Agrikhalsa Special Article Collection

Indian Agriculture: Challenges and potential

India is an agricultural country, one third population depends on agriculture sector directly or indirectly. Agriculture continues to be the main stay of the Indian economy. Indian agriculture contributes to the national Gross Domestic Product is about 25 per cent. With food being the crowning need of the mankind, much emphasis has been on commercializing agricultural production. Hence, adequate production and even distribution of food has lately become a high priority global concern. With the changing agricultural scenario and global competition, there is a need of exploiting the available resources at maximum level.

In Indian agriculture the factors like high soil productivity, supply of balanced crop nutrients, efficient water management, improved crops, better plant protection, post-production management for value-addition and marketing, are responsible for higher yield as compared to most of the other countries.

Achievements of Indian agriculture like development of HYVs, new hybrids of different crops, research in the area of vaccine production, varietal development through soma-clonal variations, developing better quality products and transgenic in crops such as brinjal, tomato, cauliflower and cabbage have strengthened the field. In 21st century agriculture, application of modern biotechnologies like DNA finger printing, tissue culture, terminator gene technology and genetic cloning will hold the key in raising the productivity.

In the new millennium, the challenges in Indian agricultural sector are quite different from those met in the previous decades. The enormous pressure to produce more food from less land with shrinking natural resources is a tough task for the farmers. To keep up the momentum of growth a careful economic evaluation of inputs like seeds, fertilizers, irrigation sources etc are of considerable importance.

Considering the irrigation needs in Indian agriculture, emphasis be given to promote the proven cost-reducing micro-irrigation technology of drips irrigation which helps conserve water reduces fertilizer inputs and ensures higher productivity. Farmer awareness programmes coupled with subsidy incentive may prove helpful strategies. The sustainable method of irrigation needs to be popularized. Salinity and water-logging problems in the commands of major irrigation systems need to be minimized by recognizing and incorporating corrective measures. Further, proper drainage facilities involving farmerís groups need to be created. Watershed approach to management of water in rainfed areas should continue to get the due thrust.

Diffusion of fertilizer consumption in Indian agriculture has been quite widespread. The imbalances in the use of N, P and K have become highly conspicuous. The intensity of fertilizer use has gradually gone up from about 3 kg/ha. In early Sixties to about 88 kg/ha in 1997-98. Therefore, wider distribution of fertilizer needs to be promoted by covering regions with low use of fertilizers such as central and eastern regions of Uttar Pradesh (in the case of wheat and rice) through creation of an extensive network of rural infrastructure (including roads and credit) for establishing an appropriate interface of input markets and output markets in these regions.

In Indian agriculture, multiplication, distribution and availability of good quality seed is crucial to accelerated food production. With entry of MNCs in seed production and distribution and consequent effects of patenting under the WTO regime, providing quality seeds to farmer at an affordable cost will be a measure challenge in future. To meet the growing competition companies should adopt modern processing technologies and seed growers have to be trained in cost reducing methods of growing quality seed material.

Indian agriculture has to become more cost-effective to meet the growing challenges and opportunities arising out of WTO agreements and the consequent globalization impacts. For this, future growth of agriculture has to be yield based. Development of infrastructure is essential to support this growth.

The farm credit system in Indian agriculture, evolved over decades has been instrumental in enhancing production and marketing of farm produce and stimulating capital formation in agriculture. Credit for Indian agriculture has to expand at a faster rate than before because of the need to step-up agricultural growth to generate surplus for exports, and also because of change in the product mix towards animal husbandry, aquaculture, fish farming, horticulture and floriculture, medicinal plants, which will necessitate larger investments.

Indian agriculture has potential and prospects in the following areas of agri business.

India is the third largest producer of fruits and the 2nd largest grower of vegetables. The total production is about 27.83 MT in fruits and 54 MT in vegetables. The farmers can grow any type of vegetable and fruits throughout the year.

Flowers are estimated to be grown in about 35,000 ha in India of which 10,000 ha are under modern flowers like rose, carnation, orchid, etc. Major flowers grown are jasmine, marigold, rose, etc. In many countries including Israel flowers are cultivated under green house conditions. In India, the land and climate are suitable to grow all types of flowers throughout the year in one part or the other.

India has attained self sufficing in food. It is now exporting rice and wheat to some countries including China. There is a vast scope of exporting the cereals to various countries.

Though Indiaís irrigated area is about one third of the world, the area under drip and sprinkler irrigation is very meagre compared to total drip and sprinkler area in the world. The area under drip is 1,60,000 ha and under sprinkler, it is about 0.60 Mha. It is estimated that in the next 7 years, the area under drip and sprinkler will be about 1 Mha and 5 Mha respectively.

Indiaís share in the world market has risen to 0.7%. If the trend continues it is expected that the trade may go upto 1.5%. This is because of rising exports and the opening up of the domestic market rapidly. India will make its presence felt on the world trade scene.

In Indian agriculture, rural women play a vital role and participate in all stages of crop production, as they constitute 50% of rural labour force. They contribute in agricultural operations like, transplanting, manuring and fertilizing, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, drying and carrying the product. To better exploit the emerging apportunities, there is need for changing property rights in favour of women, evolving technologies to suit women farmers, increasing the number of women extension workers, educating and training women farmers.

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