Issues In Agricultural Development


Agriculture contributes a significant share to the national income (26%) but more importantly it is a major source of livelihood for majority of work force in the countryside. However, the per hectare production of different principal crops in the country is relatively low. In some cases it is as low as 1/4th to 1/5th as compared to other countries due to –

  • traditional methods of cultivation,
  • small farms size,
  • low investment,
  • low input,
  • poor health and lack of education among the farmers,
  • lack of linkages between agriculture and industry, and
  • poor condition of infrastructure.

Limited availability of cultivable land and ever-increasing population has left no alternative but to increase productivity of crops.

This sector has a great potential for reducing poverty and hunger in rural areas. Following issues are important for the development of agriculture in India –

  • A. The Use of Farm Inputs
  • B. Small Size of Land holdings
  • C. Farm Mechanization
  • D. Consolidation of Holdings
  • E. Diversification of Agriculture
  • F. Agriculture and Industry Interface
  • G. Infrastructural Development
  • H. Agricultural Credit
  • I. Globalization and Indian Agriculture

The Use of Farm Inputs

For high growth rate, farm inputs like seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation facilities play an important role.

  • The use of high yielding varieties of seeds, chemical fertilizers have increased particularly in Green Revolution areas of Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, coastal Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. However, in several other parts of the country the use of chemical fertilizers is much below the national average.
  • In regard to irrigation, the irrigated land in the country is less than 50 per cent of the potential. Hence, there is a need for equitable and efficient use of inputs in the country so that regional disparities in its use can be minimized.
  • Another important factor associated with use of chemical fertilizers is their imbalanced use. Nitrogen, phosphorous and calcium required by the plants for balanced growth and good health of the soils are not used by most of the Indian farmers. There is over emphases on the use of nitrogen, resulting in damage to fertility of soils and adverse effect on crop productivity.

Small Size of Land holdings

About 89 per cent of operational farm holdings in the country are below two hectares in size. Over 70 per cent of agricultural production comes from the subsistence agriculture. Unless small farmers are helped to improve the productivity and profitability of their farms, the agriculture in India will not develop in its true sense. This can be possible by optimum use of available land, water, credit facilities and labour resources.

Farm Mechanization

The use of improved agricultural implements and machines such as the plough, tractor, trolley, harvester, thrasher, water pump, sprinkler etc. are important to modernize Indian agriculture. These machines are being used in some parts of the country. Diffusion of modern farm technology and techniques is both necessary as well as a big challenge. To increase productivity, some agricultural implements are being made available to the farmers through Development Blocks and Cooperative Societies.

Consolidation of Holdings

Small and scattered holdings of land are one of the reasons of low agricultural productivity in India. This is an obstacle in the way of modern agriculture in which machines, improved equipments and techniques are used. These problems are being minimized through consolidation of land holdings. However, in many parts of the country it is still a big problem. For example, apart from hill states, Rajasthan and Bihar are two states in the northern plain where land consolidation is yet to be implemented. This problem needs to be addressed on priority basis by the respective governments.

Diversification of Agriculture

Diversification of agriculture means a shift of resources from farm to allied activities, e.g. shift to dairy-farming.

  • There is a need to give more importance to higher value crops in comparison to lower value.
  • The diversification will improve income, generate employment, alleviate poverty, increase productivity, food security, and will also promote exports.
  • Although, impressive gains have been made in agricultural production by diversifying agriculture in some parts of the country like in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, remaining parts of the country, still needs much attention.

Agriculture and Industry Interface

For the better development of agriculture, it must be linked with the industry. It will increase investment in agriculture and boost agricultural productivity. It will also increase industrialisation and employment opportunities. Although, the interdependence of agriculture and industry has increased over the years, yet much is required to be done in time to come.

The agriculture and agriculture based industries need helping hand for over all development of rural areas.

Green Revolution

The eight years between the commencements of the Third-Five Year and fourth-Five Year Plans 1961-69 were the year of great significance for Indian agriculture. During this period a new strategy of agricultural production was introduced first in 1960-61 as a pilot project, in some districts of Punjab and was subsequently extended to other districts of the country. The core of this strategy –

  • The use of
    • High Yielding Variety (HYV) of seeds,
    • application of chemical fertilizers and
    • extension of adequate and assured irrigation.
  • It also made it imperative to use pesticides and insecticides and improved agricultural implements to enhance agricultural productivity.
  • It also became essential to make provision of cheap credit, storage and marketing facilities, crops preservation measures, and support price for agricultural products.

Positives

  • Due to these measures, food grains production surged in India and country became self-sufficient in food grains. This achievement of Indian farmers is called ‘Green Revolution’.
    • The term Green Revolution was used first in 1968 by Dr. William Gadd of the U.S.A.
  • The Green revolution in India has been successful mainly in Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh because these regions had advantage of assured irrigation, adequate supply of fertilizers, HYV seeds, and modern agricultural implements at subsidised rate.

Negatives

  • The majority of farmers and the areas in the country have not been benefited by it, resulting in ever-increasing inequalities in agricultural and rural development in the country.
  • Due to increased application of chemical fertilizer and over irrigation, soils in the areas of the Green Revolution have been degraded in the form of salinity and water logging.
  • The Green Revolution package has led to serious environmental disruption in areas of its success.
    • Excessive concentrations of chemical fertilizers and pesticides contaminate the streams and the ground water with serious health hazards for the people.
    • Fish are not found in the paddy fields any more and the water table has decreased drastically in these areas.

Green Revolution means rapid increase in farm production per unit area through the application of –

  • (i) high yielding seeds
  • (ii) chemical fertilizers and
  • (iii) assured and adequate irrigation.

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Infrastructural Development

The Government has tried to develop various infrastructural facilities in rural areas –

  • electrification,
  • provision of irrigation facilities,
  • construction of metalled roads to connect villages to the markets, etc.

The scheme of crops insurance has also been introduced. Awareness programs for farmers through radio and television are being relayed. A number of magazines are being published to provide the latest information about new techniques in agriculture.

Recently call centres have been established to solve problems of farmers on telephone.

But existing infrastructural facilities are not adequate in the country. There is a need of spreading these facilities to small farms, in general, and to the farmers of remote areas, in particular.

Agricultural Credit

Commercial banks, Regional Rural (Grameen) Banks and Cooperative banks, provide credit support and services for agricultural and rural development.

Commercial Banks account for 50 per cent, Cooperative Banks 43 per cent and regional Rural Banks 7 per cent share in the credit flow for agriculture.

Kissan Credit Card scheme was introduced in 1998-99 to facilitate access of credit to farmers from commercial banks and Regional Rural Banks. There is need for expanding this scheme to other geographical areas.

Globalization and Indian Agriculture

Globalization, in simple term means integration of the economy of a country with world’s economy.

In Indian context, this refers to the opening up the economy to foreign direct investment in different field of economic activities, removal of obstacles to the entry of Multi National Companies (MNC’s) in India, allowing Indian companies to enter into foreign collaborations, to encourage setting of joint ventures abroad, bringing down the level of import duties and opening the Indian market for the world.

Impact of Globalization on Agriculture

The experts are divided on the impacts of globalization on agriculture. They say that India will get benefited through improved prospects for agricultural export as a result of increase in the world prices of agricultural commodities with reduction in heavy farm subsidies provided in the developed countries and breaking of barriers to trade.

The prices of agricultural products in India are not likely to increase as all major programmes such as subsidies on P.D.S. (Public Distribution System) and on agriculture are exempted from the control of W. T. O. Agreement on agriculture. It is mainly because of the fact that subsidy given on agriculture in India is below the limit of 10 per cent of value of agricultural products.

Furthermore, India has the skills and the low-cost labours which make it one of the lowest-cost producer of agricultural products in the world. Hence, there will be a large market world-wide for these products. Moreover, it is also said that an improvement in terms of trade in favour of agriculture will promote faster agricultural growth in India.

However, these claims are questionable on the following grounds –

  • Due to globalization, the Indian farmers might have to face much unstable prices of agricultural products as world prices for these products fluctuate largely on year-to-year basis.
  • The impact of trade liberalizations on the prices of agricultural products at international level and domestic level depends on what policies other countries follow. For example, developed countries are not willing to reduce subsidies on their agricultural products, to keep these still cheaper to benefit their farmers.
  • Due to liberalization, MNC’s engaged in agro-business would operate freely in India. For their strong financial background, they could produce hybrid varieties of seeds and the specialised agro-chemicals, using advance biotechnology. These hybrid seeds cannot be regrown or reproduced by the farmers as they are genetically modified to terminate after first use. Therefore, these seeds will have to be purchased every year from the MNCs for the monopoly they have over it under IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) regime.
  • There would be uneven distribution of income across social classes and geographical region due to effect of globalization on agricultural practices and trade. Rich regions or social groups will be richer in the country.

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Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs)

It is an important feature of the WTO agreements among the member countries related to intellectual property rights (IPRs).

It covers copyright, trademarks, geographical indications including appellations of origin, industrial, patents on production of new varieties of plants and seeds, etc. Under this agreement on the above subject all member countries have to –

  • (i) provide minimum standards of protection
  • (ii) facilitate domestic producers and remedies for the information of IPRs and
  • (iii) settle dispute between the WTO members.

The traditional knowledge of farmers and indigenous people in respect of uses of different variety of plants are being used by MNCs for their business profits patenting them under IPRs. The famous examples are patent of neem and turmeric product by American MNCs.

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Bibliography : NIOS Geography Book

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