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Indian agriculture, a potential to be valued

The international EIMA Agrimach exhibition is an opportunity to assess the status of Indian agriculture and its progress. According to the data processed by the Ministry of Agriculture, during the period 2005-2006 and 2015-2016, production increased considerably for all types of product thanks to the introduction of innovative agronomic and mechanical technologies. The optimization of production factors is the key element which can compensate the risks associated with climate change and frequency of rainfalls that in this Asian country remains a very influential variable

by Davide Gallarate
December 2017 | Back

Eima Agrimach, the event dedicated to agricultural mechanization, organized in New Delhi by FederUnacoma and FICCI (Federation of Indian Commerce and Industries), celebrating its fifth edition from 7 to 9 December, has long been the occasion to assess the status of Indian agriculture.

Over the last decades, India has achieved significant progress in improving production regarding quality and quantity, despite the fact that unpredictable factors such as monsoon-related rainfalls still influence agriculture. Using the data released by the Indian Ministry of Agriculture, it is possible to have a precise overview of this development, starting from the comparison between fiscal years 2005-2006 and 2015-2016. In India, as it is well known, all data is provided by reference to the fiscal year, which runs from 1st April to 31 March. One of the key products of Indian agriculture is rice, whose production – for which India is second only to China worldwide – has grown over the decade examined, by over 13 percentage points, from 91.79 to 104.32 million tons, at almost the same level of the cultivated area.

This data corresponds to the increase in yield per hectare, increased from 2.10 to 2.40 tons (a figure that might be improved in future), considering that in China the yield of rice is over six tons per hectare. Wheat production, for which India is second in the world ranking of producer countries, increased from 69.35 to 93.50 million tons, with a 34.8% increase.

By analyzing the yield, there was a considerable increase of 18%, from 2.62 tons per hectare between 2005-2006 and 3.10 recorded in the last fiscal year. This value, despite far from the 8 tons recorded in New Zealand (the country with the highest yield in wheat cultivation), shows an improvement in cultivation practices. Figures concerning horticulture are impressive: fruit production increased from 58.74 to 91.44 million tons (+56%), while vegetable production from 109.05 to 166.61 (+53%) with yields per hect are reaching 1.42 and 17.39 tons, respectively. Over the years, the different governments have always stressed the need for a Second Green Revolution, referring to the progress made in the 1960s and 1970s, which led India to self-sufficiency in the food supply. Despite the achievement of significant goals, there are still many challenges that India shall face in future to take full advantage of its agricultural potential.

The first challenge is the one linked to a better mechanization: the use of agricultural machinery and equipment is currently estimated at 40-45% of its real potential and the capacity per hectare is on average just over 2Kw. An increase in these values, which can only be achieved by using more advanced technologies, is an essential condition for India to meet the food needs of a population of over 1.2 billion people, growing at a rate of 2% per year. There is also a need for less dependence on atmospheric precipitation: over the decade examined, the rainfalls linked to the south-west monsoon, which take place between June and September and that are crucial to agriculture, have been variable.

Data on the importance of the monsoon refers to the year 2013 when rainfalls equal to 106% of the average allowed a record in rice production (106.65 million tons) and wheat (95.85 million tonnes). However, an excursus on the status of Indian agriculture cannot ignore a consideration related to the territorial extension of India and its socio-economic peculiarities: there are in fact strong differences between the different areas of the country concerning the agricultural development.

Along with areas where the primary sector can be defined as “well-developed,” such as the Punjab and the Haryana States in the north-west of India (which are by no means among those where agricultural mechanization is more rooted), in other areas (the eastern states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh), agricultural production and the use of agricultural technologies are still insufficient.

The state of Madhya Pradesh, located in the central part of the country and characterized by a strong agricultural potential, represents a virtuous example: through a programme called Yantradoot, the local government has in fact begun to show how the best agricultural technologies can be used in several villages.

Than Singh Yadav, a farmer from the village of Sasunpura, not far from the capital Bhopal, has implemented the techniques and technologies put on display and, as a consequence, the yields of his grain fields increased from 20 to 32 quintals per hectare.

The story of this farmer is just one of the many stories reported today that testify how agricultural mechanization can be the answer to the challenge of the Second Green Revolution.

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