Agriculture in India is one of the most prominent sectors in its economy. Agriculture and allied sectors like forestry, logging and fishing accounted for 18.6% of the GDP in 2005 and employed 60% of the country's population. It accounts for 8.56 % of India’s exports. About 43 % of India's geographical area is used for agricultural activity. Despite a steady decline of its share in the GDP, agriculture is still the largest economic sector and plays a significant role in the overall socio-economic development of India.
The monsoons play a critical role in the Indian sub-continent's agriculture in determining whether the harvest will be bountiful, average, or poor in any given year. The entire rainfall in the sub-continent is concentrated in the few monsoon months.
Agriculture in India is constitutionally the responsibility of the states rather than the central government. The central government's role is in formulating policy and providing financial resources for agriculture. The government administers prices of essential commodities to protect farmer's interests. It also administers other commodities which are produced by government-controlled companies, like petroleum, coal, nitrogenous fertilizers, etc. Other than these, most agricultural commodity markets operate under the normal forces of demand and supply.
History of Indian Agriculture
Evidence of the presence of wheat and some legumes in the 6th millennium BC have been found in the Indus Valley. Oranges were cultivated in the same millennium. The crops grown in the valley around 4000 BC were typically wheat, peas, sesame seed, barley, dates and mangoes. By 3500 BC cotton growing and cotton textiles were quite advanced in the valley. By 3000 BC farming of rice had started. Other monsoon crops of importance of the time was cane sugar. By 2500 BC, rice was an important component of the staple diet in Mohenjodaro near the Arabian Sea.
The Indus Plain had rich alluvial deposits which came down the Indus River in annual floods. This helped sustain farming that formed basis of the Indus Valley Civilization at Harappa. The people built dams and drainage systems for the crops.
By 2000 BC tea, bananas and apples were being cultivated in India. There was coconut trade with East Africa in 200 BC. By 500 AC, egg plants were being cultivated.
After independence, considering India's growing population, the government took steps to increase the food production. Yields per unit area of all crops have grown since 1950. The 1970s saw a huge increase in India's wheat production. This is known as the Green Revolution in the country. Reasons for the growth are the special emphasis placed on agriculture and steady improvements in irrigation, technology, application of modern agricultural practices and provision of agricultural credit and subsidies.
Operation Flood was the name of a rural development programme started by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in 1970 with the objective of creating a nationwide milk grid. This movement followed the and helped in alleviating poverty and famine levels from dangerous proportions in India during the era. It resulted in India becoming the largest producer of milk and milk products, so it is also called the White Revolution of India.
Factors of Low Productivity in Indian Agriculture
Illiteracy, general socio-economic backwardness, reforms and inadequate or inefficient finance and marketing services for farm produce.
The average size of land holdings is very small (less than 20,000 m²) and are subject to fragmentation, due to land ceiling acts and in some cases, family disputes. Such small holdings are often over-manned, resulting in disguised unemployment and low productivity of labour.
Adoption of modern agricultural practices and use of technology is inadequate, hampered by ignorance of such practices, high costs and impracticality in the case of small land holdings.
Irrigation facilities are inadequate, as revealed by the fact that only 53.6% of the land was irrigated in 2000–01, which result in farmers still being dependent on rainfall, specifically the Monsoon season. A good monsoon results in a robust growth for the economy as a whole, while a poor monsoon leads to a sluggish growth.Farm credit is regulated by NABARD, which is the statutory apex agent for rural development in the subcontinent.
In the last few decades several farmers have committed suicide especially in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala. Combating this has become a major challenge for these governments. Some of the causes for the deaths include indebtedness of small and marginal farmers and repeated crop failures.