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Agriculture in India

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Title: Agriculture in India  
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Subject: Irrigation in India, Economy of India, Famine in India, Science and technology in India, Green Revolution in India
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Agriculture in India

Major crops in various regions of India.
Agriculture has a significant role in socio-economic fabric of India. Here Sikh farmers are deploying a tractor and cane crusher to produce and distribute free cane juice on an Indian festival.
Several festivals relate to Agriculture in India. Holi - the festival of colours - is celebrated across north India as the coming of spring. It is celebrated with bonfires, meeting friends and strangers, playful painting each other with colours.
Farms in rural India. Most farms in India are small plots such as in this image.
A vegetable farm in Himachal Pradesh state.

The written history of agriculture in India dates back to the Rigveda, written about 1100 BC.[1] Today, India ranks second worldwide in farm output. Agriculture and allied sectors like forestry and fisheries accounted for 13.7% of the GDP(Gross Domestic Product) in 2013,[2] about 50% of the total workforce.[3][4] The economic contribution of agriculture to India's GDP is steadily declining with the country's broad-based economic growth. Still, agriculture is demographically the broadest economic sector and plays a significant role in the overall socio-economic fabric of India.


  • Overview 1
  • History 2
    • Agriculture and colonialism 2.1
    • Indian agriculture since 1947 2.2
  • Irrigation 3
  • Output 4
  • Problems 5
    • Infrastructure 5.1
    • Productivity 5.2
    • Farmer suicides 5.3
    • Diversion of agricultural land for non agricultural purpose 5.4
  • Initiatives 6
  • Maps 7
  • See also 8
  • Bibliography 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


As Per the 2010 [5] India is also one of the world's five largest producers of livestock and poultry meat, with one of the fastest growth rates, as of 2011.[6]

One report from 2008 claimed India's population is growing faster than its ability to produce rice and wheat.[7] Other recent studies claim India can easily feed its growing population, plus produce wheat and rice for global exports, if it can reduce food staple spoilage, improve its infrastructure and raise its farm productivity to those achieved by other developing countries such as Brazil and China.[8][9]

In fiscal year ending June 2011, with a normal monsoon season, Indian agriculture accomplished an all-time record production of 85.9 million tonnes of wheat, a 6.4% increase from a year earlier. Rice output in India also hit a new record at 95.3 million tonnes, a 7% increase from the year earlier.[10] Lentils and many other food staples production also increased year over year. Indian farmers, thus produced about 71 kilograms of wheat and 80 kilograms of rice for every member of Indian population in 2011. The per capita supply of rice every year in India is now higher than the per capita consumption of rice every year in Japan.[11]

India exported around 2 million metric tonnes of wheat and 2.1 million metric tonnes of rice in 2011 to Africa, Nepal, Bangladesh and other regions around the world.[10]

Aquaculture and catch fishery is amongst the fastest growing industries in India. Between 1990 and 2010, Indian fish capture harvest doubled, while aquaculture harvest tripled. In 2008, India was the world's sixth largest producer of marine and freshwater capture fisheries, and the second largest aquaculture farmed fish producer. India exported 600,000 metric tonnes of fish products to nearly half of all the world's countries.[12][13][14]

India has shown a steady average nationwide annual increase in the kilograms produced per hectare for various agricultural items, over the last 60 years. These gains have come mainly from India's

  • Agarwal, Ankit (2011), "Theory of Optimum Utilisation of Resources in agriculture during the Gupta Period", History Today 12, New Delhi, ISSN 2249-748X.
  • . New Delhi: Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, March 2012State of Indian Agriculture 2011-12
  • . U.S. Library of Congress.Indian Agriculture
  • Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture & Cooperation website
  • Indian Council for Agricultural Research Home Page.
  • Website of The Indian Farmers Association
  • Commodity Research, Food and Agribusiness, Commodity News and Analysis (in English) (based in India)
  • Agriculture Commodity Market News - Agri Commodity News, Rates, Daily Trading Prices, The Trade News Agency NNS - Daily commodity prices of Agricultural and Agri based Commodities from different Markets of India. Indian Agriculture Industry business to business (b2b) News and Directory (in English) (based in India)
  • Principal crops of India and problems with Indian agriculture A collection of statistics (from India Statistical Report, 2011) along with sections of this WorldHeritage article and YouTube videos.
  • Brighter Green Policy Paper: Veg or NonVeg, India at a Crossroads A December 2011 policy paper analysing the forces behind the rising consumption and production of meat, eggs, and dairy products in India, and the effects on India's people, environment, animals, and the global climate.
  • "India's farmers start to mechanize amid a labor shortage, increasing productivity. -". Retrieved 2013-10-30. 

External links

  1. ^ a b "The Story of India: a PBS documentary". Public Broadcasting Service, United States. 
  2. ^ Agriculture's share in GDP declines to 13.7% in 2012-13
  3. ^ "CIA Factbook: India".  
  4. ^ Staff, India Brand Equity Foundation Agriculture and Food in India Accessed 7 May 2013
  5. ^ a b "FAOSTAT, 2010 data". Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  6. ^ "Livestock and Poultry: World Markets & Trade". United States Department of Agriculture. October 2011. 
  7. ^ Sengupta, Somini (22 June 2008). "The Food Chain in Fertile India, Growth Outstrips Agriculture". New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  8. ^ a b "Rapid growth of select Asian economies". Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. 2009. 
  9. ^ a b "India Country Overview 2011". World Bank. 2011. 
  10. ^ a b "India Allows Wheat Exports for the First Time in Four Years". Bloomberg. 8 September 2011. 
  11. ^ "Fish and Rice in the Japanese Diet". Japan Review. 2006. 
  12. ^ "The state of world fisheries and acquaculture, 2010". FAO of the United Nations. 2010. 
  13. ^ "Export of marine products from India (see statistics section)". Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, India. 2008. 
  14. ^ "Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profiles: India". Food and Africulture Organisation of the United Nations. 2011. 
  15. ^ a b c "Handbook of Statistics on Indian Economy". Reserve Bank of India: India's Central Bank. 2011. 
  16. ^ "World Wheat, Corn and Rice". Oklahoma State University, FAOSTAT. 
  17. ^ "Indian retail: The supermarket's last frontier". The Economist. 3 December 2011. 
  18. ^ Sinha, R.K. (2010). "Emerging Trends, Challenges and Opportunities presentation, on publications page, see slides 7 through 21". National Seed Association of India. 
  19. ^ Fuller et al.; Korisettar, Ravi; Venkatasubbaiah, P.C.; Jones, Martink. (2004). "Early plant domestications in southern India: some preliminary archaeobotanical results". Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 13 (2): 115–129.  
  20. ^ Tamboli and Nene. "Science in India with Special Reference to Agriculture". Agri History. 
  21. ^ a b Gupta, page 57
  22. ^ Harris & Gosden, page 385
  23. ^ Lal, R. (August 2001). "Thematic evolution of ISTRO: transition in scientific issues and research focus from 1955 to 2000". Soil and Tillage Research 61 (1–2): 3–12 [3].  
  24. ^ a b agriculture, history of. Encyclopedia Britannica 2008.
  25. ^ Shaffer, pages 310-311
  26. ^ Iqtidar Husain Siddiqui, "Water Works and Irrigation System in India during Pre-Mughal Times", Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Feb., 1986), pp. 52–77.
  27. ^ Shaffer, page 315
  28. ^ Palat, page 63
  29. ^ Kumar, page 182
  30. ^ Roy 2006
  31. ^ Kumar 2006
  32. ^ George Rolph (1873). Something about sugar: its history, growth, manufacture and distribution. 
  33. ^ "Agribusiness Handbook: Sugar beet white sugar". Food and Agriculture Organisation, United Nations. 2009. 
  34. ^ "Sugarcane: Saccharum Offcinarum". USAID, Govt of United States. 2006. p. 7.1. 
  35. ^ Sidney Mintz (1986). Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin.  
  36. ^ "Indian indentured labourers". The National Archives, Government of the United Kingdom. 2010. 
  37. ^ "Forced Labour". The National Archives, Government of the United Kingdom. 2010. 
  38. ^ K Laurence (1994). A Question of Labour: Indentured Immigration Into Trinidad & British Guiana, 1875-1917. St Martin's Press.  
  39. ^ "St. Lucia's Indian Arrival Day". Caribbean Repeating Islands. 2009. 
  40. ^ Walton Lai (1993). Indentured labor, Caribbean sugar: Chinese and Indian migrants to the British West Indies, 1838-1918.  
  41. ^ Steven Vertovik (Robin Cohen, ed.) (1995). The Cambridge survey of world migration. pp. 57–68.  
  42. ^ The Government of Punjab (2004). Human Development Report 2004, Punjab (Report). Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 9 August 2011. Section: "The Green Revolution", pp. 17–20.
  43. ^ "Brief history of wheat improvement in India". Directorate of Wheat Research, ICAR India. 2011. 
  44. ^ "Sikkim to become a completely organic state by 2015". The Hindu. 9 September 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  45. ^ "Sikkim makes an organic shift". Times of India. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  46. ^ "Sikkim ‘livelihood schools' to promote organic farming". Hindu Business Line. 6 August 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  47. ^ "Sikkim races on organic route". Telegraph India. 12 December 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^ "What is the importance of Irrigation in India?". Retrieved 2013-10-30. 
  51. ^ "India: Basic Information". United States Department of Agriculture - Economic Research Service. August 2011. 
  52. ^ a b "FAOSTAT: Production-Crops, 2010 data". Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. 2011. 
  53. ^ Adam Cagliarini and Anthony Rush (June Quarter, 2011). "Bulletin: Economic Development and Agriculture in India". Reserve Bank of Australia. pp. 15–22. 
  54. ^ "Top Production India: 2009". FAOSTAT, The United Nations. 2009. 
  55. ^ The numbers in this column are India's average, metric tonnes per hectare per year; regional farm productivity within India varies. For milk and other produce, productivity is on per livestock animal basis.
  56. ^ The numbers in this column are country average; regional farm productivity within the most productive country varies, with some farms even higher.
  57. ^ a b c d e f g h Tonnes output per year per livestock animal
  58. ^ a b The unit is 100Mg per hen
  59. ^ a b c "Country Rank in the World, by commodity". Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. 2011. 
  60. ^ These are food and agriculture classification groups. For definition with list of botanical species covered under each classification, consult FAOSTAT of the United Nations; Link:
  61. ^ Data checks suggest there is difference between FAO's statistics office and Reserve Bank of India estimates; these differences are small, and may be because of the fiscal year start months.
  62. ^ L.P. Yuan (2010). "A Scientist's Perspective on Experience with SRI in CHINA for Raising the Yields of Super Hybrid Rice". 
  63. ^ "Indian farmer sets new world record in rice yield". The Philippine Star. 18 December 2011. 
  64. ^ "Grassroots heroes lead Bihar's rural revolution". India Today. 10 January 2012. 
  65. ^ "System of Rice Intensification". Cornell University. 2011. 
  66. ^ Global Tractor Market Analysis Available to AEM Members from Agrievolution Alliance Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Wisconsin, USA (2014)
  67. ^ India proves fertile ground for tractor makers The Financial Times (April 7 2014) (subscription required)
  68. ^ "India Country Overview 2008". World Bank. 2008. 
  69. ^ "SMALLHOLDER FARMERS IN INDIA: FOOD SECURITY AND AGRICULTURAL POLICY". Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. 2003. 
  70. ^ Production Crops - Yield by Country, FAO United Nations 2011
  71. ^ a b c d e Mahadevan, Renuka (December 2003). "PRODUCTIVITY GROWTH IN INDIAN AGRICULTURE: THE ROLE OF GLOBALISATION AND ECONOMIC REFORM". Asia-Pacific Development Journal 10 (2): 57–72. 
  72. ^ "Rapid growth of select Asian economies". Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. 2006. 
  73. ^ a b "India: Priorities for Agriculture and Rural Development". World Bank. 
  74. ^ Biello, David (2009-11-11). "Is Northwestern India's Breadbasket Running Out of Water?". Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  75. ^ Chauhan, Chetan (1 April 2014). "UN climate panel warns India of severe food, water shortage". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  76. ^ Multiple authors (2004). "Agricultural Statistics at a Glance 2004". 
  77. ^ Sankaran, S. "28". Indian Economy: Problems, Policies and Development. pp. 492–493. 
  78. ^ "Satellites Unlock Secret To Northern India's Vanishing Water". 2009-08-19. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  79. ^ "Columbia Conference on Water Security in India" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  80. ^ Keepers of the spring: reclaiming our water in an age of globalisation, By Fred Pearce, page 77. 2004-11-01.  
  81. ^ Zakaria, Fareed. "Zakaria: Is India the broken BRIC?" CNN, 21 December 2011.
  82. ^ a b National Crime Reports Bureau, ADSI Report Annual – 2012 Government of India, Page 242, Table 2.11
  83. ^ Nagraj, K. (2008). "Farmers suicide in India: magnitudes, trends and spatial patterns". 
  84. ^ Gruère, G. & Sengupta, D. (2011), Bt cotton and farmer suicides in India: an evidence-based assessment, The Journal of Development Studies, 47(2), 316–337
  85. ^ Schurman, R. (2013), Shadow space: suicides and the predicament of rural India, Journal of Peasant Studies, 40(3), 597–601
  86. ^ Das, A. (2011), Farmers’ suicide in India: implications for public mental health, International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 57(1), 21–29
  90. ^ ‘Prohibiting the use of agricultural land for industries is ultimately self-defeating’ The Telegraph
  91. ^ ‘Prohibiting the use of agricultural land for industries is ultimately self-defeating’ The Telegraph
  92. ^ ‘Prohibiting the use of agricultural land for industries is ultimately self-defeating’ The Telegraph
  93. ^ Agriculture marketing Retrieved on February 2008
  94. ^ Objectives Indian agricultural research institute, Retrieved on December 2007
  95. ^ Farmers Commission
  96. ^ " Drought fears loom in India as monsoon stalls." al Jazeera, 5 August 2012.


  • George A. Grierson (1885). Bihar Peasant Life. Bengal Secretariat Press, Calcutta. 


See also


In the summer of 2012, the subsidised electricity for pumping, which has caused an alarming drop in aquifer levels, put additional strain on the country's electrical grid due to a 19% drop in monsoon rains, and may have helped contribute to a blackout across much of the country. In response the state of Bihar offered farmers over $100 million in subsidised diesel to operate their pumps.[96]

In November 2011, India announced major reforms in organised retail. These reforms would include logistics and retail of agricultural produce. The reform announcement led to major political controversy. The reforms were placed on hold by the Indian government in December 2011.

Recently Government of India has set up Farmers Commission to completely evaluate the agriculture programme.[95] However the recommendations have had a mixed reception.

The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), established in 1905, was responsible for the search leading to the "Indian Green Revolution" of the 1970s. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is the apex body in agriculture and related allied fields, including research and education.[94] The Union Minister of Agriculture is the President of the ICAR. The Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute develops new techniques for the design of agricultural experiments, analyses data in agriculture, and specialises in statistical techniques for animal and plant breeding.

The required level of investment for the development of marketing, storage and cold storage infrastructure is estimated to be huge. The government has not been able to implement various schemes to raise investment in marketing infrastructure. Among these schemes are Construction of Rural Godowns, Market Research and Information Network, and Development / Strengthening of Agricultural Marketing Infrastructure, Grading and Standardisation.[93]

Viticulture farms in Maharashtra.
Coffee farms in Tamil Nadu.


Amartya Sen offers the counter viewpoint, stating[90] that prohibiting the use of agricultural land for commercial and industrial development is ultimately self-defeating. He states that agriculture land may be better suited for non-agriculture purposes if industrial production could generate many times more than the value of the product produced by agriculture.[91] Sen suggests India needs to bring productive industry everywhere, wherever there are advantages of production, market needs and the locational preferences of managers, engineers, technical experts as well as unskilled labour because of education, healthcare and other infrastructure. Instead of government controlling land allocation based on soil characteristics, the market economy should determine productive allocation of land.[92]

Indian National Policy for Farmers (2007)[87] calls for "prime farmland must be conserved for agriculture except under exceptional circumstances, provided that the agencies that are provided with agricultural land for non-agricultural projects should compensate for treatment and full development of equivalent degraded or wastelands elsewhere". The policy suggests that, as far as possible, land with low farming yields and potential should be earmarked for non-agricultural purposes such as construction and industrial parks.[88] Uncultivable land affected by salinity and acidity and similar quality problems should, suggests the National Policy for Farmers, where possible, be targeted for commercial development.[89]

Diversion of agricultural land for non agricultural purpose

In 2012, the National Crime Records Bureau of India reported 13,754 farmer suicides.[82] Farmer suicides account for 11.2% of all suicides in India.[82][83] Activists and scholars have offered a number of conflicting reasons for farmer suicides, such as monsoon failure, high debt burdens, genetically modified crops, government policies, public mental health, personal issues and family problems.[84][85][86]

Farmer suicides

  • The average size of land holdings is very small (less than 2 hectares) and is subject to fragmentation due to land ceiling acts, and in some cases, family disputes. Such small holdings are often over-manned, resulting in disguised unemployment and low productivity of labour. Some reports claim smallholder farming may not be cause of poor productivity, since the productivity is higher in China and many developing economies even though China smallholder farmers constitute over 97% of its farming population.[72] Chinese smallholder farmer is able to rent his land to larger farmers, China's organised retail and extensive Chinese highways are able to provide the incentive and infrastructure necessary to its farmers for sharp increases in farm productivity.
  • Adoption of modern agricultural practices and use of technology is inadequate, hampered by ignorance of such practices, high costs and impracticality in the case of small land holdings.
  • According to the World Bank, Indian Branch: Priorities for Agriculture and Rural Development", India's large agricultural subsidies are hampering productivity-enhancing investment. Overregulation of agriculture has increased costs, price risks and uncertainty. Government intervenes in labour, land, and credit markets. India has inadequate infrastructure and services.[73] World Bank also says that the allocation of water is inefficient, unsustainable and inequitable. The irrigation infrastructure is deteriorating.[73] The overuse of water is currently being covered by over pumping aquifers, but as these are falling by foot of groundwater each year, this is a limited resource.[74] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that food security may be a big problem in the region post 2030.[75]
  • Illiteracy, general socio-economic backwardness, slow progress in implementing land reforms and inadequate or inefficient finance and marketing services for farm produce.
  • Inconsistent government policy. Agricultural subsidies and taxes often changed without notice for short term political ends.
  • Irrigation facilities are inadequate, as revealed by the fact that only 52.6% of the land was irrigated in 2003–04,[76] which result in farmers still being dependent on rainfall, specifically the Monsoon season. A good monsoon results in a robust growth for the economy as a whole, while a poor monsoon leads to a sluggish growth.[77] Farm credit is regulated by NABARD, which is the statutory apex agent for rural development in the subcontinent. At the same time overpumping made possible by subsidised electric power is leading to an alarming drop in aquifer levels.[78][79][80]
  • A third of all food that is produced rots due to inefficient supply chains and the use of the "Walmart model" to improve efficiency is blocked by laws against foreign investment in the retail sector.[81]

The low productivity in India is a result of the following factors:

One study suggests Indian agricultural policy should best focus on improving rural infrastructure primarily in the form of irrigation and flood control infrastructure, knowledge transfer of better yielding and more disease resistant seeds. Additionally, cold storage, hygienic food packaging and efficient modern retail to reduce waste can improve output and rural incomes.[71]

The Indian food distribution system is highly inefficient. Movement of agricultural produce within India is heavily regulated, with inter-state and even inter-district restrictions on marketing and movement of agricultural goods.[71]

Crop yields for some farms within India are within 90% of the best achieved yields by farms in developed countries such as the United States and in European Union. No single state of India is best in every crop. Tamil Nadu achieved highest yields in rice and sugarcane, Haryana in wheat and coarse grains, Karnataka in cotton, Bihar in pulses, while other states do well in horticulture, aquaculture, flower and fruit plantations. These differences in agricultural productivity within India are a function of local infrastructure, soil quality, micro-climates, local resources, farmer knowledge and innovations.[71]

Crop[71] Average farm yield in Bihar Average farm yield in Karnataka Average farm yield in Punjab
kilogram per hectare kilogram per hectare kilogram per hectare
Wheat 2020 unknown 3880
Rice 1370 2380 3130
Pulses 610 470 820
Oil seeds 620 680 1200
Sugarcane 45510 79560 65300

Yields for various crops vary significantly between Indian states. Some Indian states produce two to three times more grain per acre than in other Indian states. The table compares the statewide average yields for a few major agricultural crops within India, for 2001-2002.[71]

By contrast Indian farms in some regions post the best yields, for sugarcane, cassava and tea crops.[70]

India has very poor rural roads affecting timely supply of inputs and timely transfer of outputs from Indian farms. Irrigation systems are inadequate leading to crop failures in some parts of the country because of lack of water. In other areas regional floods, poor seed quality and inefficient farming practices, lack of cold storage and harvest spoilage cause over 30% of farmer's produce going to waste, lack of wheat farms, for example, produce about a third of the wheat per hectare per year compared to farms in France. Rice productivity in India was less than half that of China. Other staples productivity in India is similarly low. Indian total factor productivity growth remains below 2% per annum; in contrast, China's total factor productivity growths is about 6% per annum, even though China also has smallholding farmers. Several studies suggest India could eradicate hunger and malnutrition within India, and be a major source of food for the world by achieving productivity comparable with other countries.


[69] A 2003 analysis of India’s agricultural growth from 1970 to 2001 by the

"With a population of just over 1.2 billion, India is the world’s largest democracy. In the past decade, the country has witnessed accelerated economic growth, emerged as a global player with the world’s fourth largest economy in purchasing power parity terms, and made progress towards achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals. India’s integration into the global economy has been accompanied by impressive economic growth that has brought significant economic and social benefits to the country. Nevertheless, disparities in income and human development are on the rise. Preliminary estimates suggest that in 2009-10 the combined all India poverty rate was 32 % compared to 37 % in 2004-05. Going forward, it will be essential for India to build a productive, competitive, and diversified agricultural sector and facilitate rural, non-farm entrepreneurship and employment. Encouraging policies that promote competition in agricultural marketing will ensure that farmers receive better prices."
—World Bank: "India Country Overview 2011"[9]
"Slow agricultural growth is a concern for policymakers as some two-thirds of India’s people depend on rural employment for a living. Current agricultural practices are neither economically nor environmentally sustainable and India's yields for many agricultural commodities are low. Poorly maintained irrigation systems and almost universal lack of good extension services are among the factors responsible. Farmers' access to markets is hampered by poor roads, rudimentary market infrastructure, and excessive regulation."
—World Bank: "India Country Overview 2008"[68]
Since 2002, India has become the world's largest manufacturer of tractors with 29% of world's output in 2013; it is also the world's largest tractor market.[66][67] Above a tractor in use in north India.
Indian agriculture includes a mix of traditional to modern farming techniques. In some parts of India, traditional use of cattle to plough farms remains in use. Traditional farms have some of the lowest per capita productivities and farmer incomes.
India lacks cold storage, food packaging as well as safe and efficient rural transport system. This causes one of the world's highest food spoilage rates, particularly during Indian monsoons and other adverse weather conditions. Food travels to the Indian consumer through a slow and inefficient chain of traders. Indian consumers buy agricultural produce in suburban markets known as 'sabzi mandi' such as one shown or from roadside vendors.
A rural market in India - farmers with limited marketing options sell their surplus produce


India and China are competing to establish the world record on rice yields. Yuan Longping of China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Centre, China, set a world record for rice yield in 2010 at 19 tonnes per hectare in a demonstration plot. In 2011, this record was surpassed by an Indian farmer, Sumant Kumar, with 22.4 tonnes per hectare in Bihar, also in a demonstration plot. Both these farmers claim to have employed newly developed rice breeds and System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a recent innovation in rice farming. The claimed Chinese and Indian yields have yet to be demonstrated on 7 hectare farm lots and that these are reproducible over two consecutive years on the same farm.[62][63][64][65]

Agriculture productivity in India, growth in average yields from 1970 to 2010
Crop[15] Average YIELD, 1970-1971 Average YIELD, 1990-1991 Average YIELD, 2010–2011
kilogram per hectare kilogram per hectare kilogram per hectare[61]
Rice 1123 1740 2240
Wheat 1307 2281 2938
Pulses 524 578 689
Oilseeds 579 771 1325
Sugarcane 48322 65395 68596
Tea 1182 1652 1669
Cotton 106 225 510

In addition to growth in total output, agriculture in India has shown an increase in average agricultural output per hectare in last 60 years. The table below presents average farm productivity in India over three farming years for some crops. Improving road and power generation infrastructure, knowledge gains and reforms has allowed India to increase farm productivity between 40% to 500% over 40 years.[15] India's recent accomplishments in crop yields while being impressive, are still just 30% to 60% of the best crop yields achievable in the farms of developed as well as other developing countries. Additionally, despite these gains in farm productivity, losses after harvest due to poor infrastructure and unorganised retail cause India to experience some of the highest food losses in the world.

In 2009, India was the world's third largest producer of eggs, oranges, coconuts, tomatoes, peas and beans.[59]

  • Wheat
  • Rice
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Sugar cane
  • Groundnuts, with shell
  • Lentils
  • Garlic
  • Cauliflowers and broccoli
  • Peas, green
  • Sesame seed
  • Cashew nuts, with shell
  • Silk-worm cocoons, reelable
  • Cow milk, whole, fresh
  • Tea
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Cotton lint
  • Cottonseed
  • Eggplants (aubergines)
  • Nutmeg, mace and cardamoms
  • Indigenous Goat Meat
  • Cabbages and other brassicas
  • Pumpkins, squash and gourds

Per final numbers for 2009, India is the world's second largest producer of the following agricultural products:[59]

  • Fresh Fruit
  • Lemons and limes
  • Buffalo milk - whole, fresh
  • Castor oil seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sorghum
  • Millet
  • Spices
  • Okra
  • Jute
  • Beeswax
  • Bananas
  • Mangoes, mangosteens, guavas
  • Pulses
  • Indigenous Buffalo Meat
  • Fruit, tropical
  • Ginger
  • Chick peas
  • Areca nuts
  • Other Bastfibres
  • Pigeon peas
  • Papayas
  • Chillies and peppers, dry
  • Anise, badian, fennel, coriander
  • Goat milk, whole, fresh

The Statistics Office of the Food and Agriculture Organisation reported that, per final numbers for 2009, India had grown to become the world's largest producer of the following agricultural products:[59][60]

Agriculture in India, largest crops by economic value[54]
Economic value Unit price Average yield, India
World's most productive farms
Rank Product (2009 prices, US$) (US$ / kilogram) (tonnes per hectare)[55] (tonnes per hectare)[56] Country
1 Rice $38.42 billion 0.27 3.3 10.8 Australia
2 Buffalo milk $24.86 billion 0.4 1.7[57] 1.9[57] Pakistan
3 Cow milk $17.13 billion 0.31 1.2[57] 10.3[57] Israel
4 Wheat $12.14 billion 0.15 2.8 8.9 Netherlands
5 Mangoes $9 billion 0.6 6.3 40.6 Cape Verde
6 Sugar cane $8.92 billion 0.03 66 125 Peru
7 Bananas $8.38 billion 0.28 37.8 59.3 Indonesia
8 Cotton $8.13 billion 1.43 1.6 4.6 Israel
9 Fresh Vegetables $5.97 billion 0.19 13.4 76.8 USA
10 Potatoes $5.67 billion 0.15 19.9 44.3 USA
11 Tomatoes $4.59 billion 0.37 19.3 524.9 Belgium
12 Buffalo meat $4 billion 2.69 0.138[57] 0.424[57] Thailand
13 Soyabean $3.33 billion 0.26 1.1 3.7 Turkey
14 Onions $3.17 billion 0.21 16.6 67.3 Ireland
15 Chicken Meat $3.12 billion 0.64 10.6 20.2 Cyprus
16 Chick peas $3.11 billion 0.4 0.9 2.8 China
17 Okra $3.07 billion 0.35 7.6 23.9 Israel
18 Cattle Meat $2.93 billion 0.83 13.8[58] 24.7[58] Jordan
19 Eggs $2.80 billion 2.7 0.1[57] 0.42[57] Japan
20 Beans $2.57 billion 0.42 1.1 5.5 Nicaragua

The following table presents the twenty most important agricultural products in India, by economic value, in 2009. Included in the table is the average productivity of India's farms for each produce. For context and comparison, included is the average of the most productive farms in the world and name of country where the most productive farms existed in 2010. The table suggests India has large potential for further accomplishments from productivity increases, in increased agricultural output and agricultural incomes.[52][53]

As of 2011, India had a large and diverse agricultural sector, accounting, on average, for about 16% of GDP and 10% of export earnings. India's arable land area of 159.7 million hectares (394.6 million acres) is the second largest in the world, after the United States. Its gross irrigated crop area of 82.6 million hectares (215.6 million acres) is the largest in the world. India is among the top three global producers of many crops, including wheat, rice, pulses, cotton, peanuts, fruits and vegetables. Worldwide, as of 2011, India had the largest herds of buffalo and cattle, is the largest producer of milk and has one of the largest and fastest growing poultry industries.[51]

India has some of the world's best agricultural yields in its tea plantations. A tea estate in Kerala state.
Amul - an integrated dairy with milk processing plant in Gujarat state.
A mustard farm in Rajasthan state.
A panoramic view of a rice, cassava and banana farm in Kerala state.
The changing face of Indian agriculture - formation of larger farms and adoption of wind power generation technologies.
Indian agriculture is diverse, ranging from impoverished farm villages to developed farms utilising modern agricultural technologies. This image shows a farming community in a more prosperous part of India.


Irrigation in India refers to the supply of water from Indian rivers, tanks, wells, canals and other artificial projects for the purpose of cultivation and agricultural activities. In country such as India, 64% of cultivated land is dependent on monsoons.[1] The economic significance of irrigation in India is namely, to reduce over dependence on monsoons, advanced agricultural productivity, bringing more land under cultivation, reducing instability in output levels, creation of job opportunities, electricity and transport facilities, control of floods and prevention of droughts.[50]


Two states, Sikkim[44][45][46][47] and Kerala[48][49] have planned to shift to a fully organic farming by 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan has played a vital role in the green revolution. Last year (2013) NDTV awarded his 25 living legend of India for outstanding contribution to agriculture and making India a food sovereign country.

India's agricultural economy is undergoing structural changes. Between 1970 and 2011, the GDP share of agriculture has fallen from 43 to 16%. This isn't because of reduced importance of agriculture, or a consequence of agricultural policy. This is largely because of the rapid economic growth in services, industrial output, and non-agricultural sectors in India between 2000 to 2010.

With agricultural policy success in wheat, India's Green Revolution technology spread to rice. However, since irrigation infrastructure was very poor, Indian farmer innovated with tube-wells, to harvest ground water. When gains from the new technology reached their limits in the states of initial adoption, the technology spread in the 1970s and 1980s to the states of eastern India — Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal. The lasting benefits of the improved seeds and new technology extended principally to the irrigated areas which account for about one-third of the harvested crop area. In the 1980s, Indian agriculture policy shifted to "evolution of a production pattern in line with the demand pattern" leading to a shift in emphasis to other agricultural commodities like oilseed, fruit and vegetables. Farmers began adopting improved methods and technologies in dairying, fisheries and livestock, and meeting the diversified food needs of India's growing population. As with Rice, the lasting benefits of improved seeds and improved farming technologies now largely depends on whether India develops infrastructure such as irrigation network, flood control systems, reliable electricity production capacity, all season rural and urban highways, cold storage to prevent food spoilage, modern retail, and competitive buyers of produce from the Indian farmer. This is increasingly the focus of Indian agriculture policy.

Men and women at work in rice paddy fields in Tamil Nadu

The initial increase in production was centred on the irrigated areas of the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. With both the farmers and the government officials focusing on farm productivity and knowledge transfer, India's total foodgrain production soared. A hectare of Indian wheat farms that produced an average of 0.8 tonnes in 1948, produced 4.7 tonnes of wheat in 1975 from the same land. Such rapid growths in farm productivity enabled India to become self-sufficient by the 1970s. It also empowered the smallholder farmers to seek further means to increase food staples produced per hectare. By 2000, Indian farms were adopting wheat varieties capable of yielding 6 tonnes of wheat per hectare.[8][43]

Prior to the mid-1960s India relied on imports and food aid to meet domestic requirements. However, two years of severe drought in 1965 and 1966 convinced India to reform its agricultural policy, and that India could not rely on foreign aid and foreign imports for food security. India adopted significant policy reforms focused on the goal of foodgrain self-sufficiency. This ushered in India's Green Revolution. It began with the decision to adopt superior yielding, disease resistant wheat varieties in combination with better farming knowledge to improve productivity. The Indian state of Punjab led India's green revolution and earned itself the distinction of being the country's bread basket.[42]

In the years since its independence, India has made immense progress towards food security. Indian population has tripled, but food-grain production more than quadrupled: there has thus been substantial increase in available food-grain per capita.

Cotton flower in India. This is a cash crop in central India.

Indian agriculture since 1947

Prior to 18th century, cultivation of sugar cane was largely confined to India. A few merchants began to trade in sugar - a luxury and an expensive spice in Europe until the 18th century. Sugar became widely popular in 18th-century Europe, then graduated to becoming a human necessity in the 19th century all over the world. This evolution of taste and demand for sugar as an essential food ingredient unleashed major economic and social changes. Sugarcane does not grow in cold, frost-prone climate; therefore, tropical and semitropical colonies were sought. Sugarcane plantations, just like cotton farms, became a major driver of large and forced human migrations in 19th century and early 20th century - of people from Africa and from India, both in millions - influencing the ethnic mix, political conflicts and cultural evolution of various Caribbean, South American, Indian Ocean and Pacific island nations.[35][36] The history and past accomplishments of Indian agriculture thus influenced, in part, colonialism, first slavery and then slavery-like indentured labor practices in the new world, Caribbean wars and the world history in 18th and 19th centuries.[37][38][39][40][41]

Over 2500 years ago, Indian farmers had discovered and begun farming many spices and sugarcane. It was in India, between the sixth and fourth centuries BC, that the Persians, followed by the Greeks, discovered the famous “reeds that produce honey without bees” being grown. These were locally called साखर, pronounced as saccharum (ζάκχαρι). On their return journey, the Macedonian soldiers carried the "honey bearing reeds," thus spreading sugar and sugarcane agriculture.[32][33] People in India had also invented, by about 500 BC, the process to produce sugar crystals. In the local language, these crystals were called khanda (खण्ड), which is the source of the word candy.[34]

Agriculture and colonialism

The middle ages saw irrigation channels reach a new level of sophistication in India and Indian crops affecting the economies of other regions of the world under Islamic patronage.[26][27] Land and water management systems were developed with an aim of providing uniform growth.[28][29] Despite some stagnation during the later modern era the independent Republic of India was able to develop a comprehensive agricultural programme.[30][31]

Some claim Indian agriculture began by 9000 BP as a result of early cultivation of plants, and domestication of crops and animals.[21] Settled life soon followed with implements and techniques being developed for agriculture.[22][23] Double monsoons led to two harvests being reaped in one year.[24] Indian products soon reached the world via existing trading networks and foreign crops were introduced to India.[24][25] Plants and animals—considered essential to their survival by the Indians—came to be worshiped and venerated.[21]

Vedic literature provides some of the earliest written record of agriculture in India. Rigveda hymns, for example, describes plowing, fallowing, irrigation, fruit and vegetable cultivation. Other historical evidence suggests rice and cotton were cultivated in the Indus Valley, and plowing patterns from the Bronze Age have been excavated at Kalibangan in Rajasthan.[1] Bhumivargaha, another ancient Indian Sanskrit text, suggested to be 2500 years old, classifies agricultural land into twelve categories: urvara (fertile), ushara (barren), maru (desert), aprahata (fallow), shadvala (grassy), pankikala (muddy), jalaprayah (watery), kachchaha (land contiguous to water), sharkara (full of pebbles and pieces of limestone), sharkaravati (sandy), nadimatruka (land watered from a river), and devamatruka (rainfed). Some archaeologists believe rice was a domesticated crop along the banks of the Indian river ganges in the sixth millennium BC. So were species of winter cereals (barley, oats, and wheat) and legumes (lentil and chickpea) grown in Northwest India before the sixth millennium BC. Other crops cultivated in India 3000 to 6000 years ago, include sesame, linseed, safflower, mustards, castor, mung bean, black gram, horse gram, pigeonpea, field pea, grass pea (khesari), fenugreek, cotton, jujube, grapes, dates, jackfruit, mango, mulberry, and black plum. Indian peasants had also domesticated cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs and horses thousands of years ago. Some scientists claim agriculture in India was widespread in the Indian peninsula, some 3000–5000 years ago, well beyond the fertile plains of the north. For example, one study reports twelve sites in the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh providing clear evidence of agriculture of pulses (Vigna radiata and Macrotyloma uniflorum), millet-grasses (Brachiaria ramosa and Setaria verticillata), wheats (Triticum dicoccum, Triticum durum/aestivum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus), pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), finger millet (Eleusine coracana), cotton (Gossypium sp.), linseed (Linum sp.), as well as gathered fruits of Ziziphus and two Cucurbitaceae.[19][20]



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