Food Production in India

India's agrarian culture and varied regional climate have significantly contributed to the global food basket.

The green revolution of 1960s has gradually transformed India from a food insecure country to a self-sufficient nation. In 2017-18, total food grain production was estimated at 275 million tonnes (MT). India is the largest producer (25% of global production), consumer (27% of world consumption) and importer (14%) of pulses in the world. India's annual milk production was 165 MT (2017-18), making India the largest producer of milk and pulses, and has the world's second-largest cattle population 190 million in 2012. It is the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane and groundnuts, as well as the second-largest fruit and vegetable producer, accounting for 10.9% and 8.6% of the world fruit and vegetable production, respectively.

Despite the rapid development in agriculture sector, India continues to face multiple challenges. The economic progress has also led to a structural transformation wherein the economy has diversified to manufacturing (industry) and service sectors. Subsequently, agriculture’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has steadily declined from more than 50% in the 1950s to 17.1%.

The contrast in this development journey can be seen in the malnutrition indicators. India ranks 102 out of 117 countries on the Global Hunger Index. With a score of 30.3, India suffers from a level of hunger that is serious.

Major issues

1. Land use for food and protection of biodiversity

Current practices of agricultural production are resource intensive, regionally biased and skewed towards carbohydrate-rich cereal crops such as rice and wheat. The increasing food production has led to an imbalance in soil nutrient levels, decline in water table and an overall depletion in the soil health. Soil health is considered good when it has at least 5 per cent organic matter. Unfortunately, the national average for organic matter in soil in India is 0.4 per cent.

Despite being one of the leading producers for many food grains and cash crops, India struggles with agricultural productivity on account of many factors. A major proportion of land holdings are small or marginal which face problems with using advanced mechanization and irrigation facilities. Most of the small land holdings are fragments of larger land holdings which have been passed on within the family or leased to farmers by a large holder. In latter case, formal lease agreements are often missing thereby restricting the farmer’s access to formal credit, subsidies or crop insurance.

2. Use of fertilizers and chemicals in farm operations

Imbalanced application of different plant nutrients through fertilizers is a widespread problem in India. The major reasons are lack of adequate knowledge among farmers about the nutritional requirement of crops, poor access to proper guidelines on the right use of plant nutrients, inadequate policy support through government regulations, and distorted and poorly targeted subsidies.

According to the 29th Parliamentary Standing Committee Report, about 292 districts account for consumption of 85 per cent of all of the country’s fertilisers.

See More

Stories & Showcases

Success Story | Kalpavriksha Programme

An initiatives by Marico Industries to enhance farm productivity of Coconut Farmers.

16 JULY 2020 Know more →
Success Story | Cocoa Life Program

Mondelez India’s initiative supporting Cocoa agriculture research at Universities in South India.

15 JULY 2020 Know more →
Report | COVID-19

Global hunger could double due to COVID-19 blow, says UN

21 APRIL 2020 Know more →