Farming trouble

Updated: Sep 29 2012, 09:09am hrs
The agricultural sector is the backbone of the Indian economy. India needs to focus more on agriculture to solve its fundamental problems of food security, malnutrition and sustaining high economic growth. The share of India in world agriculture, which is measured in terms of value of net agriculture production, has remained nearly stagnant between 9-11% for the period of 1991-2010.

While India has the largest area of arable land next to only the United States in the world, it has not been able to leverage its big strength to increase its agricultural productivity to the level of other economies. India is the second-largest producer of wheat and paddy in the world, but the yields of wheat in China and France are around 1.7 and 2.4 times that of India, respectively. Similarly, Indias paddy yield is less than half of China and the US. To put this into perspective, if India had produced wheat and rice with the same yield of its neighbouring country China with the same cultivated land as of 2010, the country would have cumulatively increased its crop production by 543 million tonnes of wheat and 1,347 million tonnes of rice in the last ten years.

Moreover, while the production of foodgrains in absolute terms has increased by 22% in the past 10 years, the increment in foodgrain production is still unable to address the huge challenge of hunger in India. In fact, while the per capita availability of foodgrains in India has increased by just 11% in the past 60 years, the population has more than tripled in the same period. This has serious implications on the per capita consumption of food by people in India, which is estimated to be five times lower than that of advanced countries like the US.

India needs new agricultural reforms that are focused on improving farm productivity and farm-market linkages. There is an urgent need to streamline the whole agriculture value-chain and liberalise the price policy and exports of agriculture products. Agriculture should be made more profitable and be seen as a business rather than as a source of livelihood. India needs to boost both public and private investments to improve the condition of the supporting infrastructure for the agriculture sector, like irrigation facilities, reliable power supply and construction of roads in villages to revive the agriculture sector.

Institute for Competitiveness, India is the Indian knot in the global network of the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness and it tweets @arthsastra