides in domestic food production and significantly contributed to progress in agriculture and allied sectors.
The focus areas of the movement were farm mechanization by substituting the use of cattle with modern tractors and other machinery to increase productivity, the use of hybrid varieties of seeds for better yield, and using the new dams constructed post-independence for better irrigation. It transformed India from a food-deficit country to a food-surplus nation.
India is today the world’s largest sugar-producing country and holds the second position in rice production only after China. India is also the second largest producer of wheat with a share of around 14.14% of the world’s total production in 2020. India is also inching towards self-reliance in pulse production.
Future readiness of Indian agriculture
To make Indian agriculture future-ready, initiatives like National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture have been launched; its key objective is to promote scientific warehousing. While adoption of drone technologies has helped in adding some distinct advantages to agricultural activities.
These advantages include enhancing field capacity and efficiency, less turnaround time and other field operational delays, wastage reduction of pesticide and fertilizers due to high degree of atomization, water saving due to ultra-low volume spraying technology in comparison to traditional spraying methods, reduction in cost of spraying and fertilizer application in comparison to conventional methods. Besides, reduction of human exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Several steps have also been taken to increase investment in the agriculture sector. These steps include setting up an Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund; promotion of organic farming through Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana , and creation of 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 by 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).
Initiatives for increasing farmers’ income
To enhance the income of farmers, the government has taken initiatives across several focus areas. Income support is provided to farmers through PM KISAN Scheme, crop insurance is assured through the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, and irrigation facilities are ensured 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.
The government has also announced plans to convert more than 3.25 lakh fertiliser shops across the country as Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samruddhi Kendras. These will be centres where farmers can buy not only fertilisers and seeds but also implement soil testing and avail useful information about farming techniques. Further, with the introduction of One Nation, One Fertiliser under ‘Bharat’ brand name in the entire country will facilitate an increase in availability and reduce the cost of fertilisers
Today's agriculture in India is nothing like five decades or more ago when food was mainly produced for subsistence; the sector is a rising force in global markets. The transformation is largely thanks to the country's efforts to promote food security within and outside its borders. In addition, India has invested heavily in the agriculture sector, from technology and infrastructure to research and development.
This has enabled the country's farmers to increase productivity and become significant exporters of key agricultural products. Looking ahead, India is well positioned to continue breaking new ranks in global food production.