58% Indians work in the agricultural sector.
21% is agriculture’s contribution to GDP.
60% farmers own less than 2.5 acres of land.
1.8% is the growth rate of food grain production.
45% marginal farmers are indebted.
40% agri-subsidies go to fertilizer sector.
A Planning Commission approach paper for the 11th Five Year Plan concedes deceleration in agricultural growth from 3.2% between 1980 and 1996-97 to 1.5% subsequently.
The National Sample Survey Organisation estimates that 40% farmers would like to quit farming if they have the option to do so.
Government investment in agriculture has fallen from 14.9% in the earlier Five Year Plans to 5.2% in the current plan.
A Reserve Bank of India report says that bank lending for agriculture has declined from 15.9% in 1990 to 9.8% in 2003.
A Food and Agriculture Organisation study states that if 10 hectares of land are irrigated, employment increases from 8 to 24 persons.
From 1970 to 1999, the average size of holdings declined from 2.28 to 1.55 hectares and the proportion of landless farmers increased from 20% to 35%.
According to a 1999 report of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), an additional Rs100 billion invested in agricultural R&D would increase productivity growth by 6.98%. And every extra million spent on R&D would raise 91 poor people above the poverty line,
A 2005-06 Department of agricultural Research and Education report found a shortfall of 1819 scientists, and 1966 administrative, technical and supportive personnels.
India spends 0.31 % of its GDP on R&D, which is far below industrialized countries spending which ranges from 2.45 to 4.02%. Overall public research funding grew at 3.16% in the 1970s and 7.03% in 1980s, slowing to 4.61% in the 1990s, and further declining with the shift in public expenditure priorities in the post-liberalisation period.
A 2006 IFPRI publication ‘Agricultural R&D in the developing World: Too Little, Too Late’ finds that private research funding has grown at 7.5%, compared with 5.1% in the public sector over the same period accounting for 11% of total spent on agricultural research in 2000.
The FICCI Food and Beverage Study of 2006 estimates that 30% of the farm produce is being wasted every year due to the lack of infrastructure such as cold storages and refrigerated vans for procurement to reduce wastages and ensure freshness.
The yield per hectare for wheat and pulses is 2,600 kg and 600 kg respectively and has fallen from a high of 2,780 kg and 635 kg in FY2000.
India’s population has been rising at 1.6% per annum, which means that the growth in wheat and pulses production must also increase at this minimum rate to ensure that there are no supply bottlenecks.
Production of wheat in FY2005 and FY2006 was 68.4 million tonnes and 69.6 million tonnes, with a peak being attained in FY2000 at 76.4 million tonnes.
At a conservative level, if the post peak production base of FY01 is used as a benchmark when production was 69.7 million tonnes and a growth rate of 1.6% per annum is extrapolated forward, the total production should have been in the vicinity of 75 million tonnes.
At the current level of 68-69 million there is a deficit of around 5.5 million tones ( based on desired growth rate of 1.6%). Stocks had depleted from a high of over 26 million tonnes in March 2002 to 2 million tonnes in March 2006. (So import)
In case of pulses, the production has come down from a peak of 14.9 million tonnes in FY99 and FY04 to just 13.1 million tonnes in FY05 and FY06. Production based on an annual growth rate of 1.6% should be in the region of at least 14.8 million tones, based on a base of 13.4 million tonnes in FY00. (Is not the reason of higher prices?).
Solutions are obvious. India must invest in the agriculture sector, in R&D, in irrigation, intermediary-less sales of produce and effective information centers to provide answers to farmers’ queries. At least, the pending irrigation projects must get priority and get completed. We shall come back on some.