Raising Productivity in Agriculture

Boosting productivity in agriculture in a sustainable manner requires attention on four fronts –

  1. Irrigation;
  2. Seeds and fertilisers;
  3. New technology; and
  4. Shift to high-value farm products such as fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, chicken and fisheries.


Crop intensity and productivity, which are very important sources of growth in output and farmers’ incomes, are critically dependent on irrigation. In India, a second crop is grown on less than 40 % of cultivated area. In some states, this figure is below 25%. The main reason for low crop intensity is access to water and moisture for crop production in Rabi season.

Efforts by the government – Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) focuses on four broad areas :–

  • Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP)
  • Har Khet Ko Pani
  • Per Drop More Crop
  • Watershed Development.

Steps forward

  • manifold increase in the allocation of funds for PMKSY.
  • quick clearance for Inter Linking of River project.
  • include shallow tube wells in water rich states in east India (e.g. Assam) in PMKSY.
  • a dedicated agency at national level to push PMKSY.


Replacement of Seeds– Ideally, seeds must be replaced every year for hybrid and every three years for non-hybrid varieties. In the former case, the optimum seed replacement rate (SRR) is 1 and in the latter case 33%. In India, seeds are replaced at rates below the optimum, especially in self-pollinated crops such as rice, wheat, pulses and oil seeds.

To bring the rate to the optimum: –

  • There is a need to enhance seed-research capacity as well as multiply stations.
  • Encourage private sector participation in seed production and distribution by removing the price control order of seed and other restrictions discouraging private investment in the seed sector.
  • A robust third party quality certification system for seeds should be encouraged.

Judicious and optimum use of fertilisers – Fertilisers supply three critical elements: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K). A common belief is that ideal mix of N, P and K is in ratio 4:2:1. While this may be an average,the actual optimum ratio and level of fertiliser use depends on soil and crop type and the amount of water used. This is why soil cards are important for customizing fertiliser use. Because urea is heavily subsidized in India, on average, there has been a tendency to overuse it. But it is important to remember that there is wide variation across regions with a study by the National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy pointing out that as many as two thirds of the largest 18 states use urea in below optimum quantity. There is need to create awareness of the optimal nutrient mix and optimal level of fertiliser use among farmers. The soil health card can be a good vehicle for accomplishing this objective.


Technology in the form of high-yielding seeds and fertilisers were the driver of India’s attainment of self-sufficiency through the green revolution, and new technology remains one of the most important determinants of growth in agriculture.

Genetically modified (GM) seeds – GM seeds have the following benefits:

  • High productivity,
  • Improved quality of produce
  • Lower use of fertilizers, weedicides and pesticides

There is some concern that GM seeds can be monopolized by multinationals, which may then exploit our farmers. But this concern is readily addressed by limiting GM seeds to those varieties discovered by our own institutions and companies.

New technology in agriculture– Precision farming and related new technologies like the system of rice intensification, raised bed planting, poly house cultivation of fruits and vegetables, laser land levellers, self-propelled sprayers, precision seeders and planters, transplanters for rice and vegetable seedlings and multi-crop threshers and harvesters allow highly efficient farming and resource conservation.

What needs to be done to ensure the use of new technology in farming:

  • Emphasis should be on informing farmers of the opportunities new technologies offer.
  • Improving access to credit as these technologies are capital intensive.
  • Creating an enabling policy environment for their adoption of technology without major direct financial commitments.
  • Involving private sector in the provision of new technologies and ensuring that any undue barriers to its entry are removed.
  • Creating a vibrant, responsive, market oriented and globally competitive agricultural research ecosystem.
  • Instead of creating more institutions, quality must be attained through greater focus on fewer high quality institutions. Two agricultural Universities may be identified and provided with necessary incentives to achieve global status.
  • Overhaul the public sector Research & Development (R&D) institutions while creating favourable environment for private sector participation in agricultural research and technology development. An important step in this direction is to measure the performance of research institutions in terms of patents and publications. Modifying the existing rules and regulations to facilitate public private partnerships in agriculture research may be considered.

Extension in Agriculture– Extension is another element needing urgent attention alongside research. New methods and approaches need to be devised for agricultural extension using information technology and mobile technology. Skill India mission should be used for extension to impart agricultural skills. Local participation of progressive farmers, self-help groups and Primary Agricultural Cooperative societies (PACS)should be leveraged to help transfer technology through one-to-one exchange of information. As suppliers of seeds, private-sector participants play an important role in extension. Policy framework should ensure that there is healthy competition among private players.


Many high-value agricultural activities such as horticulture, dairying, poultry, piggery and small husbandry can generate more income. Fisheries and forestry also constitute important alternative high-value products.

The domestic demand of these products would continue to rise as consumption patterns are changing with rising income in India. Besides, there exist vast export markets for many of these products. There is a need to ensure that farmers find the shift into the high-value commodities cost effective.

Horticulture – The necessary actions to be taken to increase incomes from hoticulture include:

  • Marketing reforms ensuring the farmer a greater share of the price paid by the final consumer.
  • Contract farming that better connects the farmer to food processing industry.
  • Easier access to term loan credit instead of just crop loan credit.
  • Greater encouragement for Farmer Producer Organisations.
  • Improved storage, transport, power and communications infrastructure in rural areas.

Animal Husbandry

Problems faced:

  • Rapidly growing numbers of unproductive male cattle.
  • Weak fodder base due to problems in pasture management and shrinking of common properties.

Way forward:

  • There is a need to innovate in institutional aspects of pasture protection and management.
  • Greater co-ordination between agencies responsible for livestock and those for crops that produce fodder.

Dairy Industry– The dairy industry provides an important supplementary source of income in rural areas and encourages balanced growth for small farmers and farmers in hilly or drought prone areas. As eating habits evolve with increasing urbanisation and demographic changes, increased production of dairy based products should be encouraged for domestic consumption as well as for exports.

Steps to be taken for improvement of the dairy industry –

  • Increase in livestock productivity through breed improvement, better feed and nutrition, animal health, and better herd composition.
  • Selective genetic breed improvement of indigenous cows and buffalos. The Rashtriya Gokul Mission for increasing productivity of indigenous cows was launched in 2015-16. Based on the results of the program, a similar exercise for buffalos may be considered.

Blue Economy

India has vast scope in both marine and inland fisheries. Thrust areas are as follows:

  • Inland fisheries, particularly of brackish water linked export oriented prawn cultivation must be encouraged as they offer substantial opportunities for faster expansion.
  • There is considerable scope for the expansion of fish production in rain fed water bodies, irrigation reservoirs,natural wetlands and ponds and tanks.
  • There is a need to encourage the use of quality fish seed and feed while also investing in disease control, marketing infrastructure, modern fish processing plants and re-engineering of the value chain.
  • Coastal states may also find it attractive to exploit deep-sea water for fishing, especially Tuna. Given its vast coastline, India is uniquely placed to expand its share in the large global market for Tuna.


With regard to forestry, there is a need to revisit the policies with respect to felling of trees and their movement across state borders. Wood-based products such as paper and pulp and furniture offer vast potential for enhanced income for farmers. It is ironic that in a country with wide scope for growing wood as a renewable resource, we import wood for our furniture industry. It is essential and urgent that we liberalize our laws so that wood may be harvested from trees grown on private lands and transported to locations where it can be used most productively. As the success of Gujarat and the original undivided Andhra Pradesh state illustrates, state governments can introduce most of the policy changes and interventions in this area on their own. Nevertheless, the central government can play a facilitating role through dissemination of best practices and financial assistance.

Source: NITI AAYOG Three Year Action Agenda, 2017-18 to 2019-20.

Categories: POINT IAS

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