What is the role / importance of agriculture in India?

For any country’s economic development, it is important to understand the contributing sectors. These are categorized under:- Primary, Secondary, Tertiary and Quaternary activities.

Primary activities include all those connected with extraction and production of natural resources. Agriculture, fishing and gathering are good examples.

Secondary activities are concerned with the processing of primary resources. Manufacturing of steel, baking of bread and weaving of cloth are examples of this activity.

Tertiary activities provide support to the primary and secondary sectors through trade, transport, banking, advertising services.

Quaternary activities are related to knowledge based services which usually include services like – information technology, research and development (R&D), consultation etc.

Agriculture is a primary activity. It includes growing crops, fruits, vegetables, flowers and rearing of livestock. As per International Labour Organisation, almost 1 billion people are engaged in global agricultural sector. And not to forget, the number of people employed in agriculture totally depends from country to country. It can be as low as 2% in countries like United States and Canada, to over 80% in many African countries.

When it comes to India, agriculture is an important contributor to the Indian economy. More than 58% of Indian population depend on agriculture as their primary source of livelihood. As per Central statistics office (CSO) a govt agency under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, the share of agriculture in India’s GDP goes up to 17.3% during 2016-17.

Some of India’s key agricultural exports include – fresh vegetables and seeds, wheat, rice, cereal, pulses, agriculture-based textile raw materials, roots and tuber crops, pulses, farmed fish, eggs, coconut, sugarcane and numerous vegetables. The Indian agricultural sector has also attracted foreign direct investment (FDI) of worth US$ 2.45 billion in the year 2016-17.

Different types of farming

In India, agriculture is an age-old economic activity dating back to 10,000 years ago. Basically cultivation of plants, and domestication of crops and animals began by 9,000 BCE (Vedic period) in the Indian subcontinent. Over these years, cultivation methods have developed significantly with respect to the characteristics of physical environment, technological know-how and socio-cultural practices. At present, in different parts of India, the following farming systems are practiced and they are –

Primitive Subsistence Farming

Primitive subsistence agriculture is practiced on small patches of land with primitive tools like hoe, dao and digging sticks, and family/community labour. It purely relies on monsoon, natural fertility of soil and other environmental suitability conditions.

It is also called “slash and burn” agriculture wherein farmers clear the land and produce other crops till the soil fertility of the land decreases. Farmers then move on to a fresh piece of land for cultivation. This type of cultivation allows the land to replenish its fertility by natural means. In a nutshell, in this type of agriculture farmers do not use any form of modern input and everything relies on natural processes.

This kind of agriculture is known by different names in different parts of the country.

It is called “jhumming” or “jhum” cultivation in north-eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland.

In Manipur it is called as Pamlou.

In Chattishgarh and Andaman & Nicobar islands, it is called as Dipa.

Intensive Subsistence Farming

Intensive subsistence farming is practiced in areas where there is high population pressure on land. It is labour intensive farming, where high doses of biochemical inputs and irrigation are used for obtaining higher production.

In this type of farming, farmers always take maximum output from the limited land. And this is what creates enormous pressure on agricultural land.

Commercial Farming

Commercial farming is profit oriented type of farming. The main characteristic of this type of farming is the use of higher doses of modern inputs, e.g. high yielding variety (HYV) seeds, chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides in order to obtain higher productivity. Food is produced with the help of advanced technological innovation and is meant to be sold in the market for profit making.

Plantation is a type of commercial farming. In India, some of the important plantation crops are:- tea, coffee, rubber, sugarcane, banana, etc. Usually a single crop is grown over a large piece of land using capital intensive inputs and cheap labour. Tea plantation in Assam is a perfect example of plantation commercial farming.

Here the prime motive is to earn profit, hence the production is mainly market oriented. At some places, plantation farming hugely depends on market demand.

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