The government will certainly not indulge in self congratulation for agriculture recording a growth of 5.4 per cent to 232.07 million tonnes in 2010-11 as this is happening on a low production base of 218.11 million tonnes last year when the country experienced the worst south-west monsoon since 1972. In fact, the major concern of the government is farm sector’s niggardly growth of 2.8 per cent in the first four years of the current plan. That the country will miss the four per cent annual growth for the sector during the eleventh plan by a long margin is not in doubt. There is no way growth could be raised to 8.5 per cent next year to compensate for performance deficit in the earlier years. The crisis in agriculture in the form of virtual stagnation in productivity and difficulty in commissioning new unfarmed land finds expression in a table in the Economic Survey.
The table on compound annual growth rate basis shows that in 10 years to 2009-10, the area under rice shrank 0.03 per cent and production and productivity of the cereal grew 1.59 per cent and 1.61 per cent, respectively. As for wheat, the area gain was 1.21 per cent, while progress in production and productivity was 1.89 per cent and 0.68 per cent, respectively. Productivity gains have plateaued raising concerns about food security. All this goes to show that the country now urgently needs a follow up green revolution to the one of the 1960s which led to major breakthroughs in wheat and rice production. The next green revolution has to happen to chase the twin goals of food security and nutritional diet. Without the second revolution, which can be postponed at the nation’s peril, the supply side’s response to growing demand for food will be weak leading to disturbing price spikes. Agriculture’s critical limiting factors for India as for many other countries are inelastic supply of arable land and declining water tables – in some parts of Punjab where the first green revolution was heralded the...
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