Although Indian Agriculture has come a long way, there are certain implications that have to be addressed for national and nutritional security. Our population is expected to be 1.4 billion by 2020. The increasing population, coupled with growing income will generate increased demand for food grains and non-food grain crops. Therefore, Indian agriculture has to achieve a higher growth rate targeted at 4 per cent per annum on a sustainable basis. Acceleration of growth of this sector will not only push the overall GDP growth upwards, it would also make the growth more inclusive.
Since increase in net sown area has flattened out, further increase in agriculture production needs to come through an increase in gross cropped area (multiple cropping), coverage of area under irrigation and improvement in the productivity levels.
Agriculture sector needs well functioning markets to drive growth, employment and economic prosperity in rural areas of the country. To provide dynamism and efficiency into the marketing system, large investments are required for the development of post-harvest and cold chain infrastructure nearer to the farmers’ fields.
Indian agriculture also has to diversify into high-value crops, raise productivity, restore soil health and enhance the application of modern technologies including biotechnology.
Human resource development of the persons engaged in agriculture is necessary not only to have greater penetration of better technology but also because new skill sets would be necessary to enable underemployed labour in this sector to get absorbed in other fast growing sectors.
The Department of Agriculture and Cooperation is working on strategies to achieve 4 per cent annual growth rate. These include focus on potential areas, regionally-differentiated strategies, crop diversification and the scientific management of natural resources.
New initiatives in the form of National Food Security Mission and Rashtriya Kriski Vikas Yojana have been taken to rejuvenate this sector. The sector will benefit immensely from these policy interventions.
The long-term policy framework at broad sectoral level needs to be strengthened and focused on improving inter- and intra-sectoral linkages. In addition, there is a need to build an outcome oriented perspective in the implementation of public programmes in the area of irrigation, fertilizers, use of high-yielding varieties of seeds, extension support for facilitating adoption of improved practices, and market access.
While public investment in agriculture may not have kept pace with the requirements of the sector, food and fertilizer subsidies have supported the agriculture sector. There may be a need for better targeting of these subsidies with a view to optimize the resource allocation and returns there from.
Increasing farm incomes is also necessary for an equitable growth. Further, with uncertainties in global markets and hardening of the international prices of food, fuels and edible oils, domestic price stability and food security critically depend on growth in this sector. This necessitates working out the forward and backward linkages that enhance productivity through balanced allocation and better utilization of available resources at all levels of implementation and quantifying output per unit of resource used.