India’s journey towards becoming global agricultural powerhouse

India’s journey towards becoming global agricultural powerhouse- Today Current Affairs

India is efficiently feeding and managing nearly 18% of the world population with only 2.4% and 4% of global land and water resources respectively. Efforts like agricultural and land reforms, progressive and inclusive policies, and application of ‘Science and Technology’ at the groundlevel pushed-up productivity, production, and quality of agricultural products at a remarkable pace. As a result ,India is now the largest producer of milk, jute and pulses  and ranks as the second largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane and cotton in the world. It also holds the second position in global fruit and vegetable production with a high rank in the production of mango, banana, papaya, and lemon. 

 

India’s agriculture sector is now a proud entity with global acclaim, but the situation at the time of independence was quite deplorable. In addition to recurrent famines, the country lost major wheat and rice growing areas to Pakistan due to partition. Around 1950-51, India produced around 50 million tonnes of foodgrains, which was not enough to feed the population of 350 million. To save its population from hunger, India resorted to the import of foodgrains which ultimately led to ‘ship to mouth’ living. Indian leadership realising the critical importance of agriculture in the National Food Security Act (NFSA), proclaimed ‘everything can wait, but not agriculture’. Hence, a slew of measures was initiated mainly to improve and extend irrigation facilities and bring in a ‘scientific temper’ in agriculture and allied sectors. 

 

Towards Self-Reliance: The Hindu Analysis

 After independence, Indian policy planners accorded top priority to agricultural development with the ultimate goal to make the country self-reliant in staple foodgrains, i.e., wheat and rice. Accordingly, several specific initiatives were taken in the first Five Year Plan to uplift agricultural growth along several verticals. Big irrigation projects were launched and land titles were given to actual cultivators under land reforms. Co-operative credit institutions got a boost due to better financing and an initiative was taken up to bring institutional changes in the agriculture support system. Consequently, an era of high-yielding varieties of crops began with new dimensions such as multiple cropping, a package of good agricultural practices, an extension of modem farm practices and irrigation facilities, and a newer approach towards post-harvest technologies. During the post-Green Revolution period, policy planners focussed more on research, extension, education, input supply, credit support, marketing, price support, and institution building. This new strategy has enabled the country to increase the production of foodgrains by 5.6 times, horticultural crops by 10.5 times, fish by 16.8 times, milk by 10.4 times, and eggs by 52.9 times from 1950- 51 to 2017-18. As per fourth advance estimates, for 2020- 21, total foodgrain production in the country is estimated at a record 308.65 million tonnes. Horticulture production is expected to reach a record level of 329.86 million tonnes in 2020-21 . Thus, India has travelled a long journey from being a famine-afflicted and food-scarce nation to a proud food- surplus nation.

 

Towards Creating Milestones: The Hindu Analysis

 Since the post-Green Revolution period, agricultural R&D mainly focused its efforts on issues that were critical to sustaining food security and efficient use of natural resources. In attempting so, an array of improved varieties of various crops were developed with desirable characteristics, such as high-yield potential, resistance to pests and diseases, tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses, and better nutrition.  The nation harvested a record 110 million tonnes of wheat during 2020-21. In rice, other than high-yielding, specific varieties were developed to perform well under drought or water-logged conditions. Basmati rice varieties, developed by IAR!, won worldwide acclaim and popularity due to their uniquely exquisite aroma, flavour, texture & taste

 

To attain self-reliance in oilseeds production, agricultural R&D was oriented towards increasing per hectare productivity by various S&T interventions. The recent introduction of exotic oil palm as an oilseeds crop by developing production technologies suitable to Indian conditions has shown promise. Earlier, the introduction and popularisation of soybean in suitable regions have successfully contributed to the kitty of edible oils. Due to consistent efforts, oilseed production in the country has reached a record of36.1 0 million tonnes during 2020-21. Special intervention made to raise the production and productivity of pulses has led to record production of nearly 26 million tonnes in 2020-21 . A mission mode approach was adopted to raise the production of horticultural crops mainly by the introduction of new varieties, improved package of agricultural practices, expansion of the area, and regeneration of old/unproductive orchards. Currently, India ranks number one in the productivity of banana, grapes, papaya, cassava, and green peas. 

 

During the 1950-1960s,just like foodgrains, India depended heavily on the import of milk to meet national demand. To attain self-reliance,Operation Flood, was launched in 1970 that addressed production and productivity issues with major reforms in the marketing of milk and milk products. The efforts paid dividends and in 1998, India became the largest producer of milk in the world, surpassing the USA. The transformation, widely known as ‘White Revolution’, is still making waves with current milk production of nearly 200 million tonnes and per capita milk availability crossing 400 gm per day. Advances made in animal breeding, reproduction, health, and nutrition have made seminal contributions in sustaining the white revolution. Similarly, the targeted programme of ‘Blue Revolution’ transformed the fisheries sector with an all-time high production of nearly l4.l6 million tonnes between 2019 and 2020. On the global map, India is the second-largest aquaculture-producing country and the third-largest fish producer.

 

Way Forward 

Despite splendid growth, Indian agriculture is facing some major challenges such as small and fragmented land holdings, post-harvest losses, and poor market infrastructure.In recent times, the Government has launched several new schemes and programmes to address such issues by adequate fund allocation and devising innovative measures that include cutting-edge S&T interventions. For example, Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning are paving the way for intelligent farming, and the use of loT-enabled sensors to prevent excessive use of harmful chemicals. Specialised drones and robots are poised to revolutionise modern farming. Drones, aerial as well as groundbased, and satellite imagery are helping farmers to remotely monitor crops, diagnose issues, and also make informed decisions regarding crop protection and nutrition. Digital transformation is changing the face of agriculture and farmers by providing the right knowledge, resources, and technology on a real-time basis. Online marketplaces (e-Mandis) and regular market updates are empowering farmers to maximise their income. Recent thrust and support to agri-startups are helping the promotion of agriculture as an enterprise.Integration of resources, technologies, knowledge, and policies is paving the way for better agriculture and a brighter tomorrow.

 

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plutus ias daily current affairs 13 january 2022