Agriarian India, Beaten By China

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Mukta kaushik

NEW DELHI: Indian is basically an agriarian economy with 61.5% of the total population being rural and dependent on agriculture. This sector accounts for 18 percent of India’s GDP and provides employment to 70% of the country’s workforce. But still, the agriculture sector is in a state of pity. At the time of Independence the Chinese and Indian economies were similarly situated but within a short span of time China surpassed India.

India has the second largest area of arable land in the world after the USA. Although the total land area of the country is only about one-third of China’s, India’s total arable land is marginally bigger than China’s. Yet, China produces about 40% more rice and wheat than India. China also beats India in production of fruits and vegetables. India maybe the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world but China is far ahead with three times of India’s produce.

India produced 1938 kg of rice per hectare, averaged over the 3 year period (1998-2000) while China produced more than 6000 kg/hectare. In the 60s and early 70s, India’s wheat yield was higher than China’s.  But after the mid-70s, China’s yield started to outpace India’s and the disparity is the highest in the most recent decade. Even in cotton production, where India has made impressive strides, Chinese
production of raw cotton is more than 40% higher than of India, and China’s cotton yield is about 2.5 times higher than India’s.

The major problem in agriculture, in India, is small landholding size. As much as 67 percent of India’s farmland is held by the marginal farmers with land holdings below one hectare, against less than 1 percent in large holdings of 10 hectares and above, the latest Agriculture Census shows.

“The average size of the holding has been estimated at 1.15 hectare. The average size of these holdings has shown a steady declining trend over various Agriculture Censuses since 1970-71,”.Since India is a country with huge population and limited land resources this aspect can be handled only through “Farming on Consolidated Lands” but this can prove to be a very complex process as land fragmentation is a major problem here.

Yield is a function of controlled inputs such as seed quality, fertilizer usage, water, acreage under harvest and mechanization. In India, the agriculture is largely rainfall dependent whereas in China it is mostly irrigated. It is generally seen that yield is low in areas that depend on vagaries of monsoon whereas the yield is high in irrigated areas. Recently, Chinese have started a huge canal project where they will diverse water from rain-fed areas to areas where rainfall is deficient, whereas canal coverage has remained static at 17 million hectares in the last 20 years in India.

Another important aspect of increasing productivity is the use of fertilizers. China uses high dosages of fertilizers to increase fertility based on research. In India, the government started the “Soil Health Card” scheme. This card will provide information about the nutrients required by the soil. Awareness of soil health position and the role of manures would help in the higher production of food grains. Along with the nutritional requirement, this card also tells about the dosage of different fertilizers required.

However, until now, it could not succeed because only 5% of farmers are covered under it. Moreover, a huge part of the agricultural budget is kept for promoting organic farming. However, the results could not be verified as the government support to agriculture is in the very nascent stage.


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