Agriculture has always been celebrated as the primary sector in India. India is an agrarian economy, which means, agriculture is the dominant sector in the Indian economy. Even to this day, in spite of the Indian economy opening up to the world and height of globalization, close to 70% of the population still depends on agriculture for its livelihood. Besides providing food to nation, agriculture consumes labour, provides saving, contributes to market of industrial goods and earns foreign exchange. Indian economy was a backward and agricultural based economy at the time of its independence. Thanks to the Green Revolution, India is now self-sufficient in food production.
Role of women in agriculture
Agriculture is becoming increasingly feminized as men are migrating to rural non-farm sector. The share of rural females in agriculture was around 83% in 2004-05 as compared to 67% among rural men, showing the importance of women in agriculture in rural areas. Protecting women’s rights in land, enhancing infrastructure support to women farmers, and giving legal support on existing laws, will facilitate recognition for women as farmers and enable them to access credit, inputs, and marketing outlets.
Small and Fragmented Land Holdings
Indian agriculture is dominated by small farmers. The average size of the landholding declined to 1.32 ha in 2000-01 from 2.30 ha in 1970-71, and absolute number of operational holdings increased from about 70 million to 121 million. A large number of smallholders have to move to postharvest and non-farm activities to augment their income. The research focus should be to evolve technologies and management options to suit needs of smallholders’ agriculture, and also to involve them in agri-supply chain through institutional innovations.
Insufficient Irrigation Infrastructure
India has inadequate infrastructure and services. The irrigation infrastructure is deteriorating. The overuse of water is currently being covered by over pumping aquifers which is made possible by subsidised electric power is leading to an alarming drop in aquifer levels. This could be revealed by the fact that only 52.6 % of the land was irrigated in 2003–04, which result in farmers still being dependent on rainfall.
Indian soils have been used for growing crops for thousands of years which have resulted in the depletion of soil fertility. Available estimates reveal that nearly 120.72 million ha of land in the country is degraded due to soil erosion and about 8.4 million ha has soil salinity and water-logging problems. Besides, huge quantities of nutrients are lost during crop production cycle. Annually, India is losing nearly 0.8 million tonnes of nitrogen, 1.8 million tonnes of phosphorus and 26.3 million tonnes of potassium—deteriorating quality and health of soil is something to be checked. Problems are further aggravated by imbalanced application of nutrients (especially nitrogen, phosphorus and potash), and excessive mining of micronutrients, leading to deficiency of macro- and micronutrients in the soils.
In 2012, the National Crime Records Bureau of India reported 13,754 farmer suicides. Farmer suicides account for 11.2% of all suicides in India. Temporary measures through monetary relief is never the solution. The efforts should be targeted at improving the entire structure of the small farmers wherein the relief is not given on a drought to drought basis, rather they are taught to overcome their difficulties through their own skills and capabilities.
Agricultural marketing still continues to be in a bad shape in rural India. In the absence of sound marketing facilities, the farmers have to depend upon local traders and middlemen for the disposal of their farm produce which is sold at throw-away price. In most cases, these farmers are forced, under socio-economic conditions, to carry on distress sale of their produce. In most of small villages, the farmers sell their produce to the money lender from whom they usually borrow money. According to an estimate 85 per cent of wheat and 75 per cent of oil seeds in Uttar Pradesh, 90 per cent of Jute in West Bengal, 70 per cent of oilseeds and 35 per cent of cotton in Punjab is sold by farmers in the village itself. Such a situation arises due to the inability of the poor farmers to wait for long after harvesting their crops. In order to save the farmer from the clutches of the money lenders and the middle men, the government has come out with regulated markets. These markets generally introduce a system of competitive buying, help in eradicating malpractices, ensure the use of standardized weights and measures and evolve suitable machinery for settlement of disputes thereby ensuring that the producers are not subjected to exploitation and receive remunerative prices.
Food grain storage
Nearly 10 per cent of our harvest goes waste every year Storage facilities in the rural areas are either totally absent or grossly inadequate. Under such conditions the farmers are compelled to sell their produce immediately after the harvest at the prevailing market prices which are bound to be low. This colossal wastage can be avoided by developing scientific ware-housing facilities.