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- Historical perspective of Indian Agriculture
India remains the second-most populous country after China. It has a population of 1.2 billion people, of which 70% is rural, and 75% of the poor live in rural area. After its independence, the country made tremendous progress towards gaining food security. Before the 1960s, India used to rely on imports and foreign aid but after 1966, India adopted policy reforms that enhance self-reliance in food security by promoting domestic production. This has led to India being the world’s largest producer of many fresh fruits. It is also the second largest producer of dry fruits, agriculture-based textile raw materials, roots, and tuber crops. Though India is the second largest producer of fruit and vegetables in the world, the export of those commodities only constitutes a smaller share of the country’s export.
In 2013, India exported more than $39 billion worth of agriculture products. It has gone from a food deficit country to a food sufficient in a day. As the country’s food production is increasing more and more land is cultivated. However, during the last decades, the growth in agricultural land use grew more than the production, implying a decrease in productivity.
I.1 Green Revolution in India
The green revolution started in Mexico in the 1940s by an American named Norman Borlaug. Due to its success in producing more agriculture products and increasing the amount of calories produced per acre of agriculture, it spread in other nations. It was very successful in India. Before the green revolution, only rainfed regions of India were able to practice agriculture. A huge number of people were dying of famine because there was not enough food to eat. During the green revolution, The following was introduced:
- Irrigation was introduced in the other regions that do not have enough rainfalls.
- Dwarf wheat: When improved wheats were introduced, they grew tall and will then lodge.
- Fertilizers: The genetic crops introduced couldn’t grow without fertilizers.
- Agriculture production on a large scale: there was the introduction of mechanization.
- Affluence in farmers: All farmers were considered poor before the introduction of green revolution. But now, they are rich farmers who have large scale farms
- Land intensive management: The prevented land expansion by maximizing the potential of its soil. More food was grown in the same amount of land. There was no deforestation.
I.2 Effects of green revolution on smallholder farmers
Although the green revolution had a lot of benefits and fed a lot of people that were dying of hunger, it also had some negative effects on the lives of smallholder farmers and families. Some of the failures of the green revolution include:
- Mono-cropping: In traditional farming, farmers planted a variety of crops. However, farmers in green revolution planted few crop varieties of crops that were producing high yields. It leaded to the increase of pests and diseases in the crops. Fifty years ago there were 30,000 varieties of rice, however, only 10 varieties are remaining. (4)
- Inequality: farmers who were farming at large scale were benefiting more of the green revolution. They were able to afford fertilizers, unlike smallholder farmers. Farmers cultivating at small scales farms had to work for the big farms as they couldn’t afford the prices of fertilizers and pesticides. As the pests increased, the more the pesticides use increased. There was also the introduction of machinery which shorten the labour employment which created unemployment. Those who were poor before the green revolution became more poorer.
- Unsustainable practice: farming practices used were detrimental for the soil health.
II. Smallholder farmers health and impact after the green revolution
II.1 Farmers suicides
There was a spike in farmer suicides in the end of the green revolution. Small scale farmers were exposed to price fluctuations that are characteristic of cash crops on the global market and were in competition with multinational corporations. Large scale Indian farmers adopted the use of pesticides, fertilized and genetic modified seeds. It raised the production costs significantly. The small scale farmers had to take out loans for inputs because they were expensive and couldn’t afford them. Indians are very proud people who wouldn’t want to rely on anyone for help. Although they were able to take out loans, they don’t have the capability to predict the price of the crops once harvested or what the weather is going to be like. Thus, when the price of the crops take a downturn, the farmers do not have earnings in the postharvest needed to pay out loans used to buy inputs, resulting in enduring debt. As most of the farmers do not have another source of income, they are obliged to take out more loans, incurring more debts, to purchase inputs in attempts of trying to repay the previous their debts. In this case, they found themselves drown in debts they cannot repay. This resulted in male farmers taking out their lives, leaving their debts to their wives and children (Pull out data about slavery on the families still alive)
III. Food losses
Food loss can be crucial to smallholder farmers who solemnly depend on agriculture with no other source of income. It occurs along the agricultural value chain from harvesting to consumption level. In low income countries they experience food loss which usually happens during post harvest and before it reaches out to the market. However, in high income countries where they experience food waste which happens at the retail and consumption stages. Nevertheless, in my paper I’ll focus more on food loss than the food waste. In developing countries, food loss happens at the post harvest stages due to lack of knowledge, modern infrastructure and technologies. It has an immense impact on poor farmers whose income diminishes, and consumers who have have to pay more for the produce and less food availability. Below, I will elaborate on the causes of food losses.
III.1 Causes of food losses in the agriculture value chain
- Harvesting: In most rural areas traditional agriculture is prevalent. During harvest, due to lack of machineries, crops harvesting is done by hand using farming tools. Crops have a favorable moisture content they should be harvested on. When they are harvested ahead of time, it means they have a high moisture content which in return raisesdrying costs and also make crops vulnerable to diseases and pests. Nevertheless, when not harvested on time, they attract mammals and flying pests or perish by cause of unavoidable casualty (1).
- Lack of effective storages: India is the second exporter of fruits and fresh vegetables in the world, however, hunger and dietary deficiency is prevalent among Indians. Compared to the US that store about 85% of produce using cold storage facilities, only two percent is stored in India. This is due to the lack of post-harvest infrastructure which is results in a loss of 18 percent of fruits and vegetables (2). In addition, with the lack of storages, farmers are obligated to take the fresh produce right after harvest. Take into account that all the farmers in that region are harvesting and selling produce on the market at the same time. Under the circumstances, there’s a price stagnation. According to the laws of supply and demand, when there’s an excessive supply of produce than demanded; the price goes down and farmers are at loss.
- Transportation: Transportation plays a major role in post-harvest losses. The lack of proper roads increases the number of infections in the grains because they spend more time on the roads and get exposed to undesirable things. The other modes of transportation that are not vehicles such as bikes and motorcycles contribute to food losses. There’s grain spillage as the bikes move through the poorly maintained road. Grains are spilled in large quantities due the low quality of jute bags used to store grains. “Alavi et al. (3) reported 2%-10% losses during handling and transportation of rice in southeast Asia” (1).
- Middlemen; are intermediaries between farmers and consumers or companies. They have turned out to be the enemies of progress. They buy low from farmers and sell at a high price to consumers. It has seen to be crucial especially in rural regions of the developing nations where farmers aren’t capable to communicate with each other or know what the market prices are. Farmers might also not be aware of the policies that are in favor of them because of lack of communication, which makes it easy for middlemen to exploit them.
IV. Why is India slacking compared to other countries?
India agriculture production is huge and is capable to feed its whole population, however, millions of people are dying of hunger. Dr. Vijay Kumar Sarabu in his research paper (2015), highlights some of the reasons why India is underperforming compared to China that has less agriculture advantages to India. The two countries were compared to each other because they are similar in so many ways such as having agrarian economies and relying on the agricultural sector for industrial expansion.
According to Dr. Sabaru, China surpasses India due to these three reasons;
- “Technological improvement accruing from Research and development
- Investment in rural infrastructure
- Increasingly liberalised agricultural policy”
In the paper, Dr. Sabaru mentions that India has over 30,000 scientists but their “research track record has been so abysmal that India’s current agricultural productivity is roughly equal to what China achieved in the mid-1980s.” One of the reasons that led to the stagnation of useful research was due to the poor allocation of funding for research and development. He mentioned that “90% of the Punjab Agriculture university’s budget is eaten up by staff salaries with only 3% going into research.” In comparison to China, funding for research do not go elsewhere. Researchers have an incentive to work harder because they get an increase in salaries. With a lot of improved research and development allows China to make decision such as investing more money in “rural infrastructure in particular roads as well as storage and other marketing facilities” On the other hand, India instead of investing in rural infrastructure, they provide subsidies to farmers.
The Chinese having a saying that goes ““You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish, and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” This quote summarizes what they Chinese government is doing by giving less subsidies and invest more in R&D and rural infrastructures.
In the research paper, Dr Sabaru concludes that change will be sustainable once the government make good agriculture policies and invest in R&D and try to follow the Chinese government example. He acknowledges that Indians are hard workers and tend to excel in other countries with good government, and it’s up to the Indian government to make the country self sufficient and promote food security.
As I conclude, the agricultural sector is growing however it’s growing at a slow rate. With better agriculture policies like the ones implemented by the Chinese government, India will become the first donor of food in the world. In addition, India will have food security.
- Kumar, Deepak and Prasanta Kalita. “Reducing Postharvest Losses during Storage of Grain Crops to Strengthen Food Security in Developing Countries” Foods (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 6,1 8. 15 Jan. 2017, doi:10.3390/foods6010008. (1)
- Sivarama, Madhu. “Government’s role in India’s Ailing Cold Storage Sector” Dec. 2016, doi: 10.13140/RG.2.2.36370.45765 (2)
Alavi H.R., Htenas A., Kopicki R., Shepherd A.W., Clarete R.Trusting Trade and the Private Sector for Food Security in Southeast Asia. World Bank Publications; Washington, DC, USA: 2012 (3)
Lee, Kevin. “Harmful Effects of the Green Revolution.” Sciencing.com, Sciencing, 23 Apr. 2018, sciencing.com/harmful-effects-green-revolution-8587115.html. (4)
- Sarabu, Vijay. (2015). Comparative Study of Agriculture in India, China and USA.
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