Agriculture plays a crucial role in India's journey towards self-reliance; adoption of modern technologies, continuous push for research and innovations are all set to drive a transformative growth in the sector in the coming years
This year in May, India gave a green signal to increase foodgrain storage capacity by 70 million tons in the cooperative sector. The move was taken to cut wastage of farm produce and help farmers plan their sales better. In more substantial terms, the move was aimed at strengthening food security in the country where agricultural yields are expected to be 3305.34 lakh tons in the current financial year. Last month, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to increase the Minimum Support Price the most for 17 crops, grown in summer and harvested in early winter---for marketing season 2023-24. It was undertaken to meet two crucial objectives—first, to provide remunerative prices to the farmers for their produce and second, to encourage crop diversification. In India, where agriculture continues to be the prime pulse of the country’s economy, accounting for more than 19% of the GDP, consistent efforts are being made to strengthen food security as well as enhance growers’ income. In the financial year 2021-22, India’s agricultural exports touched $50.21 billion—the highest-ever exports for staples like rice, wheat, sugar, other cereals, and meats. Data provided by the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCI&S) showed agricultural exports grew by 19.92% during 2021-22. Making agriculture sector future-ready Over the last six years, the Indian agriculture sector has been witnessing robust growth with an average annual growth rate of 4.6%. Despite this, to make agriculture future ready, a two-day brainstorming session was recently organised by the Ministry of Agriculture in New Delhi where stress was laid on supply of quality seed to farmers, adoption of innovative technologies for higher area coverage, building of synergies between various organisations and stakeholders to harmonize eco-friendly approaches of plant protection, enhanced soil fertility and balanced use of fertilizers. Under initiatives like the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, steps are being taken to promote development of scientific warehouses across the country in order to reduce food grain wastage. It is estimated that due to unscientific storage, a significant percentage of food grain is lost to wastages every year in India. To enhance agricultural yields, use of technologies like drones and AI is being promoted. The use of drone in agriculture, as per experts, has distinct advantages such as high 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 tradition spraying methods. The Indian government is giving due importance to the use of drone technology by farmers and to this regard, a support mechanism has been put in place. For example, a farmer who wants to purchase a drone is provided with 100% financial assistance by institutes under Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, State Agriculture Universities, State and other Central government departments and PSUs engaged in agricultural activities, Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar told Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) in a written reply on December 16, 2022. On rental basis also, a drone is provided to a farmer. Use of Artificial Intelligence for soil testing, crop health monitoring, and improving agricultural productivity in some states has begun. Under its ‘Saagu-Baagu’ programme, Telangana has begun the process of promoting innovations in agriculture. On the other hand, the Department of Science &Technology (DST) has launched a National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber Physical Systems. Under the Mission, 25 Technology Innovation Hubs (TIH) have been set up in premier institutes across the country. Of these TIHs, three are involved in the applications of Internet of Things (IoT) and AI with the objective of carrying out research and other studies related to agriculture. Some of the applications of AI and IoT in agriculture are in use in the areas of precision farming, livestock monitoring, and monitoring of climate conditions. IIT Ropar is working towards IoT based devices and sensors that are being introduced to the saffron production and supply all over India. Making climate-smart agriculture India has formulated plans to make agriculture more resilient to climate change. Under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), several moves have been undertaken to make agriculture more resilient to even extreme weather conditions like drought, flood, frost, heat waves. Short term and long-term research programmes with a national perspective have been taken up involving adaptation and mitigation covering crops, horticulture, livestock, fisheries, and poultry. Since 2014, 1888 climate resilient varieties have been developed besides 68 location specific climate resilient technologies have been developed and demonstrated for wider adoption among farming communities, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar told Lok Sabha in a written reply on March 21, 2023. Of these climate resilient varieties, more than 400 are abiotic stress tolerant varieties and around 1400 are biotic stress tolerant. These varieties have been developed to improve the food grain production in the face of changing climate. Enabling farmers to adapt to climate change Under the National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) programme, 16,958 capacity building programs have been conducted throughout the country to educate stakeholders on various aspects of climate change and resilient technologies, covering 5,14,816 different stakeholders including farmers so as to enable wider adoption of climate resilient technologies. Besides, under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), farmers are encouraged for integrated farming for enhancing productivity and minimizing risks associated with climatic variability. Under the Rainfed Area Development programme, cropping system is integrated with activities like horticulture, livestock, fishery, agroforestry, apiculture to enable farmers not only in maximizing farm returns for sustaining livelihood, but also to mitigate the impacts of drought, flood or other extreme weather events. Conclusion As per McKinsey, by 2030, agriculture could contribute around $600 billion to India’s GDP—an increase of 50% over its contribution in 2020. To get there, the global management and consulting firm said India must unlock growth and productivity for the sector. Though the goal is not unachievable, India is making all efforts to push growth in the agriculture sector. While research and innovations are on to unleash productivity, modern technologies are being used to achieve desired results. This year, the country is likely to harvest a record 112.7 million tons of wheat in 2023, surpassing the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare’s expectation of 112.2 million tons. As for rice production, it is expected to see a record 135.5 million tons yield from an earlier estimate of 130.8 million tons, said the Ministry. Altogether agricultural yields are expected to be 3305.34 lakh tons in the current financial year. To support the agriculture sector and its further growth, efforts are going on for the development of suitable infrastructure, while policies are framed and implemented to enhance farmers’ income—all this with an aim to make India a leader in the agriculture sector in the face of mounting challenges due to climate change.