The latest data from the World Bank shows that around 60.3 per cent of India’s land area is agricultural. India Brand Equity Foundation, a trust established by the ministry of commerce and industry, confirms this. At 157.35 million hectares, India holds the second largest agricultural land, next only to the US. This should set at rest the fears that have been raised in the aftermath of the government promulgating an ordinance to amend the Land Acquisition Act that acres will be taken away for other purposes and given that, the amount of land used for farming would come down dramatically. What this means is that India has enough land dedicated to agriculture and even if some of it is taken away for other purposes there will still be enough land left for agriculture.
The problem with poor agricultural production clearly is not the paucity of land. India has more arable land than China, despite its total area being only a little over 34 per cent that of the latter. However, China produces more rice and wheat than India does. Its fruit production is also three times of India’s. India’s agricultural productivity is low compared to that of many other countries. One factor responsible for low productivity is the shrinking size of the average landholding of an Indian farmer.
The government can’t do much about it but there are other areas that can be worked upon. To enhance productivity, the government must provide easy and reliable access to inputs such as quality seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and access to suitable technology tailored for specific needs. Infrastructure support and innovative marketing systems and marketing the output from a large number of small holdings efficiently will help Indian farmers. Agriculture, which accounts for only 14 per cent of the nation’s GDP, cannot sustain nearly 58 per cent of its population. The government must evolve the entire system of compensating and re-skilling farmers so that they can move away from dependence on agriculture.