Characteristics of Indian Agriculture

Agriculture in India plays a pivotal role in providing livelihood, ensuring food security, reducing poverty and sustaining growth.

Main Characteristics of Indian Agriculture are:-

  1. Subsistent in Character
  2. Heavy Pressure of Population
  3. Predominance of Food Grains
  4. Mixed Cropping
  5. High Percentage of the Reporting Area under Cultivation
  6. Small Size of Holdings and Fragmentation of Fields
  7. Limited Intensive Agriculture
  8. Primitive Technology
  9. Indian Agriculture is Labour Intensive
  10. Rain-fed Agriculture
  11. Less Area under Leguminous and Fodder Crops
  12. Tradition Bound
  13. Low Productivity
  14. Government Policy
  15. Lack of Definite Agricultural Land Use Policy
  16. Lack of Marketing and Storage Facilities
  17. Low Status of Agriculture in the Society
  18. Land Tenancy
  19. Poverty and Indebtedness of the Farmers
  20. Inadequacy of Extension Service
  21. Inadequate Agricultural Research and Education, Training, and Extension
  22. Soil Erosion and Soil Degradation
  23. Other Characteristics and Problems


Overview of agriculture sector in India

  • Agriculture & GVA: India is witnessing a general decline in share of agriculture in Gross Value Added (GVA). However, growth rate of agriculture & allied sectors have been fluctuating at 1.5% in 2012-13 to (-)0.2% in 2014-15 to 4.9% in 2016-17 primarily due to fact that more than 50% of agriculture in India is rainfall dependent and private investment has declined.


  • Crop Production: There is an overall increase in food production on account of good rainfall during 2016-17 and policy initiatives taken by government.



  • Structural changes in sector: A gradual shift can be seen in Indian Agriculture sector, where the share of livestock in GVA has increased and share of Crop sector has declined.This also coincided with the change in sources of income of farm households.


  • Feminisation of Agriculture: Role of women as cultivators, entrepreneurs, and labourers has increased with growing rural to urban migration by men. According to Census 2011, out of total female main workers, 55% were agricultural labourers and 24% were cultivators. However, there is a gender disparity in ownership of landholding in agriculture (only 12.8% owned by women) along with concentration of operational holdings (25.7 per cent) by women in the marginal and small holdings categories.



  • Cropping pattern: India has highest net cropland area (NCA) with 179.8 Mha (9.6% of global NCA). However, according to Index of Crop Diversification, there is a declining inter-temporal behavior in crop diversification among most of States (exception being Himachal Pradesh & Jharkhand). This monoculture practices has been the reason for declining productivity, lower response to fertilizer, degradation of soil health and declining profitability of cultivation.

Input Management in Agriculture:

  • A sustainable use of inputs like irrigation, seeds, fertilizer, credit, machines, extension services etc. helps in improving the productivity without losing soil fertility and causing environmental damages. However, lack of educational level of farmers had impacted their capacity to adopt and inculcate new methods of cultivation and input management.

Irrigation: Only 34.5% of total cropped area is irrigated in India. To improve irrigation facility Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana was launched by government.

Agriculture Mechanization: As 50% of Indian population would be urban by the year 2050 (World Bank), It is estimated that percentage of agricultural workers of total work force would drop to 25.7% by 2050 from 58.2% in 2001. Thus, there is a need to cater the increasing food security need by enhancing the level of farm mechanization in the country which has the potential to increase productivity up to 30% and reduce the cost of cultivation up to 20%.


Crop Insurance and crop loss:

  • According to the NSSO Report (July 2012 – June 2013), very small share of agricultural households engaged in crop production activities was insuring their crops. Government initiated PMFBY which provides comprehensive coverage of risks from pre-sowing to post harvest against natural nonpreventable risks.

Agriculture credit and marketing Initiatives

  • Credit is a critical input in achieving high productivity and overall production in the agricultural sector. Institutional Credit helps in delinking the farmers from noninstitutional sources of credit, and increases financial inclusion.
  • Marketing reform has been undertaken to benefit farmers from remunerative prices for their produce in the market like electronic National Agriculture Market (e-NAM).

 Agriculture Research and Development

  • It is the main source of innovation, which is needed to sustain agricultural productivity growth in the long-term.
  • There has been an increasing allocation for it which is manifested in development of a total 209 new varieties/hybrids for Cereals, Pulses, Oilseeds, Commercial and Forage crops, tolerant to various biotic and abiotic stresses with enhanced quality.




  • It replaced all other existing insurance schemes except the Restructured Weather-Based Crop Insurance Scheme (uses weather parameters as proxy for crop yield in compensating the cultivators for deemed crop loses)
  • A uniform premium of only 2% to be paid by farmers for all Kharif crops and 1.5% for all Rabi crops.
  • In case of annual commercial and horticultural crops, the premium to be paid by farmers will be only 5%.
  • There is no upper limit on Government subsidy so farmers will get claim against full sum insured without any reduction.
  • The difference between the premium paid by farmers and the actuarial premium charged was paid by the Centre and state government in the ratio of 50:50.
  • It is compulsory for loanee farmers availing crop loans for notified crops in notified areas and voluntary for nonloanee farmers.
  • Yield Losses: due to non-preventable risks, such as Natural Fire and Lightning, Storm, Hailstorm, Cyclone, Typhoon, Tempest, Hurricane, Tornado. Risks due to Flood, Inundation and Landslide, Drought, Dry spells, Pests/ Diseases also will be covered.
  • Post-harvest losses are also covered.
  • Mandatory use of technology: Smart phones, drones etc., will be used to capture and upload data of crop cutting to reduce the delays in claim payment to farmers. Remote sensing will be used to reduce the number of crop cutting experiments.



  • Decentralized State level planning and projectised execution’ structure, in order to allow States to draw up a District Irrigation Plan (DIP) and a State Irrigation Plan (SIP). These plans need to be prepared in order to access PMKSY fund.


  • It will be supervised and monitored by Inter-Ministerial National Steering Committee (NSC) under PM with Union Ministers of all concerned Ministries. A National Executive Committee (NEC) is to be constituted under the Chairmanship of the Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog to oversee programme implementation.
  • PMKSY has been formulated amalgamating ongoing schemes viz. Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP); Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP); and On Farm Water Management (OFWM) component of National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA).


  • Water budgeting is done for all sectors namely, household, agriculture and industries.
  • Investments will happen at farm level. So, farmers know what is happening and can provide valuable feedback.
  • Recently, Long Term Irrigation Fund has been instituted under PMKSY in NABARD for funding and fast tracking the implementation of incomplete major and medium irrigation projects.


  • India is the fifth largest seed market across the globe.
  • It is expected to grow at more than 15% during 2017–2022, and can reach a value of more than US$ 7 Billion by 2022.
  • The seed market is majorly contributed by non-vegetable seeds such as corn, cotton, paddy, wheat, sorghum, sunflower and millets.
  • Direct contribution of quality seed to the total production can be raised up to 45% with efficient management of other inputs.

Silk industry (Sericulture) in India

  • India is the second largest producer of silk in the world. It provides employment to over 8.25million people in the country.
  • There are four major types of silk produced in India: Mulberry, Tasar, Muga, Eri of which Mulberry accounts for 70% of total raw silk production.
  • India currently produces all four variety of silk – mulberry, eri, muga and tassar. The silk production is mostly prevalent in Karnataka, Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Major Export destination of Indian Silk exports are USA and UAE followed by UK, France, Italy and Germany. Mostly natural silk yarns, fabrics, made-ups, readymade garments, silk carpets and silk waste are exported.
  • For growth and development of the silk industry Indian Silk Export Promotion Council has also been set up. It organises trade shows and fairs across the world to promote trade with different countries. The council also facilitates meetings between exporters and potential customers.
  • India’s north eastern region has the unique distinction of producing all these commercial varieties of silk contributes about 21% of the total silk production in the country

Sugar Industry in India

  • The money would be credited directly into the bank accounts of farmers, who haven’t received the “fair and remunerative price” (FRP) for sugarcane fixed by the Centre.
  • The Centre’s Sugarcane (Control) Order mandates mills to pay the FRP within 14 days of cane purchase from farmers, failing which 15% annual interest is charged on the due amount for the period of delay. Considering the large cane price arrear dues to farmers the mills say they cannot pay farmers beyond 75% of their realisations from sugar and thus the amount sanctioned by government is grossly inadequate.
  • The populist increases in SAP recent years has resulted in excessive production of sugarcane, estimated at 295.07 lakh tone thus triggering a glut of supply of sugar which reached an all-time high of 29.98 million tonne.
  • Further considering the high cost of production of sugar (partly due to high cane prices in India) in other countries the export prices of sugar are much lower than from domestic sales.
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