Agriculture in India: A to-do-list by Marcos Fava Neves


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India has a large proportion of arable land, 180 million hectares, almost 60% of the land existing (330 million hectares of surface) and produces the second largest crop in the world. It is a very challenging land structure, since almost 75% of the land is in properties of less than 5 ha, and as average, one to two hectares per farming family. Imagine land ownership in the future, dividing this area with some children. Agriculture is strongly dependent on the Monsoon and the amount of rain that it will bring. The Monsoon is the direct responsible for the amount of income available in a particular year.

We can find a great diversity of climates, allowing several products to be produced. India, after China, is the second largest producer of rice and wheat, fruits and vegetables. Rice is a major crop, occupying 44 million hectares and producing more than 90 million tons. Wheat also is an important product, with more than 80 million tons per year. Corn occupies 8 million hectares. India is among the world’s five largest producers of 80% of the crops (agriculture produce items).

Agriculture has seen a huge development due to adoption of technology. Grain production jumped from 50 million tons in 1950 to more than 250 million tons in 2012. Irrigated area in India went from around 20 million ha in 1950 to 65 million in 2010. By 2012, around 17% of India’s agricultural output is exported and it still is the primary occupation of 52% of local population. But due to this population growth, per capita availability of grains fell 10 kg in ten years.

Several challenges face the fast development of agriculture in India. In the innovation process, according to companies interviewed, the regulatory systems are an issue, taking long time to register products. The challenge of urban areas advancing over farming areas and labor costs increased 50% in the last two years since the service sector is attracting people previously available for agriculture. Although India has a lot of water, it is also becoming an issue, due to pollution, usage by its growing population and other challenges.

Productivity of Indian agriculture is still very low and this means that several growth possibilities are possible. In China, the average size of properties is half the size of India, but productivity is the double in most crops. India produces as average, 50, 60% of the world’s benchmark in each crop, meaning that it is possible to improve production in India, using the same land.

This is a draft for the strategic agenda of Indian’s agriculture for competitiveness. It is not different from most of the countries. It involves:

  1. Increase in social improvement programs – it was said about a desire to increase social security programs with a focus more on investments and less on subsidies, to make these programs more sustainable.
  2. Research and development – attract more private investments to research, considering local specificities and farmers needs, more private and public partnerships, research driven to reduce countries disparities, promoting more extension to reach farmers with innovation outputs. Increasing research towards water uncertainty.
  3. Human capital – increase youth health, nutrition and education, capacity building for agriculture and also vocational training.
  4. More value capture and diversification – intensification of crops (from grains to poultry), diversification to crops where lands could be more used and supply more value (from sugar cane to horticulture and fruit production) and efforts to improve collective actions of farmers.
  5. Infrastructure – improve in investments of rural infrastructure, build more storage capacity, water storage capacity, stock operation and policies, improvement of cold chains, among others.
  6. Increase in agricultural production – increase in yields, modern farm technology, storage and waste, irrigation, access to credit, land lease and land management, more mechanization (improving number of tractors, harvesters, and other equipment)
  7. Institutional environment – gradually move to a less regulated and more market driven agricultural chains, with clear, efficient and better managed organizations promoting institutional development.

India is a fascinating country. I really think that it is in India that we will see real and fast changes in the world. Even with the chances to increase agricultural output due to more productivity, with the growth expected for the next 10-15 years in the income and population, huge urbanization and minimum wage and social support programs, I believe India tends to strongly increase its participation in world food imports and definitely will be one of the superpowers in world economy, GDP, products and services trade.

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