KR Sreenivasan, Founder, Director at Infoholic Research tells Sarika Malhotra about the many daunting problems that have infested Indian agriculture by its root.
How would you compare India's per acre productivity with global standards? Is it one of the lowest in the world?
Indian per acre productivity is not the lowest in the world, but on an average scale, it is below par. The country is known for its agriculture as 60 per cent of the land in India is being used for growing crops. India has around 157.35 million hectares of land; nevertheless still, it produces fewer crops compared to other countries. According to the recent FAO report, the average yield of rice in India is 2.3 tonne/hectare against the global average of 4.4 tonne/hectare. China, being the largest producer of rice, has an output of 197 million tonne and a per-hectare yield of 6.5 tonne; Australia produces 10.1 tonne, the US produces 7.5 tonne and Russia produces 5.2 tonne. Compared to a global standard of 3.0 tonne/hectare of wheat, India recorded an average yield of 2.9 tonne per hectare. Yet, it is not even close to countries such as France with 7-tonne production, the US with 3.11-tonne production and China with 4.8-tonne production. The scarcity of water, lack of high-skilled farmers, use of advanced technology and lack of availability of high-yield varieties of seeds are some of the major causes of the low per acre productivity of crops in the country. The Indian government has started working on areas such as nanotechnology and stem cell, helping in improving the productivity of the crops.
What lessons can India learn for global peers while formulating its agriculture policy?
India's agriculture sector plays a major role in the Indian economy as more than 60 per cent of the population is dependent on the agriculture and the agriculture-related sector in India. India was one of the fastest growing economies in the world in FY 2015/16, but the agriculture sector growth rate was comparatively slow. Although, the recent budget focused on the enlistment of the agriculture sector in the coming years, but still the sector is far behind in terms of technology usage and basic facilities available to the farmers in the other parts of the globe. As published by Infoholic Research in the report titled 'Advanced Farming Market - Global Market Drivers, Opportunities, Trends, and Forecasts, 2016-2022', farmers in the US and Europe are practicing the latest IoT-driven farming techniques that include utilising cloud-based farming analytics tools and adopting drone technology for improving the crop yield and crop production. Similarly, the other Asian countries such as China and Australia have started adopting smart agriculture solutions for weather analysis, crop analysis and soil analysis. Thus, India can adopt smart agriculture techniques in order to increase the crop yield and should also start farmer educating programs.
What impact is climate change having on crop yield?
Climate change has a direct impact on the crop yield. Phalodi city in Rajasthan touched 51 degrees centigrade in May 2016. Such a rise in temperature can damage crops on a large scale. Also calamities such as drought, flood and cyclone have started occurring even frequently. Even though the visible implication is quite less on current crops, but in future it can be disastrous with a rise in the global temperature. There are several models on which production of crop yields can be affected by global warming. For example, Crop Environment Resource Synthesis (CERES), Soil, Water, Atmosphere and Plant (SWAP), Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) and General Large Area Model (GLAM). Increased CO2 and other greenhouse gases along with the scorching heat can directly impact the yield of rice, wheat, pulses and maize across the northern and southern belt of India.
What are the big problems ailing Indian agriculture?
Small, fragmented land holdings of farmer… Even though the net sown area in India is 141.2 million hectares and cropped area totals to 195 million hectares, it becomes highly insignificant as it is divided into small scattered holdings. The average of 2.3 hectares in 1970-1971 is reduced to less than 1.5 hectares in the 21st century? The size of these holdings will decrease even further with the increase in the population. Further, unavailability of better quality seeds and depleting soli quality is also a huge problem area. Also, the average yield of almost every crop is quite low. So to boost the productivity, fertilisers and pesticides are used extensively. It is a serious problem as it is increasing the pH level of soil - doing more harm than good. Adding to the stress is the monsoon dependent nature of Indian agriculture with improperly planned irrigation. India is the second largest irrigated country in the world. But only one-third of India's cropped area is under irrigation. The vast majority of crop growers are totally dependent on Monsoon. Farmers suffer miserably every year as Monsoon is highly erratic and unreliable. India, as a matter of fact, cannot realise sustained agricultural progress if half or more than half of the cropped area is taken under assured irrigation. Another big factor is lack of mechanisation. Apart from few regions of rich farmers in Punjab and Haryana, rest of the agriculture in India is still carried out by human hands. Usage of simple and conventional tools such as cattle, wooden plough, sickle, etc. are not only time-consuming but also gives very less yield. Hence, mechanisation of agriculture in India is imperative to take it to the next level of production. It can play a major role during large-scale cultivation and harvesting. Also, rampant soil erosion, scarcity of capital for marketing and agricultural implementation, poor storage and transportation facilities, middlemen are grave road blocks in Indian agricultural scenario.