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BW Businessworld

How Green Will Be Our Valley?

Not a crystal ball, but projections peg a 5.6% growth in agriculture that could by 2047 push India’s GDP up to 10.4% and transport the farming community to Utopia

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When India turns 100 in 2047, the nutrition demand of developing countries could be somewhere around 3,400 kilo calories. Both the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggest that India would definitely be among the largest producers (and consumers) of food by then.

The farm fields continue to employ 49 per cent of the Indian workforce, notwithstanding the rapid industrialisation that has occurred since 1947. They also promise a home-grown solution to the food security of 1.2 billion Indians, whose tribe will only increase in the decades ahead. According to National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) statistics of 2014,  close to 170 million households spend more than half their income on food security. A Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) survey suggests that the “comman man” in India spends 55 per cent of his monthly expenses on vegetables, milk and foodgrain.

An OECD outlook for the forthcoming decade says 90 per cent of the increase in foodgrain production would come from increased yields and just 10 per cent from area expansion. The 70 million hectares of irrigated land, not counting the rain-fed parts of the country, could take agrarian India to a pinnacle in the comity of food producing nations of the world.
 

Already the yields of small landholdings in India are pretty high (see chart iii). The country’s dependence on oilseeds imports will decrease with wider use of home-grown seeds. In production of cotton, used for both oil extraction and to feed the textile industry, India has always had an edge. In a recent conversation with BW Businessworld, the father of the Green Revolution, M. S. Swaminathan said, “We have enough genetic variability for all important agriculture commodities”. The recommended standards are expected to be achieved by local breeds in the coming decade.The growth in meat and dairy production is expected to come from both increase in population and higher output per animal. India is already the world’s largest producer and consumer of milk. The OECD outlook suggests that milk will be India’s biggest protein substitute apart from meat. As meat consumption gets limited, the world will  opt for dairy products for protein nutrients. Union minister for agriculture and farmers’ welfare, Radha Mohan Singh is confident that milk production will only increase as “local breeds of cows in India are more climate resilient.” The OECD suggests that India’s only competitior in milk production in future would be Pakistan.

A model projection on Agriculture and Structure Formation by Kirit Parikh and Hans Binswanger indicate a jump in farm productivity and a reduction in inputs for better growth (see chart vi). Projection for the reference run of key variables in agriculture GDP and per capita consumption in rural and urban areas, also show a noticeable shift. Factor Productivity Growth can be a key to future projections in agriculture and shows agrarian growth rate to be 5.6 per cent, which in turn will push up India’s gross domestic product (GDP) to 10.4 per cent.


Farmers in India have traditionally supplemented their income from livestock, prompting the Union government to increase funds allocation for rural and allied sectors. Statistics of the Union ministry of statistics and programme implementation show a healthy 24 per cent increase in allocation for allied services. Agriculture ministry statistics show that between 2011 and 2015, the combined income from agriculture and allied services (read animal husbandry, poultry farming etc.) galloped from Rs 15,05,580 crore to Rs 19,64,506 crore (see chart ii). With both farm yield and the productivity of livestock slated to catapult in the decades ahead, the “poor farmer” could well get relegated to the archives of old black-and-white Hindi movies like Do Bigha Zameen. The Indian farmer of 2047 could be living in the Utopian land of milk and honey (with foodgrain, vegetables and fruit orchards thrown in for good measure).

Former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), S. S. Acharya says, “By 2047, most Indian farmers will be part-timers in the agriculture sector, merely five or six per cent of technically equipped farmers will be practicing it as mainstream trade”. The 49 per cent of the population who now cling to the farmlands for lack of other occupations, will obviously be gainfully employed elsewhere.

 Indians, who will be many more in number in 2047, will also be consuming more food. A price-wise projection of consumption of sugar, oilseeds, plantation crops, fruits, vegetables, milk and dairy, poultry and livestock by Kirit Parikh and Hans Binswanger, show Indians displaying gargantuan appetites for not just food, but nutritious food, in 2047 (see chart vii).

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) projects a loss of around Rs 1 lakh crore from wastage in food. The agriculture minister says India will soon overcome the farmer-market linkage bottleneck and a beginning has already been made with the Electronic National Agriculture Markets (e-NAM). The Union government has plans for 585 e-markets. State governments are also forming their own farmer markets. The Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) has operationalised 31 farmer-to-consumer markets in the state and other states like Karnataka, Gujarat and Rajasthan are following suit.

So, when crop yield and hence, food production catapults and milk production spills beyond the home demand, will India be a player in the export market? Experts would not hazard a guess. Either way, there is little doubt that the laggard in the Indian economy – the agriculture sector — will be its shining light in 2047. Basking in that glow will be the Indian farmer, his rags having turned to riches.


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