India Needs to Increase Investment in Agriculture

According to The World Bank, 60% of the total land in India was found to be suitable for agriculture in 2021 against the world average of 38.4%. However, the share of cultivated land was only 53.7% of the total land in India of which 50.4% is arable and 3.3% is covered permanent crops, 24.4% of total land area is forest land and rest is used for other different purposes.

As per the definition given by Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO), agricultural land covers only 38.4% of the world’s land area in 2011. However, only 10.9% of the global land area is arable that can be used for growing crops and just 1.2% of global land area is covered by permanent crops.

Considering the ecological and environmental realities of the world, it is natural that the world can use only 38.4% of its total land for agriculture and only around 12% of total global land area can be used to grow crops for the world. This is one and the most important reason that the risk of food shortage in the world always looms larger than ever at every point of time in history. And even after all technological advancements in the agriculture sector, the world is not free from the risk of food shortage and millions of people are not able to get two square meals!

There are many countries in the world which use a higher portion of their land for agriculture than India but all these countries are relatively smaller in size in comparison to India and other large countries.

India is not the largest country in the world as far as the area is concerned but when it comes to quality of land, India is one the most fertile lands in the world and to some extent the most fertile land among the large countries (considering bio-diversity and weather both).

India becomes a very important country in the world when it comes to food security for the world. It should be noted that India has the second largest tract of arable land in the world after the United States of America. This fact is the reason why there was huge resentment in other countries when India, the second largest sugar exporter after Brazil, decided to increase ethanol blending by 20% in petrol by 2025 as it would result in increased sugar cost for many countries (Middle East and European) which are dependent on imports.
However, there is an irony to this fact. The agricultural land per capita in India is amongst the lowest in the world. It is in the range of just 0-0.25 hectare per capita as per a survey by FAO in 2011 and falls in the category of the small European countries with little arable land area.

So it becomes very important for India to use its arable land in better ways and increase productivity per hectare without negatively affecting the environment. India has to feed more than 150 crores of population in next 10 years and for many food products, the world is largely dependent on India. So it is not just a question of food security for India but the whole world also.

This peculiar situation offers a lucrative opportunity to India to improve its farmers’ well-being. It can be achieved by increasing investment in agriculture as well as agriculture policy reforms to bring the farm sector out of distress while giving more opportunities to farmers.

Dr Rajeev K Upadhyay

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