India is an agrarian economy and the agriculture sector is one of the major contributors to the GDP of the country. It is the principal source of livelihood for many households in rural India. Indian agro industry can be divided into several sub-segments such as canned food, dairy, meat, poultry, food grains, fisheries and frozen food. The Department of Agriculture and Cooperation under the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for the development of this sector in India. It manages several other bodies such as the National Dairy Development Board in order to take care of the development of other allied agricultural sectors. Our country is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices in the world. The agricultural produce forms a major chunk in the list of exports.
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “India lives in villages and agriculture is the soul of Indian economy”. Nearly two-thirds of its population depends directly on agriculture for its livelihood. Agriculture is the main stay of India’s economy. It contributes about 26% of the gross domestic product. Agriculture meets food requirements of the people and produces several raw materials for industries. Agriculture is the real part of sources of government income because there are land revenue, excise duty on agro- based goods, taxes on production and sale of agricultural machinery contributing to national income. It also contributes to export of products like tea, tobacco, spices, coffee etc and also the other goods we export which is around 7 0% of foreign trade export.
India’s agriculture sector is highly dependent on monsoon. This is quite evident from the fact that the past two consecutive bad monsoons i.e. 2014-15 and 2016 have resulted in the imports of edible oils and pulses touching an all time high and the exports of agriculture based products experiencing a significant dip. 2017 saw moderate rainfall but at some places it was below normal. The fertiliser industry in India is facing its share of crisis with a large number of manufacturing units on the verge of shutting down. The agriculture sector in India is unorganised and lacks proper planning, governing and regulations. Most of the farmers own small lands and this is what makes them vulnerable. Cultivation on such small areas is not economically feasible. The knowledge about crop insurance in agriculture sector is restricted.
This leaves the farmers exposed to risks of crop failure due to bad weather, lack of resources etc. Middlemen are involved in the selling of farmer’s produce in the farmer’s market. This cuts down the profits which would have otherwise gone to the farmers. In many cases, the fertile lands are being sold to real estate builders and these lands are giving way to skyscrapers. The suicide among the farmers is increasing at a rampant rate.
India’s agricultural sector is considered to be highly regulated with extensive involvement of government. In many cases, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) fails to reach the farmer, who ultimately has to bear the loss of crop failure. The government needs to ensure that MSP reaches the needy farmer and is not restricted to big landlords. There are several restrictions on internal and external trade which has led to high cost marketing and trading options for the agricultural commodities. On a careful analysis, one can deduce that the investment of the private sector is comparatively low in the agricultural domain. The government needs to create an enabling environment to attract private sector investment in agriculture.
Entry of the private sector players in the domain of agriculture can do wonders for the farmers in India. The private players can help to and tap the crucial areas such as oil seeds and pulses. Besides, they can help the farmers realise the full potential of their crop and provide them with a competitive price for their yield.
The government needs to focus on building the infrastructure of the rural sector such as connecting roads, market yards, and storage facilities. These will help in saving a lot of overhead costs. Indian markets need to be more open to the genetically modified crops and promote them. This will be helpful in getting better yield and output. At present, it is only the genetically modified Bt cotton which is sold in the Indian market.
However, there are differing opinions on the issue of GM crops and entry of private players. Some people cite the presence of private players in various agricultural produce areas and find it detrimental to the farmer’s economic health.
There are multiple factors which have contributed to the growth of agriculture sector in India. Some of the factors include an increase in household incomes and consumption, expansion in food processing sector and increase in agricultural exports. The Government of India has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) with many countries in order to provide better agricultural facilities in areas such as research and development, post harvest management, plant protection. With the entry of the private sector, the Indian agriculture will witness a new era defined by cutting edge technology and increased productivity.
The government has come up with many schemes to address the above problems faced by farmers. The Krishonnati Yojana is a new umbrella scheme which includes existing schemes like National Food Security Mission (NFSM), Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture s (MIDH), National Mission on Oil Seeds and Oil Palm and National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture.
National Food Security Mission (NFSM) covers cluster demonstration of rice, wheat, pulses and coarse cereals, distribution of hybrid seed varieties, soil management methods, efficient water management and farm mechanisation. Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) focuses on providing quality seeds, product improvement techniques of horticulture plant like fruits, vegetables, spices, dry fruits, flowers and plantation crops like bamboo and coconut. National mission on Oilseeds and Oilcrops aims to improve the yield of oil seeds crops by using agricultural techniques like intercropping and use of fallow land. National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) aims at making agriculture more productive and sustainable. Soil Health Card Scheme is a recent government initiative which aims at assessing soil health of individual farms and providing recommended nutrient for improving crop production and soil fertility. Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana is another new scheme which motivates groups of fifty or more farmers to switch to organic farming. DD Kisan Channel, Farmer’s Portal, m-Kisan portal, Kisan Call Centres (KCC), agri-fairs, agri-clinics and agri-business centres disseminate information to farmers relating to crop varieties, fertilisers, tools and latest technological advancements. Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana provides end-to-end solutions to irrigation related problems.
The need of the hour is the incorporation and application of sustainable practices in the agriculture sector. Being one of the core sectors of Indian economy, the agriculture sector needs to regularise and update itself. The farmers need to be taught about the alternatives in order to make better use of the available resources. The focus must be on increasing the productivity of the land and irrigation. Piped conveyance, better off-farm management of water, use of better water management practices such as drip irrigation and rain water harvesting should be done.
The farmers need to focus on utilisation rather than exploitation of ground water resources. They must be encouraged to grow higher value commodities, especially in the areas which receive high rainfall. Crop diversification is another important point that can be taken into consideration. Soil health is another important factor. The farmers must be encouraged to follow the practice of organic farming and refrain from the use of DDT, pesticides and insecticides. This will be helpful in maintaining the health of the soil and getting better yields.
Instead of providing subsidies to the farmers on water and electricity, a better option could be to provide subsidies on the premium and do with the capping in the case of the crop insurance. This will encourage the farmers to adopt innovative technologies, enhance crop productivity, and they will be more willing to take risks. This will encourage farmers to come together to pool up their resources and the premium rates will automatically fall. A robust crop insurance is the best way to deal with risks associated with the agriculture sector.
Most of the Indians are directly depending on the agriculture. Some are directly attached with the farming and some other people are involved in doing business with these goods. India has the capacity to produce the food grains which can make vast difference in Indian economy. To achieve targeted mark by the government, it needs to provide support in case of land, bank loans and other machineries to the small farmers along with the big farmers as it would bring much improvement in Indian economy.