India's agriculture sector is experiencing vigorous growth, clocking a remarkable 4.6% annual growth over the past six years, as highlighted in the Economic Survey 2022-23. This substantial growth underscores the sector's pivotal role in contributing to the country's overall development, growth, and food security. In recent years, the agriculture sector has undergone transformative changes, alongside the infusion of new technologies. How will these advancements shape the future of Indian agriculture?
In recent years, advancements in agriculture have not only facilitated increased food production but have also improved the overall conditions for farmers. Here are some of the major trends noted by this sector in the past decade –
The implementation of technologies since the Green Revolution significantly boosted food production in Indian agriculture. Production of food grains rose from 176.39 million tonnes in 1990-91 to 233.9 million tonnes in 2008-09.
This growth rate continues to be a hallmark of the Green Revolution that drove India to become self-sufficient in production and even a marginal exporter. Sustaining a 4.6% annual growth rate over the last 6 years has ensured that India’s agriculture sector remains at a high. Today, India’s food market revenue amounts to ₹75.43 Lakh Crores in 2023 and is expected to grow by a CAGR of 8.40% by 2028.
Agriculture has expanded beyond fulfilling food grain demands to present a wide assortment of commercial and horticultural crops. India is considered the largest producer of fruits like mangoes and guavas (43.80%), papayas (39.30%), and bananas (26.45%). Similarly, it is the second-largest producer of vegetables like potatoes, onions, brinjal, cabbages, cauliflowers, etc., thanks to the diversity of geographical, climatic and soil features.
This diversification also includes spices, cashews, areca nuts, coconut, flowers, orchids, dairy, and animal husbandry. The production of fruits and vegetables has notably increased over the years, along with cashew production, making India a key player in global horticulture markets. In 2022-23, India exported fresh vegetables and fruits worth ₹13,185.30 Crores.
India's agricultural exports are set to break records in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023. Government data reveals a robust growth of 7.9%, with exports reaching $39 billion in April-December 2022, surpassing the previous year's $36.2 billion.
Rice and sugar are driving forces, with projections exceeding $11 billion and $6 billion, respectively. Marine product exports are also expected to surpass the previous year's peak. However, a notable rise in agricultural imports, reaching $27.8 billion in April-December 2022, has led to a shrinkage in the farm trade account surplus.
Amidst the surge in technological advancements, the environmental impact of agriculture cannot be ignored. To address concerns of global warming and climate change, a shift towards sustainable farming practices is imperative. Agritech platforms are leading this charge, promoting regenerative agriculture—a holistic approach that prioritizes soil health through resource replenishment.
This method also emphasizes reducing chemical inputs to safeguard soil, water, and the environment. Farmers are being educated on sustainable practices, including alternatives to stubble burning, ensuring a balanced and eco-friendly approach to farming.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping agriculture, offering transformative benefits. AI optimizes water and energy use, advises on crop choices based on weather and soil conditions, and presents limitless possibilities. The technology revolutionizes Agritech with predictive modelling, efficient supply chain management, and automation, reducing costs.
Blockchain, another groundbreaking tool, reinforces Agri trade dynamics, addressing growing demands for food supply security, and ensures transparency in the agricultural ecosystem. In essence, the integration of AI and blockchain is propelling agriculture into a more efficient and transparent era.
The Indian government has implemented key initiatives to support farmers. The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) offers crop insurance to farmers facing crop loss from natural disasters. This initiative acts as a safety net and reduces financial risks in farming.
The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) aids small and marginal farmers with financial support to procure agricultural inputs like seeds and fertilizers. The National Food Security Mission (NFSM) encourages modernization by providing financial assistance for contemporary agricultural implements, fostering mechanization and bolstering productivity.
India is seeing a gradual but growing adoption of organic farming. These are cost-effective approaches that employ natural methods to combat pests and diseases. Water-efficient irrigation systems like drip and sprinkler methods are one such example that not only save water but also reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides.
Indian farmers are embracing agroforestry, integrating trees with crops and livestock to enhance soil fertility, generate extra income, and conserve the environment. Focusing on minimal soil disruption, continuous soil cover, and crop rotation, further promotes sustainable and environment-friendly farming.
In India's evolving agricultural landscape, traditional methods have historically yielded low productivity. Recognizing this, the government is initiating the fourth wave of revolution to infuse technological advancements and enhance agricultural efficiency. The sector is now poised for a transformative technological shift, moving beyond Mechanisation and the Green Revolution to embrace Precision Agriculture.
This method utilizes Geopolitical Systems (GPS) and Artificial Intelligence for precise mapping, ensuring tailored inputs for optimal productivity. Agriculture 4.0, an advanced iteration of precision farming, holds the potential to revolutionize current practices by prioritizing field and soil well-being for improved yield quality and quantity, with minimal environmental impact.
Despite the aggressive efforts of banks to extend credit to farmers, the analysis of Indian credit demand reveals persistently low penetration in the agricultural sector. However, Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs) specializing in agricultural mechanization have emerged as a success story. From funding large-scale agri infrastructure to providing microfinance to small farmers, these NBFCs showcase India's diverse and entrepreneurial spirit.
Over time, they have evolved into well-regulated entities, adopting best practices in technology, innovation, risk management, and governance. With a strong presence in rural India, agri-focused NBFCs and fintech platforms effectively address the long-term credit needs of small and marginal farmers, reflecting a crucial shift in the financial landscape.
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