Collecting agricultural data in a decentralised economy is a big challenge and there is a need to adopt new technologies like big data and artificial intelligence to get more scientific information for policy making, Chief Statistician Pravin Srivastava said on Monday.
To produce quality data, there is a need to look at how data is collected, he noted.
Addressing the global conference on agricultural statistics here, Srivastava said: "Even though agriculture contributes about 17 per cent to the country's GDP, almost 50 per cent of the workforce is dependent on agriculture. ...We have huge informal economy and measuring an informal economy is a big challenge that the statistical system faces".
The country's decentralised economy and statistical set up pose a challenge in developing and collecting data. The machinery in the state and central government is facing these challenges on a day-to-day basis, he said.
As the demand for traditional data continues to increase, there is a need to look at the respondent burden in terms of how data is collected, Srivastava said, adding that quality data is required as decisions are taken based on that information.
Srivastava, secretary in the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MoSPI), further said, "If you want to look at climate change and its impact on agriculture and farmers, we really need to look at getting data from non-inclusive methods using big data, artificial intelligence, and whatever new contemporary techniques coming. Adopt that and we can get more scientific information for policy making".
Echoing views, Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand said India has produced some globally reputed statisticians and consequently could set up a set of statistical system.
"However, that is now a thing of the past, I feel we could not keep pace with the agriculture statistics in developed countries," he noted.
During the last couple of decades, a big gap has risen between developed and developing countries in terms of availability of statistical data, indicators, quality and statistical application in almost all fields, he said.
"It is more glaring in agriculture where real time data on most of the variables is not available. For instance, we often talk of food waste. But, there is no official estimate how much food production is wasted in developing countries. Simple land use statistics are available in time gap of 4-5 years. Same in case of data on irrigation," he said.
One of the reason for considerable time gap in availability of quality data, Chand said that the welfare country is still depend on manual reporting from revenue officials.
"We have made so much advance in remote sensing and satellite for collecting data. Their use in agriculture data is very low," he added.