MessageAgriculture in India is the pivotal sector for ensuring food and nutritional security, sustainable development and for alleviation of poverty. It is the key sector for generating employment opportunities for the vast majority of the population. Indian agriculture supports 18% of world population on only 9% of world’s arable land. The demand for food and processed commodities is increasing due to growing population and rising per capita income. There are projections that demand for food grains would increase from 192 million tonnes in 2000 to 345 million tonnes in 2030. Hence in the next 20 years, production of food grains needs to be increased at the rate of 5.5 million tonnes annually.
While agricultural production has gone up but our agricultural productivity levels are amongst the lowest in the world. Small land holdings with limited mechanisation and limited access to affordable capital have contributed to low productivity levels. With 12 million less hectares under wheat and rice, China manages to produce much more. Its fields give six tons of rice a hectare, three times India's yield. Its wheat fields are twice as productive.
The average size of the landholding declined to 1.32 ha in 2000-01 from 2.30 ha in 1970-71, and absolute number of operational holdings increased from about 70 million to 121 million. If this trend continues, the average size of holding in India would be mere 0.68 ha in 2020, and would be further reduced to a low of 0.32 ha in 2030. Average size of landholding is contracting share of agriculture in gross domestic product is declining and number of operational holdings are increasing.
Agriculture contribution in the GDP is declining in India, which in 2008-09 came down to 15.7% from about 30% in 1990-91. During last two decades, the average annual growth of agriculture sector was around 3% in comparison of 7% overall average growth of Indian economy. Industrial and service sectors have outpaced performance of agriculture sector during the last 20 years. But the proportion of workforce engaged in agriculture did not commensurate with the decline of its share in the gross domestic product. At present also, agriculture sector provides employment to about 52 % of the workforce that used to be about 61% in 1990-91.
These different trends reveal that income in non-agriculture sectors are growing faster than agriculture sector. And a sizable workforce from agriculture is needed to be shifted to non-agriculture sector for income and livelihood opportunities. Hence, in our country the research and development focus needs to be reoriented in a way to develop and promote those technologies that raise agricultural income and ensure employment opportunities in the agri-supply chain to a vast majority of the workforce.
I hope that my university will play a vital role in developing innovative technological services to farming community and providing world class education to the students in agriculture and allied fields.