On the Productivity of India’s Agriculture Sector:

Author: Himanshu Ranjan


There are two primary measures to measure agricultural productivity:

(i) in terms of production per unit of land or yield
(ii) total factor productivity that takes into account all the inputs of capital, land, labour, among others

India’s agricultural productivity has been low. US, China, Israel, and Brazil have higher agricultural productivity than India. In India, farming has been a traditional occupation, and though the green revolution was helpful, still many people leave farming for other service sector jobs. The reason is that such a job gives a sense of security in terms of monthly salary.

There is another angle to it – gaining skills to get a white collared job is looked upon as respectable but gaining skills to increase agricultural productivity is comparably looked down upon. Farmers provide one of the most basic requirements to sustain our life that is food on our plate. Yet ordering foods from Swiggy or Zomato – a city individual forgets to be grateful to the farmers. Whenever one eats food – there should be a little sense of gratitude to our farmers.

There is also a religious angle – farming requires the killing of pests, insects as well as its other forms in which we culture bees, silkworms, chickens, and fishes among other forms. It is virtually impossible to feed ourselves without the loss of the lives of other creatures. The farmers do this morally demanding job. The consumers who get the final end product are generally not so sensitive about the processes and endurances a section of the population goes through on a daily basis to ensure it.

Coming to the science aspect – farm mechanization drives agricultural productivity. There are innovative machines that can do the work of hundreds of labours with better accuracy and efficiency. Promoting such mechanization shall decrease the labour cost and improve productivity. It will also change the nature of jobs in the agricultural sector. More than half of the Indian population is dependent on the agriculture sector and they can be shifted to manufacturing jobs that can produce these innovative machines.

Every farmer needs to be trained about the quality of their soil, the proper amount in which fertilizers can be used, the knowledge of high yield seeds, and the choice of crops for a better output. Innovative water-saving ways of irrigation techniques such as drip irrigation can be promoted and subsidized. Multi-layer farming is another such technique. India has the second-largest arable land area of 395 million acres and if its agricultural productivity also grows the way the US, China, and Israel have done agriculture can be a way to empower India’s growth story in the 21st century.

About 30 % of the soil in India is acidic. An adequate amount of liming i.e addition of calcium and magnesium-rich minerals can increase plant growth and productivity. Biochar can increase soil aeration and nutrients supply. Allelopathy can be used to control insects, biotechnology can be used to enhance productivity. Biodiesel made from Jatropha plants that got promoted by ethanol-blending programs can be useful in decreasing emissions. Certain algae can be used as biofertilizers.

Indian Agricultural Research Institute (PUSA) recently provided a bio-decomposer technique to convert stubble into manures in order to solve the problem of stubble burning.

Our Universities, agricultural research institutes should work in the direction of enhancing the productivity of India’s agriculture. Also, our mindset to look at certain technology institutes as the holy grail to get a corporate job should shift in a better direction. Students opting for agriculture and biotechnology if properly guided can contribute a lot towards ensuring better productivity of our agricultural sector.


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