Among the six states studied by Icrier, Gujarat spends the most on agriculture R&E (0.59%), followed by Bihar (0.50%), Punjab (0.41%), Odisha (0.25%), Uttar Pradesh (0.17%) and Madhya Pradesh (0.24%).
The government’s expenditure on agricultural research and extension education services is not only very low but also heavily skewed in favour of crops, even as the dairy sector has a rapidly increasing share in the gross value of output from agriculture & allied activities (GVOA), a new study has revealed. It also called for a major increase in the financial resources for horticulture crops and animal husbandry. The study — Agriculture Extension System in India — by Ashok Gulati and other researchers at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (Icrier), points out that around 92% of the total extension expenditure was allocated only for crop husbandry and only 0.9% went to animal husbandry and dairy segment between 2002-03 and 2013-14.
Similarly, the distribution of funds in agriculture research and education (R&E) is also biased towards crop husbandry, which got around 70% of the budget during the said period, while only 10% was allocated to animal husbandry and dairy development, it said. “This is in contrast to the gradual transformation of the agriculture sector in India, in which animal husbandry and dairy segment have grown in importance,” Gulati said. The study found that of the total GVOA in 2013-14, as much as 26% was contributed by the livestock segment alone, while food-grains contributed 20% and fruits and vegetables 15%. Out of the 5.7% growth in GVOA recorded between 2001-02 and 2013-14, livestock alone had a share of 26.5%, 15.4% by foodgrain and 13.6% by fruits and vegetables. “… sustained income growth and a fast-growing urban population are causing changes in food-consumption patterns, away from low-value staples towards high-value food commodities, implying that the agriculture production systems must change to address the growing food demand,” the study said. The issues of food security and under-nutrition have kept the focus of agriculture R&E on crop husbandry.
The combined finance and revenue accounts of the Centre and states are taken into account for the study in R&E and extension as there is little data available on works done by the private sector and NGOs. In India, public funding for agriculture R&E is contributed by both the Centre and states in a roughly 55:45 ratio. “The approach of public-sector extension is to offer a one-size-fits-all product to all farmers. In a country with over 86% of farmers categorised as small and marginal, this is a self-limiting strategy as the huge variations in resource endowment, agro-climatic conditions and legal exigencies are not factored into the model of agriculture extension being followed,” the study said.
Comparing the agriculture extension system in six other countries such as China, Brazil, Indonesia and the US, the study found that in the recent decades there has been a global shift in the focus of research from merely production-based to more demand-driven and market-led approaches with innovation at the centre of agriculture growth. The study also said that India spends about 0.7% of its agriculture gross domestic product (GDPA) on agri-R&E (including extension education), of which 0.54% goes for R&E while 0.16% is allocated to extension and training as per expenses recorded in 2013-14. This compares poorly with the World Bank-recommended spending of 2% of GDPA.
Among the six states studied by Icrier, Gujarat spends the most on agriculture R&E (0.59%), followed by Bihar (0.50%), Punjab (0.41%), Odisha (0.25%), Uttar Pradesh (0.17%) and Madhya Pradesh (0.24%). “The increasing global tilt towards technology and digitisation compounded with sustainability and resource management has widened the definition of extension from a traditional focus on increasing yields via technology transfers and adoption, the extension system has over the recent years embraced a more decentralised, participatory, and a demand-driven approach. Despite this, the effectiveness of the investment and efficiency of technology dissemination to deliver value to small and marginal Indian farmers is impaired by constraints and challenges in the form of capacity, accountability and quality,” the study said.
As contribution of agriculture in overall GDP of the country is around 17% and 69% of people live in rural areas, it has become imperative to focus on the sector’s growth in order to ensure food security and eliminate poverty and extension education is vital in this context.