India’s agriculture growth, measured in terms of gross value added at constant prices, slipped into negative territory in the October-December quarter (first time in FY16) because of a low kharif harvest.
However, on full-year basis, the government estimates gross value added in agriculture and allied activities would rise 1.1 per cent, from negative 0.2 per cent in 2014-15, on account of good performance of livestock, horticulture, fisheries and dairy sector.
But experts question projection of recovery in agriculture and allied activities based on livestock and horticulture. “Even if you take 1.1 per cent as agriculture and allied activities growth in 2015-16, it would mean that in the first two years of the Narendra Modi government, India’s farm sector grew by 0.45 per cent on an average, which is less than average annual population growth of 1.3-1.4 per cent,” said Ashok Gulati, former chairman of Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices. He said lower average agriculture GDP growth than population growth also means that per capita income in rural areas is falling while almost 55 per cent of India’s rural workforce is dependent on agriculture.
According to the first advanced estimate of foodgrains production by the department of agriculture, output in 2015-16 kharif season is expected to be around 124.05 million tonnes, around 4 million tonnes more than the first advanced estimate of 2014-15. This, however, is less than the final output of the same year.
This is second consecutive year of drought. The southwest monsoon in 2015 was almost 14 per cent less than normal, registering its worst performance since 2009. Due to poor monsoon, this is the first back-to-back drought year for India in three decades, and only the fourth in more than a century.
Almost 40 per cent of the country received less than normal rains in 2015, forcing more than seven states to declare drought.