Trends in Agricultural Productivity in India

Prior to Green revolution, the yield per hectare in India was low for all important crops. The introduction of modern agricultural practices and HYV seeds; there was a jump in the productivity of most food grains. The following table shows the per hectare yield of main food crops since 1950-51:

Crop 1950-51 1964-65 2010-11
Rice 7.1 10.8 22.4
Wheat 6.6 9.1 29.4
Coarse Cereals 4.3 5.1 14.18
Pulses 4.0 5.2 6.9
Data Quintal Per Hectare

The above table makes it clear that while robust yield growth was seen in Rice in pre-green revolution period; the same was seen in wheat in post-green revolution period.  In most of the other crops, the average annual growth yield has been low.

In comparison to other countries such as Brazil, US, Australia and China, productivity in crops, particularly food grains is very low in India. For example, India fields produce only a third of the wheat per hectare in comparison to France or half in comparison to China. Further, growth in productivity is also stagnant at around 2% per annum. There are several reasons behind low productivity including small land holdings; disguised unemployment; low marginal productivity;  inadequate modernization of agriculture; low skill development; increased cost of production; price risks; inadequate irrigation facilities; slow pace of land reforms; inefficient institutional delivery of credit; inefficient marketing of farm produce and so on.

To increase productivity, there is a need of significant and widespread improvements in agricultural practices because India does not have large swathes of land available for agriculture like Brazil. Whatever land area is available for farming is shrinking because of urbanisation; industrialisation and successive fragmentation of land holdings with each generation. Further, Agriculture and Land being state subjects under 7th schedule of the constitution; onus for increasing productivity is largely in state governments. Some improvements which can raise productivity include:

  • Introduction of better and efficient irrigation facilities
  • Promotion of agricultural mechanization which can help an average farmer to manage without hired labour.
  • Introduction and upgrading of large scale irrigation
  • Improve promotion and transport of farm produce
  • Remove problems in marketing of farm produce including addressing the issues around APMC act.
  • Improving storage facility, tenant security, supply of better quality seeds
  • Promote multiple cropping

Further, we must be more open and receptive to the idea of judicious experimenting and use of genetically modified (GM) crops provided they don’t bring disaster to already stressed farmers.