Agricultural output may ebb this year owing to an inadequate and erratic monsoon, but that should not obscure the fact that several states have reported sustained and high agricultural growth in the recent past — including states that have been chronic laggards. An assessment of agricultural growth in selected states by the apex trade and industry body Assocham has ranked – quite predictably – Gujarat at the top with the highest compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.97 per cent in the decade between 2000-01 and 2009-10. Maharashtra came a close second with 10.5 per cent, while many others such as Chhattisgarh and Odisha achieved high, if single-digit, decadal growth. Even the agriculturally backward eastern region, till recently largely unaffected by the green revolution, has done exceptionally well. Going by the official numbers, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, eastern Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal recorded growth of around 12 per cent in 2010-11. More significantly, the region harvested over 56.2 million tonnes of rice, more than half the total rice harvest of 96 million tonnes in the country, in that year.
This remarkable feat has been achieved despite two severe droughts (2002 and 2009) and variable rainfall in some other years of the last decade. At the all-India level, the farm sector withstood the 2009 drought – the worst in 30 years – without a decline in its output, reflecting Indian agriculture’s growing resilience. This comforting development has come at a time when farm output in the original northwestern green revolution belt (Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and adjoining areas) has plateaued. Most outperforming states have claimed they will maintain this uptrend in the coming years.
The policies and programmes responsible largely differ from state to state, though efficient water management and resolution of local issues inhibiting speedier development are among their common features. Gujarat, for instance, has successfully tried out a novel concept of holding annual Krishi Mahotsavs (farm fairs) in village clusters to bring the entire administrative machinery to farmers’ doorsteps. Bihar has chosen to constitute a separate agriculture cabinet to reduce delays in decision-making. Madhya Pradesh has relied on rainwater harvesting and effective price support through government procurement.
At the macro level, enhanced investment in agriculture, largely through private initiatives driven by higher incomes, is believed to have spurred growth. Recent state-wise investment data are not available; but all-India investment in agriculture, which had hovered around 4.2 per cent of the farm sector’s gross product (agricultural GDP) for a long time, swelled to nearly 14 per cent between 2002 and 2007 and over 18 per cent from 2007 onwards. The real challenge now is to broaden the base of farm development by promoting the production of protein-rich and other high-value commodities like pulses, edible oils, fruit, vegetables and livestock products, which are keeping food inflation high.