In the past agriculture has played and will continue to play a dominant role in the growth of Indian economy in the foreseeable future. It represents the largest sector producing around 28 percent of the GDP, is the largest employer providing more than 60 percent of the jobs and is the prime arbiter of living standards for seventy percent of India’s population living in the rural areas. These factors together with a strong determination to achieve self-sufficiency in food grains production have ensured a high priority for agriculture sector in the successive development plans of the country.
An important facet of progress in agriculture is its success in eradication of its critical dependence on imported foodgrains. In the 1950’s nearly 5 percent of the total foodgrains available in the country were imported. This dependence worsened during the 1960’s when two severe drought years led to a sharp increase in import of foodgrains. During 1966 India had to import more than 10 million tonnes of foodgrains as against a domestic production of 72 million tonnes. In the following year again, nearly twelve million tonnes had to be imported. On the average well over seven percent of the total availability of foodgrains during the 1960s had to be imported.
Indian agriculture has progressed a long way from an era of frequent droughts and vulnerability to food shortages to becoming a significant exporter of agricultural commodities. This has been possible due to persistent efforts at harnessing the potential of land and water resources for agricultural purposes. Indian agriculture, which grew at the rate of about 1 percent per annum during the fifty years before independence, has grown at the rate of about 3 percent per annum in the post independence era. Agriculture – sub-sectors
Indian agriculture broadly consists of four sub-sectors. Agriculture proper including all food-crops oilseeds, fiber, plantation crops, fruits and vegetables is the largest accounting for nearly 70 percent of the agriculture sector as a whole. The rapid growth in this sub-sector through exploitation of wastelands and fallows, spread of irrigation and adoption of production enhancing technologies was critical in transforming India from a country vulnerable to food shortages to one of exportable surplus. Although this sub-sector has made impressive progress its share in the sector as a whole has declined from 78 percent in 1960-61 to less than 70 percent by early 90s
Correspondingly the share of livestock sector has increased considerably. The livestock industry has grown from Rs. 15 billion in early 1960s to Rs. 100 billion by 1980-81 and Rs. 672 billion by 1993-94. In nominal terms the sector grew at almost 15 percent per annum during 1980s. Milk production, which was almost stagnant for two decades ending 1970, grew by over 5 percent per annum in the 80s. Similarly, production of eggs increased at the rate of about 6.5 percent during the same period. As a result the share of livestock increased from about 17 percent till early 80s to 25 percent by 1993-94.
Though it plays relatively a minor role within the sector as a whole, fishing sub-sector activities have been on the rise. The sub-sector has grown from only Rs. 3 billion in 1970-71 to nearly Rs. 90 billion in 1993-94. The growth was particularly rapid in 70s and 80s. Value added increased at over 5 percent per annum during this period.
In real terms forestry and logging activities have been on the decline since mid seventies. As of 1993-94, the size of the industry in terms of value of output was 103 billion.
Over the past three decades, the country has successfully transformed itself from a food deficit economy to one which is essentially self sufficient in availability of foodgrains and other essential commodities, albeit only at the prevailing level of effective demand. Annual aggregate foodgrains production, which averaged about 82...