UPSC Editorial Analysis

Challenge for India’s Agriculture – How to share Growth Gains?

GS Paper 3 - Agriculture, Irrigation


As India continues on its journey to becoming a developed economy, the agriculture sector faces a challenging road full with hurdles. Irreversible climate change, World Trade Organization constraints, the prevalence of small landholdings, global pressure to keep food prices low at the expense of farmers’ incomes, and depleting aquifers are just a few of the critical factors limiting our ability to ensure farmers’ dignified livelihoods.

The main task is not merely to increase production, but also to ensure that the benefits are sustainable and inclusive. India must implement much-needed agricultural reforms.

Significance of Agriculture in Indian Economy

  • Contribution to GDP – Agriculture contributes for around 15-16% of India’s GDP. This demonstrates the sector’s critical significance in the country’s overall economic growth and development. 
  • Employment Generation – According to the 2021-22 Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) report (July-June), the agriculture sector accounts for 45.5% of the country’s employed labor force. This emphasizes its critical role in creating job possibilities, particularly in rural areas where the bulk of the population works in agriculture and related fields. 
  • Food Security – With a population of over 1.3 billion, food security is a top problem for India. The agriculture industry contributes significantly to the country’s food supply by producing staple crops such as rice, wheat, legumes, and vegetables. 
  • FOREX Earnings – Agricultural exports continue to be a key source to foreign exchange profits, totaling more than USD 56 billion in 2021. India is presently the world’s greatest producer of milk and pulses, as well as the second-largest producer of rice and wheat.  
  • Raw Material Provider for Industries – The agriculture sector not only serves household food consumption, but also offers raw materials for a variety of businesses, including cotton for textiles, sugarcane for sugar, and oilseeds for edible oil production.
  • Strategic Significance – Self-sufficiency in food production is a strategic need for every country. A strong agricultural industry decreases reliance on foreign imports and assures food security in unexpected circumstances. This is especially significant in a country like India, where the population is vast.

Major Challenges with India’s Agriculture Sector

  • Fragmented Landholdings – Decades of population development and inheritance restrictions have led to the subdivision of agricultural land into increasingly tiny plots. According to the National Sample Survey Office’s Situation Assessment Survey (SAS) of Agricultural families, 89.4% of agricultural families possess less than two hectares of land, which limits automation, economies of scale, and total productivity.  
  • Menace of Climate Change – Erratic monsoon patterns, increasing temperatures, and unforeseen disruptions to crop production and agricultural planning. In 2022, India saw an early sequence of heat waves that hampered wheat output, prompting the nation to halt exports. 
  • Water Scarcity – India is facing a potential water crisis, with numerous regions overusing groundwater supplies. This, along with poor irrigation infrastructure, reduces agricultural yield. The water level in India’s key reservoirs has dropped to 23%.
  • Inadequate Storage and Transportation Facilities – Farmers frequently experience a lack of access to well-developed marketplaces and equitable price for their products. Middlemen and a complicated supply chain cause a considerable difference between farm-gate pricing (what farmers receive) and consumer prices. 
  • Limited Access to Credit – Many farmers, particularly small and marginal farmers, struggle to get inexpensive finance and crop insurance plans. This limits their capacity to invest in new technology, enhance infrastructure, and respond to agricultural shocks.  
  • Soil Degradation and Resource Depletion – Overuse of chemical fertilizers, imbalanced cropping patterns, and inadequate soil conservation practices lead to soil degradation and depletion of essential nutrients. This reduces land fertility and long-term productivity. 
  • Inefficient Govt. Policies – A complicated web of overlapping central and state policies, along with a lack of efficient execution, frequently impedes growth. The recent debate over Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) demonstrates this issue by highlighting the disconnect between policy and reality. Furthermore, the MSP’s impact on wheat and rice production encourages the widespread use of chemical fertilizers, resulting in protein-deficient food being distributed to the public, particularly children, and contributing to the rising issue of hidden hunger.

Measures to revitalize Agriculture Sector in India

  • Implementing Agroecological Intensification – Rather than depending on traditional high-input agriculture, investigate and promote agroecological intensification options that replicate natural processes, increase biodiversity, and strengthen resilience. 
  • Establishing Agricultural Innovation Clusters – Creating agricultural innovation clusters or agri-parks that bring together academic institutions, agri-tech companies, farmer cooperatives, and other sectors in a collaborative ecosystem. 
  • Implementing Drone-Based Precision Agriculture – Using drone technology for precision agricultural applications such as targeted crop monitoring, variable rate input application, and early detection of pest and disease outbreaks to increase efficiency and reduce resource waste. 
  • Fostering Public-Private Partnerships for Agricultural Extension – Using the expertise of private companies, agri-tech startups, and non-governmental organizations to provide farmers with timely and localized advice, training, and support. 
  • Developing Agri-Logistics and Cold Chain Infrastructure – Prioritize the construction of effective agri-logistics and cold chain infrastructure to reduce post-harvest losses and improve market access for perishable commodities. 
  • Model Agriculture Policy – A national Model Agricultural Policy, developed collectively, may lead governments in promoting sustainable practices, efficient resource use, and empowering farmers via improved infrastructure and market access. While state adaptation is critical, a unifying framework can pave the path for a more resilient agricultural future in India.

Way Forward

To ensure a prosperous future for India’s agriculture, a multi-pronged strategy is essential. Innovative farming techniques, sustainable resource management, and inclusive policy frameworks must be the cornerstone of agricultural reforms. Embracing technology-driven solutions like precision agriculture, and strengthening agri-infrastructure will be key to enhancing productivity. Moreover, empowering farmers through education, accessible credit, and fair market practices will drive growth. Ultimately, a collaborative effort between government, private sector, and farming communities is vital to build a resilient, productive, and sustainable agricultural ecosystem.

SOURCE – The Indian Express

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