Agriculture in India: Role of Agriculture , Issues, and Initiatives | Agriculture UPSC

By K Balaji|Updated : December 8th, 2022

The role of Indian Agriculture stands at the highest rank among all other factors contributing to the GDP of the country. India being an agricultural economy, is largely dependent on the farmer community. Agriculture in India accounts for more than 50% of the employed workforce, as per 2018 data. It also implies a contribution of 19 % to the GDP of India.

The presence of agriculture in India dates long back to the Neolithic age or the Indus Valley Civilization. There is evidence that agriculture as a practice was undertaken much earlier than that in the Southern parts of India, even before the existence of the Harappan Civilization. Understanding the concept of agriculture in the Indian domain from the UPSC Exam perspective is very important.

Table of Content

Agriculture in India

As mentioned earlier, Agriculture in India plays a very significant role in the growth of the country’s economy. As per data, more than 70% of rural households depend on agriculture for their livelihood. India stands at the 9th rank concerning global agricultural exports and 2nd in production.

Agriculture in India is the largest industry, contributing to the country's capital formation. The responsibility of monitoring and assisting growth in the agriculture sector has been given to the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation under the Ministry of Agriculture.

☛ What are the four types of Agriculture 

Agriculture Sector in India

Agriculture in India is counted as the primary sector. The Indian agriculture sector has gradually increased production from 87 USD bn to 459 USD bn, which indicates a 12% annual growth. We rank second in the matter of agricultural production.

  • India is the largest producer of potatoes, ginger, okra, onions, brinjal, etc., out of all vegetables.
  • India is also the largest producer of bananas, coconut, mango, spices, cashew, papaya, pulses, milk, and jute.
  • India is the biggest cotton exporter in the world.
  • Animal Husbandry also forms an important part of the agriculture sector in India. It accounts for almost 32% of the output.

☛ Impact of Globalization on Indian Agriculture

Indian Agriculture: Productivity

An important component of food security is agricultural productivity. It is measured by the ratio of agricultural outputs to inputs. Looking at the promising data above, it must seem that agriculture in India is a well-growing and rewarding sector. That is not the case because the agricultural sector's productivity is still lower than in other countries such as the US, France, Brazil, and others.

  • An increased productivity rate can be achieved by bringing changes to agricultural techniques and technological innovations.
  • The productivity of rice & many other staple crops in India was even less than that of China.
  • The wheat production in India accounts for only a third of the annual wheat production of France.
  • India's total factor productivity growth is still at 2% per annum compared to China, having a 6% growth rate.
  • If India is able to increase its productivity, it can easily be in a position to wipe off the issue of malnutrition and hunger, becoming a major food source for the world.

☛ Factors Influencing Agriculture

Role of Agriculture in the Indian Economy

The Indian economy depends on agriculture and, therefore, can be called an Agro-Economy. It plays a crucial role in the economic growth and development of the country by contributing to the Gross Domestic Product.

  • Agriculture in India plays an important role in international trade, import, and export activities.
  • The Indian agriculture sector can also be termed the largest employment sector in the country. Around 54.6% of the total Indian population is employed in agriculture as compared to other nations where only about 2-6% of the population is employed.
  • Agriculture is the only source of food, considering India's huge population.
  • It also acts as a supplier of raw materials for various industries.

Potential of Agriculture in India

Indian agricultural production increased from 253.16 million tons to 280 million tons (food grains). It stood at 3.6% annually, sustained by developing infrastructure, etc. A large population creates demand for high productivity. Also, rising urban and rural income increases the quality-based demand.

  • External demand is also increasing due to new markets and strategic alliances. India is among the 15 leading exporting countries of agricultural products. This grew by 16.45% over the last decade to reach approx. 38 US $ in 2018.
  • As the urban population is increasing, with changing lifestyles, the sector has also been diversifying from grains towards pulses, fruits, vegetables, and livestock products. This helps in increasing the value addition of the produces and raw materials and development of food processing industries.
  • Opportunities in the sector are increasing. Scientific inventions in biotechnology can be seen in developing GM Crops, hybrid seeds, and fertilizers.
  • Promising storage capacities, infrastructure development like cold storage, logistics, etc.
  • Competitive advantage due to the high ratio of agricultural land (157 Million hectares), the leading producer of spices, Jutes, pulses, and the second-largest producer of wheat, fruits, paddy and vegetables.
  • Increasing policy support and subsidies from the government.
  • However, it is plagued by various paradoxes and problems hampering the desired growth, and the consequences are increasingly harmful.

Problems of Indian Agriculture

India is well-known for its agriculture, producing the most pulses, milk, and spices. In India, approximately 70% of the population lives in rural areas. The majority of farmers devote their entire lives to farming, making agriculture the primary source of income for two-thirds of all families.

Recently, farmers protested against three farm bills as they feared they would lead to the corporatization of agriculture. However, several other problems faced by Indian farmers were also highlighted during this protest. Some of the main problems of agriculture in India have been listed below.

  • Irrigation: A major challenge that Indian farmers face is the unpredictability of rainfall in India. Their dependency on rain affects their ability to produce crops consistently. In some states, improper water use and waste have resulted in a drop in groundwater levels. In agricultural lands, water resources and irrigation have become a problem. Despite the fact that irrigation capital expenses are increased to 3.5 times for major irrigation projects and 2.5 times for minor irrigation projects, there are still gaps in providing irrigation facilities to farmers with small lands.
  • Irregular Land Ownership: Land ownership is another issue in agriculture. The majority of agricultural land in India is distributed unequally, affecting land ownership. This leads to poor economic advantages from large-scale farming.
  • Poor infrastructure and facilities: The biggest challenge farmers face today is the loss incurred at the sale and post-harvest stages. Although the country takes pride in being the second-largest producer of fruits and vegetables, it is vital to take note that these perishable goods incur high post-harvest losses due to a lack of infrastructures like cold chain facilities and cold storage.
  • Lack of information and education on improved farming techniques: Indian soil has been used to produce crops for a long time. It is important to create awareness among farmers and educate them on new farming methods. Crop rotation is essential for the soil to regain its lost nutrients. Few farmers know the importance of using natural manure like cow dung and compost. Educating them on these aspects can enhance their production and relieve them of several issues.

Recent Issues in Indian Agriculture

As discussed above, there are a lot of problems that agriculture in India has been facing for some time now. Apart from some of the regular serious problems faced by the farmers in India, certain issues recently cropped up and came to the forefront.

  • There have been paradoxes in the policies of the government. It is more favourable to consumers and not to farmers. Inter-department convergence between agriculture, water, commerce, and finance has been completely absent.
  • The presence of the APMC (Agriculture produce market committee) Act increased the number of middlemen and illegal traders. Farmers are unable to realize the actual value of their products, whereas consumers have to pay a much higher rate. Cartelization has been increasing and keeps farm gate prices low.
  • Ashok Dalwai committee report on agriculture showed the increased farm input prices extensively, whereas the remuneration has been the same or even declining in the last few years. This has decreased the purchasing power of farmers and hence productivity.
  • The problems of the green revolution can be seen now. Misuse and abuse of technology have destroyed the agricultural sector. Extensive use of fertilizers and groundwater has impacted land and soil.
  • Very low seed replacement ratio, poor quality of seeds, increasing cost of seeds, and unscientific use of farm-produced seeds have also impacted productivity.
  • Indian agriculture is very poorly mechanized, which has both decreased productivity and increased disguised employment.
  • Farmers still have been dependent on informal sources like money lenders. Around 40% of the credits come from these sources.
  • MSP structure has been inefficient. This has distorted the cropping pattern. Also, as the Shanta Kumar Committee reports, only 6% of farmers benefit from MSP, whereas 94% still depend on the market. Some are refused due to quality, and some don’t have adequate storage or logistics facilities to sell to the government.
  • Climate change has been a new challenge for agriculture across the world. Economies like India have been severely affected because of overdependence on agriculture. Frequent droughts, floods, cyclones, temperature fluctuations, unseasonal rains, and hail storms lead to pest attacks, crop failure, soil erosions, etc.
  • Enabling infrastructure across the value chain is not adequate. Both backward and forward linkages like markets, cold storage, and warehouses have not developed in sync with the increasing production. This has led to the wastage of produce, poor price discovery, distressed sales, etc. Also, poor road connectivity has disconnected markets from villages.
  • Research and development in agriculture have been more or less stagnant at below 1%.
  • The sector is suffering from cheap imports, a sharp fall in prices both in domestic and international markets, interventionist policies and restrictions by the government ban on futures trading, and stockholding, further adding to the farmers' woes.

Initiatives in the Field of Agriculture

Looking at the magnitude of problems and issues cropping up in India's agriculture field, the government has stepped up and tried to put forth some measures to tackle the issues.

  • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana - The scheme advertises the idea of ‘Per Drop More Crop’. It was introduced with the idea of reducing the wastage of water & supporting the idea of ‘precision irrigation.
  • Soil Health Card - The idea of a soil health card was generated to provide genuine information on nutrients required by particular crops.
  • Availability of Fertilizers - Neem Coated Urea was introduced by the government.
  • Cold Storage and Food Processing - This method has been introduced to increase the life span of agricultural products.
  • Organic Farming is the new trend that has amped up recently.

Government Schemes for Agriculture in India

The government has introduced various schemes to adopt sustainable methods and increase agriculture productivity in India. The following schemes have put forth various innovative measures to increase the amount of agricultural produce while maintaining quality.

  • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana
  • National Agriculture Market
  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana
  • Pradhan Manthri Fasal Bima Yojana
  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana

Agriculture UPSC

Candidates can expect an essay on agriculture in the upcoming UPSC Exam. Agriculture in India is a significant topic in the UPSC syllabus, and the candidates need to be well-versed in the subject. Moreover, Agriculture is covered in detail under UPSC GS Paper 3 Syllabus.

Agriculture UPSC Questions

Agriculture in India is one of the most important topics in the UPSC Prelims and Mains exam. Referring to the Prelims Question Papers will familiarise the candidates with the paper pattern and help them prepare for the UPSC Exam.

Question 1: Consider the following statements regarding the use of Sulphur in agriculture:

  1. Sulphur fertilization helps plants to grow and develop properly and improves the utilization of nutrients.
  2. High content of Sulphur in the soil causes soil acidification.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 & 2
  4. None of the above

Ans: Option C

Question 2: Which of the following state(s) produce GI-tag Basmati Rice in India?

  1. Punjab
  2. Uttarakhand
  3. Madhya Pradesh

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2.  2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. All of the above

Ans: Option A

Question 3: The term “Kolkhoz” is related to which of the following?

  1. Subsistence farming
  2. Collective farming
  3. Contract farming
  4. None

Ans: Option B

Important Notes for UPSC
Decline of Mughal EmpireSurat Split
Grassland EcosystemPolitical Map of India
Early Medieval IndiaUPSC 1 Year Study Plan
August Offer 1940Political Causes of Revolt of 1857
British Colonialism in IndiaIndira Point

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FAQs on Indian Agriculture

  • Agriculture in India, in simple terms, is the practice of cultivating land to produce crops. It provides food to the whole country by producing varieties of fruits and vegetables. India is an agricultural economy and is majorly dependent on agriculture for employment.

  • The contribution of the agriculture sector to the GDP of India was 18.8 per cent in 2021-22. Agriculture in India also provides raw materials to various industries.

  • The four types of agriculture are Shifting Cultivation which is concerned with the rotation of crops, Subsistence Farming, which refers to the practice of raising livestock or growing crops only for self and not for trade purposes; and Pastoralism, which is related to animal herding, and Intensive Farming which focuses on increasing the input and the resultant output per unit of agricultural land.

  • Small and fragmented land holdings, Seeds, Fertilisers and Biocides, Irrigation, Lack of mechanization, Soil erosion, poor Agricultural Marketing, and lack of capital are some of the issues faced by agriculture in India.

  • India still holds the position of second largest agricultural land in the whole world. More than 50% of the Indian population is employed in the agriculture sector in India. There have been new trends like agriculture robotics that are also taking shape in India.

  • The future of Indian agriculture lies in new innovations & moving forward towards digital agriculture. It is expected that with new technological innovations & methods like remote sensing, soil sensors, block-chain technology, agriculture in India can touch new heights.

  • As per the data, India is the world’s largest producer of pulses, milk, and jute. Apart from that rice is the most produced crop in India. Yet, India is at the second position in rice production as compared to China which ranks first.

  • India being an agricultural country, is majorly dependent on agriculture for food and also as a source of income. More than 50% of India’s population is employed in the agricultural sector. Agriculture in India also contributes majorly to the GDP of the country.

  • India stands at second place in farm outputs in the world. If we specifically talk about the production of pulses, India tops the list with 215.2 lakh tonnes of production. India is also a major producer of paddy and wheat.

  • The state of Uttar Pradesh is considered as the one having the most agriculture in India. In the terms of food grain prod, Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 58.32 million tonnes of food grains being produced. Almost to 19% of the total grain production in India can be attributed to Uttar Pradesh.

  • Agriculture in India was supposedly started by the Indus Valley Civilization. There is evidence that rice and cotton were majorly produced in this civilization, also called Harappan Civilization.

  • Crop productivity grew as a result of the green revolution thanks to adopted practises including double-cropping, which involves growing two crops instead of one, the annual adoption of HYV seeds, and significantly increased usage of inorganic fertilisers and pesticides, along with enhanced irrigation and infrastructure agricultural tools and crop protection techniques.

  • The practice of putting measures into farming and agricultural activity that enable farms to maintain their productivity and value to society continuously is known as sustainable agriculture. It's crucial to maintain production output throughout the sustainable agriculture process.

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