The history of India is accurate in describing its productive agricultural system, ideal climatic circumstances, and abundance of natural resources. India, which uses a large portion of its farmland to produce wheat, rice, and cotton, is also a major producer of spices and pulses for the global market.
In a nutshell, India is a significant agricultural powerhouse, with farmers and all other related labour serving as its foundation. The agriculture industry, like many others, has long-standing issues and unanticipated difficulties that must be resolved. Let's talk about some of the most pressing problems of Indian agriculture and their best possible solutions.
Did you know? When compared to a few decades ago, the agriculture industry contributed 75% to India's GDP, which is now only 18.2%. (the current).
Small and Fragmented Land-holdings
When we consider that it is split into financially unsustainable small and dispersed holdings, the apparent plenty of net sown land of 141.2 million hectares and total cultivated area of 189.7 million hectares (1999-2000) disappears into insignificance. From 1970–1971 the average holding size was 2.28 hectares; this decreased to 1.82 hectares in 1980–1981,1.50 hectares in 1995–1996, and 1.08 hectares in 2015-2016. Also, the size of assets will continue to shrink as the land holdings are endlessly subdivided.
In highly inhabited and actively farmed states where the average size of land holdings is less than one hectare and in some areas it is less than even 0.5 hectares, the issue of small and fragmented holdings is one of the major problems faced by Indian farmers. This results in a wide gap between small, medium, and big farmers. Our inheritance laws are the fundamental cause of this unfortunate situation. Each of the father's sons receives an equal share of the land, and this land distribution is scattered in nature rather than a collection or consolidation.
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The only solution to this vexing issue is the consolidation of holdings, which entails the redistribution of scattered holdings and the establishment of farms made up of just one or a few parcels as opposed to the several patches that were previously in each peasant's hands. But regrettably, this strategy has not had much success. Up until 1990–1991, there had been a consolidation of roughly 45 million farm holdings. Cooperative farming, in which the farmers combine their resources and divide the profits, is an alternative solution to this issue.
A seed is an essential and fundamental ingredient to increase crop yields and maintain steady growth in agricultural output. The distribution of seeds of guaranteed quality is just as important as their manufacture. Unfortunately, for the farmers, affording high-quality seeds due to the high cost of superior seeds is one of the major challenges of Indian agriculture.
The Indian government created the National Seeds Corporation (NSC) in 1963 and the SFCI in 1969 to address this issue. To increase the farmers' access to better seeds, 13 SSCs (State Seed Corporation) were also set up. The involvement of the seed industry is not only to generate an adequate amount of high-quality seeds but also to accomplish varietal diversity to accommodate the numerous agro-climatic areas of the nation. The Indian seed industry has displayed remarkable growth over the years and is anticipated to offer further potential for development in agricultural production.
In order to accomplish the nation's food and nutritional security goals, the policy declarations are intended to make sufficient amounts of superior-quality seed accessible to Indian farmers at the right time, area, and reasonable rate.
Fertilisers and Manures
For thousands of years, crops have been grown on Indian soils without any concern for replenishment. This has caused soils to become exhausted and depleted, which has decreased their yield. Nearly all crops have some of the lowest average yields on the entire planet. More manures and fertilisers can be used to address this major issue.
Manures and fertilisers serve the same purpose for soils as healthy food does for the human body. Nourished soil can yield good harvests, just as a well-nourished human can perform any competent task. According to estimates, increasing fertiliser application accounts for around 70% of growth in agricultural output. Thus, an indicator of agricultural prosperity is an increase in fertiliser usage. However, providing enough manures and fertilisers throughout a country the size of India is challenging, where low-income peasants populate. Chemical fertilisers are expensive and frequently out of the price range of small-scale farmers. Therefore, the fertiliser issue is both serious and intricate.
Organic manures are considered to be crucial for maintaining healthy soil. There is now underutilisation of the nation's potential 650 million tonnes of rural and 160 lakh tonnes of urban compost. By utilising this capability, the twin issues of garbage disposal and soil fertilisation will be resolved. In particular, the government has heavily subsidised the use of chemical fertilisers as an incentive. Chemical fertilisers were seldom ever used during the period of Independence. The use of fertilisers increased dramatically due to government action and a shift in the mindset of certain progressive farmers. To protect the crops and prevent losses, biocides are employed. Increased usage of these inputs has prevented the needless loss of many crops, particularly food crops. However, the extensive use of biocides has led to environmental contamination, which has its own cost.
Only one-third of India's cropland is irrigated, although it is the world's second-largest irrigated nation after China. In a country with a tropical monsoon like India, where rainfall is unpredictable, unreliable, and variable, irrigation is the most crucial agricultural input. India won't be able to make significant agricultural advancements unless and until more than 50 per cent of the planted area is covered by reliable irrigation.
The big success of agricultural development in Punjab, Haryana, and the western portion of Uttar Pradesh was sole because more than half of the cultivated area is under irrigation. To increase agricultural productivity, irrigation is still needed for large tracts. Through interstate cooperation on water management, water resources can be used to their most significant potential and distributed easily to the places where it is most needed. The rivers can be linked together, and national canals and channels can be built to strengthen irrigation systems and support farmers in the event that the monsoon fails.
Lack of Mechanisation
Despite the massive mechanisation of agriculture in some regions of the nation, most agricultural operations are still conducted by hand in these areas, employing straightforward and traditional tools and implements like wooden ploughs, sickles, etc.
Ploughing, seeding, irrigating, thinning and pruning, weeding, harvesting, threshing, and transporting crops all involve little to no usage of machinery. Particularly with small and marginal farms, this is the case. Large amounts of human labour are wasted as a result, and productivity per worker is low.
Youth employment in farming and similar fields will increase if we support them. They can learn and develop quickly since they already have a core institutional education and expertise.
Additionally, providing small farmers with cutting-edge machinery and sophisticated technology will help increase productivity, quality, and efficiency. Since India's independence, some effort has been made to mechanise agriculture. The Green Revolution that began in the 1960s brought a greater awareness of the need for mechanisation. To enable farmers to own the different types of agricultural machinery, programmes and initiatives have been created to substitute traditional and inefficient methods with modern ones.
In rural India, agricultural marketing is still in poor shape. Farmers have to rely on local traders and middlemen to dispose of their farm products, which are sold at a loss because there are no reliable marketing facilities. The majority of the time, these farmers are compelled by socioeconomic circumstances to continue selling their produce at a loss. Farmers typically trade their products to the moneylender from whom they borrow money in tiny settlements.
Trading companies and middlemen predominate in the advertising and trading of agricultural products in the absence of a formalised marketing framework. The middlemen's compensation increases the consumer's burden for their services, but the farmers do not gain anything comparable.
The government has introduced regulated markets to free the farmer from the grasp of money lenders and intermediaries. These marketplaces typically establish a system of competitive purchasing, aid in the elimination of fraud, secure the use of standardised measurements and weights and provide appropriate mechanisms for dispute resolution, ensuring that the producers are not exploited and earn fair prices.
Storage facilities are either nonexistent or woefully inadequate in rural locations. In such circumstances, the farmers are obligated to sell their food as soon as it is harvested at the going market rates, which are invariably low. The farmers lose their rightful income as a result of these distressed sales. The Parse Committee calculated that 9.3% of post-harvest losses were attributable to poor storage conditions alone, accounting for approximately 6.6 per cent of those losses. Hence, it is crucial to use efficient storage to prevent losses and benefit both consumers and producers.
Many organisations are currently involved in warehouse and storage activities. Among the key organisations working on this project are the Central Warehousing Corporation, State Warehousing Corporation, and the Food Corporation of India (F.C.I.). These organisations aid in creating a buffer supply that can be used in an emergency. From 1979–1980, the Central Government put the nationwide grid of rural godowns into practice.
This plan offers farmers, especially marginal and small-scale farmers, storage facilities close to their fields. For the sake of the farming community's financial interests, the Working Group on Additional Storage Facilities in Rural Areas has suggested a plan to build a chain of Rural Storage Centers.
Agriculture is a significant industry; much like other industries, it needs money to operate. With the development of agricultural technology, the importance of capital input is growing. The agriculturalist must borrow money to increase the pace of agricultural output because his capital is tied up in his lands and stocks. Even now, the money lenders, traders, and commission agents that charge exorbitant interest rates and buy agricultural products at extremely low prices are the main funding sources for farmers in rural areas.
Nevertheless, despite losing ground, the lender is still the sole source of agricultural loans. The rural finance landscape has to be significantly changed, and institutions, including Central Cooperative Banks, State Cooperative Banks, Commercial Banks, Cooperative Credit Agencies, and even Government Agencies, must offer farmers loans with favourable terms.
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The current critical issues that plague Indian agriculture are the knowledge and infrastructure deficits, especially in rural areas. Problems related to irrigation infrastructure, market infrastructure and transport infrastructure add high costs to farmers’ operations. Another issue is the lack of delivery mechanisms. There are a number of schemes aimed at bringing development to agriculture. We do not have effective delivery mechanisms that can translate into effective facilitation in terms of increasing productivity, decreasing cost, or increasing price realisation at the ground level. Moreover, inadequate Government support exacerbates these issues. Thus, corporate farming could be a solution to the Indian agrarian sector, but it needs deep thinking and innovation and better policies so that neither the corporates nor the farmers are at a loss.
The needs of small farmers, who are most vulnerable to the monsoons, should be prioritised, and more people should have access to services like financing and crop insurance. This will guarantee that the agriculture sector is sustainable and meets the nation's demands. It is crucial to take measures to lessen the population explosion in agriculture by diversifying the sector and the rural economy as a whole by fostering rural non-farm businesses.
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