Productivity Of Agriculture

During the last 30 years, India's food grain production nearly doubled from 102 million tons in the triennium ending 1973 to nearly 200 million tons by 1999 (Table 8.3). Virtually all of the increase in the production resulted from yield gains rather than expansion of cultivated area. Availability of food grains per capita increased from 452 gm/person/day to over 476 gm/person/day, even as the country's population almost doubled, swelling from 548 million to nearly 1000 million (Singh, 2002b).

Table 8.3 Production of food grain between 1950 and 2002

Year

Area (million ha)

Production (million tons)

Yield (kg/ha)

% area under irrigation

1950-51

97.32

50.82

522

18.1

1960-61

115.58

82.02

710

19.1

1970-71

124.32

108.42

872

24.1

1980-81

126.67

129.59

1,023

29.7

1990-91

127.84

176.39

1,380

35.1

1998-99

125.17

203.61

1,627

42.4

1999-00

123.10

209.80

1,704

43.9

2000-01

121.50

196.81

1,626

NA

2001-02

121.91

212.03

1,739

NA

2002-03

113.13

182.87

1,614

Source: Government of India (2003).

NA = not available.

Source: Government of India (2003).

The area under food grains has hovered around 125 million ha since 1970-71. This indicates that the limit to increasing production through area expansion may have been reached as far as the cultivable land is concerned.

During the period 2002-05 GDP of the country was expected to grow at a rate of about 6.5% and the population at the rate of 1.7% per annum. The demand for food grains would grow at a rate of 2.5-3%. Under such a case the observed rate of growth of agriculture production would be just enough to feed the growing population. However, to make the country hunger free the food grain production will have to be accelerated at a compound rate of 4% per annum.

Taking the above evidence into account various scenarios estimations were made (Paroda and Kumar 2000) for the year 2020. These are presented in Table 8.4. In addition, taking the set of population projections in Table 8.4, an attempt was made to work out the food grains requirements for various decades until the year 2050. This has been worked out using the assumption that with 201.56 million tons of food grains India is able to feed its population of one billion and that this ratio of production to population would feed the population at any point in the future and that consumption will not fall below this level. The present daily caloric intake in has been taken at 2,500. With increase in incomes as a result of development, this intake has been assumed to increase to 3,500 in 2050 - an increase of 40% (over the base level daily consumption of 2,500 calories) in next fifty years. This would generate additional demand for food grains as a result of better nutritional intake. The present share of animal products in daily calorie intake is about 7%. It has been assumed that over the next fifty years the share of animal products in daily calorie intake would increase to 15%. The results are presented in Table 8.5.

Table 8.4 Projected demand for agricultural commodities in 2020

Average 1997-99

Demand in 2020 (million tons)

Table 8.4 Projected demand for agricultural commodities in 2020

Average 1997-99

Demand in 2020 (million tons)

(million ha)

Production (million tons)

Yield (kg/ha)

Low growth (3.5% per capita growth of GDP)

High growth (5.5% per capita growth of GDP)

Food

120.8

199

1,595

255.9

252.8

grains

Edible oil

28.6

6.4

269

10.8

11.4

Potatoes

1.2

21.6

17,188

27.8

30.6

Vegetables

5.3

74.5

14,204

135.6

168

Fruits

3.2

43

13,437

77

93.6

Sugarcane/

3.7

26.9

7,006

32.6

33.7

gur

Milk

-

71.2

-

115.8

137.3

Meat

-

5

-

8.8

11.4

Eggs

-

2,873

-

7,750

10,000

Fish

-

5.3

-

10.1

12.8

Based on Paroda and Kumar (2000).

Based on Paroda and Kumar (2000).

Table 8.5 Population and food grain requirements during the period 2010-2050

Year

Population (million)

Food grain requirements (million tons)

2010

1,168

268

2020

1,324

344

2030

1,457

425

2040

1,555

506

2050

1,611

582

Bhalla et al. (1999) took the official figures for population projection for 2020 as base and considering different determinants of demand such as rate of urbanization, rise in per capita income, changes in consumption behaviour and expenditure elasticities estimated the demand for food grains. The projections are presented in Table 8.6.

Table 8.6 Estimation of food demand in India for the year 2020 (in million tons)

Year/Source

Food

Feed

Total

Average (kg/ capita/day)

1993 (actual)

147.12

3.71

150.83

0.47

For 2020

GDP growth rate (%)

2.0

231.51

25.75

257.26

0.53

3.7

246.08

50.11

296.19

0.61

6.0

267.21

107.52

374.73

0.77

The supply side

Given that the demand for cereals will be around 350 million tons, we now examine whether this demand is likely to be fulfilled. India has high population pressure on land and other resources to meet its food and development needs. The natural resource base of land, water and biodiversity is under severe pressure. Food demand challenges ahead are formidable considering the non-availability of favourable factors of past growth, fast declining factor productivity in major cropping systems and rapidly shrinking resource base.

Future increases in the production of cereals and non-cereal agricultural commodities will have to be achieved mainly through increases in productivity, as the possibilities of expansion of area and livestock population are minimal. Average yields of most crops in India are still rather low (Singh, 2002a). To meet the projected demand in 2020, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute estimates that yields must attain per hectare levels of 2.7 tons for rice, 3.1 tons for wheat, 2.1 tons for maize, 1.3 tons for coarse cereals, 2.4 tons for cereal, 1.3 tons for pulses, 22.3 tons for potato, 25.7 for vegetables, and 24.1 tons for fruits. The production of livestock and poultry products must be improved by 61% for milk, 76% for meat, 91% for fish, and 169% for eggs relative to 1997-9 yields.

Virtually no productive land remains uncultivated in India today, so there is little scope for increasing the area cultivated. The remaining land is relatively unproductive and bringing it under cultivation would entail high environmental costs, including deforestation and soil erosion. Future growth will therefore have to continue to depend on yield and this will require the spread of yield-enhancing technologies, improved natural resource management, and greater technical efficiency (Bhalla et al., 1999). Taking into account the constraints and likely progress being made in production, processing and storage technologies it is estimated that India would be able to meet its food requirements. However, in the estimates arrived at by Bhalla et al. (1999) there is a gap between the demand and supply of cereals in India in 2020. Their estimates are presented in Table 8.7. This effectively means that even in the case where the country's GDP grows by a modest rate of 3.7% per annum there shall be a shortage of food grains in India. This gap widens as the country's growth rate increases. An increasing population along with increasing incomes would exert pressure on the available resources.

Table 8.7 Projected demand and supply of food and feed grains in India for the year 2020 (million tons)

Scenario Supply scenario

Projected demand with growth of per capita income (%)_

Total supply (net of seed and waste)

Total demand

257.3

296.2

374.7

1

1962/65 -1993 trend

extrapolated

321.1

63.8

24.9

-53.6

2

Reasonable increase in fertilizer and

irrigation use

232.2

-25.1

-64.0

142.5

3

(2) +genetic and efficiency

-

improvements

259.9

2.6

-36.3

114.8

4

(3) + additional land

-

degradation

242.1

-15.2

-54.1

132.6

Table 8.8 Projections for rice and wheat production using yields from National Demonstrations

Table 8.8 Projections for rice and wheat production using yields from National Demonstrations

Crop Area Yield Total Yield based Total production

(1998-99) based production on (million tons)

(million on current (million demonstration ha) practice tons) plots (kg/ha)

It has been observed that yield potentials of crops have not been realized to the fullest extent possible. For example for rice and wheat, which account for nearly 75% of total food grains in the country, only about 58% and 68% respectively of the yields achieved in the national demonstration plots have been realized (Table 8.8). Only 46% and 82% area under rice and wheat is irrigated. The average yield of rice was 1,851 kg/ha while that on demonstration plots was 3,182 kg/ha. Similarly, for wheat, the average yield was 2,387 kg/ha while that on demonstration plots it was 3,500 kg/ha (Pandey and Sharma, 1996). Thus, if the average yield increased even to the level equal to that achieved on the demonstration plots, India would be able to increase the production of food grains from the existing land base by around 50%. Then, in the second run if the yields of food grains reach the levels attained on research stations, the problem of shortages and pressures on land may be under control.

There is a small surplus in supply to demand in the 'medium' per capita growth scenario with the extrapolated growth rates. This however is wiped out only if moderate progress is made in genetic and technical efficiency in crops production. It would be prudent to assume that such shortfalls would be made good by international trade. Much would depend on international prices of grains as well as the size of their demand. The situation calls for caution well in advance as some steps may still be taken to reduce or mitigate the problems.

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