We believe a double-digit growth in agriculture is not just desirable, but immensely feasible. At this level of growth India will become a food bowl for the world with prospects for agriculture exports expanding by over $100 billion.
In the background of poor growth rates in recent years,double digit growth looks a dream. But there are compelling reasons to increase the rate of growth:
One, several estimates point to the mismatch between demand and the growth in food output. By 2050, global population is estimated to grow from the present 700 crore (7 billion) to 900 crore (9 billion). This will demand a doubling of food output. At present rates of growth, this appears a pipe dream.
Two, there is compelling need to produce more from lesser land area. Data suggests that of the total non-ice land, around 46.5 per cent is not arable. Only 38.6 per cent of such land space is available for cultivation. The balance 14.9 per cent is accounted for by urban areas, factories, mining and other infrastructure. There are serious limitations for expanding or even maintaining this 38.6 per cent. (National Geographic, May 2014).
India has natural advantages to attempt a Hanuman jump in agriculture production. Like, large arable land of over 400 million acres, agro-climatic conditions and endowments that favour farming round the year.
Need for tech-farming
Average size of land holdings of the Indian farmer is just 2.5 acres. An immediate need is to agglomerate the fragmented land holdings. This could be done by permitting lease of land over long term without alienating ownership. States like Punjab and Rajasthan have amended their APMC Acts to lease land over 15 years without alienating ownership. Large size land will lend for application of science, technology, farm mechanisation and holistic management.
ACMF suggests a six-step process, Krishi Shasthi, to improve productivity:
- Selection of the right crop that suits agro-climatic conditions.
- Test and correcting the soil.
- Use quality seeds.
- Optimise use of water and nutrients.
- Use appropriate mechanisation.
- Holistic management.
Such practices along with agglomeration of land will impart considerable strengths to farming. Crop diversification can be practised. Focus can be shifted from traditional crops like rice and wheat to pulses, oil seeds... This will reduce the huge imports of these.
India, has emerged a significant exporter cotton. It took 15 years (1982-97) for cotton yields in India to increase from 200 to 300 kg/hectare, but Bt-cotton boosted yields from 300 kg/hectare to over 500 kg/hectare during just 2002-08. We can bring about such a turnaround in other crops and to allied activities like animal husbandry, poultry....
Few states already received double digit growth...
High growth rates in agriculture are not just a dream. Several states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan have recorded impressive growth rates. It should, therefore, be possible to attempt such growths on a consistent basis.
Its fall out on the economy will be phenomenal in terms of much higher income levels in rural areas, higher purchasing power, accelerated economic growth and generation of massive surpluses for exports. The rural prosperity would also take care of improving skills and expanding employment in agro based and food processing industries, mechanisation of farming and massive opportunities in the services sector. This opportunity will address concerns over hi tech agriculture leading to loss of employment in farming. Rural India will find more employment in manufacturing and services sector with higher earning potential.
Rural prosperity will push for better services, which will eventually help in building a strong backbone for transporting farm produce to consumer’s plate. It will bring in better food processing techniques, needed cold storage and refrigerated transport.
With these alternatives for revenues, opportunities will increase. The whole rural life will graduate into higher quality.