Factors Affecting Cropping Patterns in India

Crop pattern refers to the proportion of area under different crops at a particular period of time. A change in cropping pattern means a change in the proportion of area under different crops. It can be described in a number of ways but the most convenient method is to classify the agricultural production into two groups i.e. food grains and non-food grains. They have been discussed as below:

Cropping Pattern of Food-grain crops in India

India ranks second in world rice and wheat production, contributing to more than 21 percent and 11 percent of world rice and wheat output. Food grain constitutes 64 percent of the gross cropped area (GCA), although it accounts for less than 25 percent of the total value of output of agriculture and allied activities[1].

In India, there is an existing imbalance in the cropping pattern of the food grains because a large proportion of the area under food grains is occupied by cereals.

The food grains occupied an area of 97.32 million hectare (mha) in 1950-51 has increased to 126.74 mha in 2011-12. In these years, the area under cereals such as rice and wheat has grown but the same under course cereals and millets has decreased. The following table shows this[2]:

YearRiceWheatCoarse CerealsTotal CerealsPulsesTotal Food grains
1950-51 30.819.7537.6778.2319.0997.32

The above tables show that Rice is the major cereal crop among food grains and showed a gradual increase in the area and so also the wheat.  But coarse grains like Jowar, Bajra and Maize showed a de- cline in the percentage of the area.  If we study the area of cultivation of food grains and non-food grains, there was a gradual shift from non-food grains to food grains.

Reasons of imbalance in Crop Pattern

Prices of food grains have been rising quite fast and the farmers have started growing food crops in the similar way they grow commercial crops like cotton, oil seed crops sugarcane etc.  Cultivation of food grains has become highly remunerative and productive under the influence of new technology. Traditionally, the Minimum Support Prices for wheat and rice have been maintained reasonably high (in comparison to millets such as Jowar and Bajra[3]). This has helped the farmers to increase their production.

There has been a change in the consumption pattern and people have moved from coarse cereals to wheat and rice for their main dietary grain. This is because of the increase in the income of the people and coarse cereals being the inferior goods.

The strategic objectives of agricultural development in India have been changing over time. In 1960s, it was to maintain the prices of food grains at low level. The government significantly supported the growth of wheat and rice cultivation via its policy intervention, procurement and technology. In 1960s to 1980s, it was to maximize food production. In 1980s to 1990s, it was to go for a demand driven production pattern. Since 1990s, it was to reduce inputs of agricultural commodities.

Cropping pattern of non-food grains

Among non-food grain crops, oil seeds form an important group which also include other crops like cotton, jute, sugarcane, tobacco, tea, coffee, etc. The area has shown increasing and decreasing trends.

Sometimes there is an increase in the area and sometimes there is a decrease in the area but overall there was not much change in the area of cultivation.

Common Factors affecting cropping pattern in India

Geographical Features

Cropping pattern of any region depends upon geographical features as soil, climate, rainfall, etc.  Apart from this, it depends on the nature and availability of irrigation facilities.

Economic Motivations

Economic motivations are also important in determining the cropping pattern. The prices influence the acreage under the crops in two ways. Firstly, variations in the intercrop price disparities led to shifts in acreage between the crops.  Secondly, maintenance of a stable level of prices for a crop provides a better incentive to the producer to increase the opt put than what a very high level of price does, if there is no uncertainty of this level being maintained over a number of years.

Government Policies

Fixed procurement price of wheat and rice and other Government controls have induced farmers to shift the cultivation to cash crops like sugarcane. Farmers also would choose the combination of crops which would give them maximum income. Relative profitability per acre is the main consideration which influences the crop pattern. Small farmers are first interested in producing food grains for their requirements and devote only a small relative acreage to cash crops than large farmers. Food Crop Acts, Land use Acts, intensive schemes for paddy, cotton, oil seed etc. all these bring sharply into focus the possibility that while each individual measure may push the crop pattern in the direction intended to, but if the overall effect of all measures taken together on the entire crop pattern is taken, it may not be in accordance with national requirements.


[1] Triennium TE 2005/06; India, MoA 2010d

[2] Data: Ministry of agriculture.

[3] Jowar, Bajra, Maize, Ragi are under Minimum Support Prices.