India’s agriculture: Limitless potential

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By Deepak Rikhye 

New Delhi: India’s ongoing odyssey in the realms of agriculture is a dynamic story, particularly from the 1950s, because statistics enlightens one on the sector’s progress. According to the World Trade Organisation’s report on International Trade Statistics (2012), the export and import of agricultural products is almost 1.66 and $1.82 trillion respectively in the world.

India’s export of agricultural products was only 6.9 per cent in 2010-11 but in 2011-12 that increased to 9.08 per cent showing a tremendous growth of agricultural products. These figures have been compiled byVijay Kumar who, in 2014, had submitted a thesis to the University of Lucknow for his PhD. The agricultural sector is important for the economic growth of the country and agriculture is the food basket for the nation’s population. In addition, sugarcane, cotton, oil-seeds and jute are crucial raw material for industries.

The Economic Survey (2013) states that India is right at the top in production of pulses, milk, jute fibre and second in the production of sugarcane, wheat, rice, certain types of fruit and vegetables. The country’s contribution for livestock, spices, plantation crops, fisheries and poultry, is also significant.

However, we must not ignore a trend which Kumar has emphasised in his dissertation. Although data in the 2011 Census revealed that agriculture accounted for nearly 55 per cent employment, after comparing employment figures of census in 2001 and 2011, he found that the number of cultivators had decreased from 127 million in 2001 to 119 million in 2011, thus indicating a shift from farm to non-farm employment. This factor needs the peremptory attention of the country’s leadership.

Production figures are encouraging and Kumar’s compilation of data from the Economic Survey of respective years is enlightening — for example, rice in 1950-51 was only 20 million tons and that rose to 104 million tons in 2012-13; wheat reflects an encouraging trend as well. It was only 6.46 million tons in 1950- 51 and rose to 92.46 million tons in 2012- 13. We now arrive to the all important subject of global trade involving agricultural products which brings us to a significant event recently held in New Delhi —World Food India 2017.

The event attracted representatives from around the globe, who personally assessed the potential of importing agricultural products into their countries from India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his inaugural speech at the World Food India 2017, said, “The world’s keenness to engage with India has risen. The world is seeing India with a ray of hope.” Before we read of this function let us reflect on Adam Smith’s thoughts, written in his famous treatise, The Wealth of Nations, published more than 300 years ago in 1776. He articulates the importance of international trade and his thoughts weave into the World Food India 2017.

“It is the maxim of every prudent member of a family, never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy. The tailor does not attempt to make his own shoes, but buys them from a shoemaker. The shoemaker does not attempt to make his own clothes but employs a tailor. The farmer attempts to make neither but employs different artisans. What is prudent in every private family can scarcely be folly in that of a great kingdom. If a foreign country can supply us with a cheaper commodity than we ourselves can make, better buy it of them,” he wrote. That is exactly what visitors to World Food India 2017 will rationalise. They are aware that food products from India are available at economical levels because India’s costs of production, particularly labour, are likely to be less compared to other countries.

The three-day event celebrated the food and beverage industry in India, so the occasion promises to be an ideal platform to network and collaborate with domestic and international businesses, and is synchronised by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Government of India. The gathering included investors, manufacturers, producers, food processors and policy makers from the global food ecosystem.

Exhibitions showcased Indian and foreign cuisines using Indian ingredients and fragrances, and tasting sessions were conducted by eminent Chef, Sanjeev Kapoor. It was the first ever international event to encompass the entire food spectrum from production to consumption; to attract investment and trade in the food processing sector. India is the second largest producer of farm products in the world and the third largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity.

The country is set to attract US $10 billion in the food processing sector, which will also help farmers double their income. Thomas Friedman, an American journalist, author and a three time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, writes on global trading and its impact, “The integration of markets, nation-states, and technologies, never witnessed before, now enables individuals, corporations and nation-states to reach around the world, farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before.”

Source: The Statesman

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