Data Stories

India on Nutritious Path? – Indications from Output in Agriculture and Allied Activities

Whenever we talk of trends in agriculture, we are accustomed to hear about “revolutions” like white and green. But a sublime yet definite change in Indian agriculture is happening in the recent years which is not noticeable easily but is changing the face of Indian agriculture. It not only reflects the changing food preferences of Indian people but also the impact of Narendra Modi led government’s actions.

This trend is important since almost half of India’s population is dependent on agriculture. The trend can be seen from the estimates released by Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation from years 2011-12 to 2016-17.

Agriculture and allied activities are classified under the following heads

  • Crops (cereals, pulses, etc)
  • Livestock (meat, milk, etc)
  • Forestry and Logging
  • Fishing and Aquaculture

While all the above categories are bound to register growth in absolute terms, the relative share of a particular category as a ratio of total output is to be seen.

Reducing Share of Crops in Overall Output

If we look at the absolute value of output of crops, it has increased from 11.91 lakh crore rupees in 2011-12 to 12.76 lakh crore in 2016-17. But as a percent of total output, the share of crops has reduced.

This shows that other activities in agriculture like livestock rearing, logging, fishing, etc. are gaining preference. In the coming decades, this trend will be even more prevalent.

Trends Within the ‘Crop’ Category

As we have noted above, crops include cereals like rice and wheat, coarse cereals like jowar and bajra, pulses like arhar and moong, oilseeds, horticultural crops like fruits and vegetables, etc.

We find that cereals are growing in output but the growth rate has been slow. This can be seen from the fact that in 2011-12, the share of cereals as a percent of total crop output was 28.2% which was reduced to 27.2% in 2016-17.

On the other hand, the share of horticulture (fruits and vegetables) was 24.1% in 2011-12 which increased to 27.6% in 2016-17. This 27.6% is higher than share of cereals at 27.2% mentioned above. Output of horticulture has surpassed that of cereals!

Continued Preference for Rice and Wheat

India has an official policy of price support for farmers, called as Minimum Support Price (MSP). MSP is the price at which government procures certain crops from farmers, thus ensuring an assured income for farmers.

MSP have always been considerable for rice (also called paddy) and wheat since the days of Green Revolution. This trend continues with share of rice and wheat being constant through the years.

Rice contributes 50% to the total output of cereals while Wheat contributes 35% to the output. Thus, 85% of the total cereal production is only rice and wheat!

Horticulture- The New Entrant

Its not that Indians did not consume fruits and vegetables earlier. But the rising urban class with disposable income at hand makes them look beyond traditional rice and wheat towards fruits, processed products, meat and dairy products.

Moreover, diverse agroclimatic zones in India as well as good prices in market is making fruits and vegetables lucrative for farmers to grow. This is showing in the increased output of horticulture.

In terms of million tonnes of production, the production of horticulture has already outpaced foodgrain production (cereals+pulses+coarse cereals) long back.

The data also reveals interesting information. Within the fruits, the maximum output is from mango, followed by banana. Within vegetables, potato and tomato have the highest share. It is a sneak peak in the culinary choices of Indians.

Pulses- A Shift Towards Protein Rich Diets

There was a concern of hidden hunger in India since preference for wheat and rice made Indian diet carbohydrate rich but not protein rich. Source of protein is pulses and meat. Pulse production normally happens in Deccan and South India given that pulses aren’t that water intensive.

Output of pulses was almost constant till 2013-14. It reduced for next two years since they were drought years. Drought was particularly intense in Maharashtra and Karnataka region. But given the government measures, there was a massive spike in output of pulses as seen from the graph.

The reader will also remember in 2015 the prices of Arhar Dal shot suddenly due to drought and shortages. It was then, the Modi government decided to promote production of Arhar production. MSP for Arhar was increased. A buffer stock of 2 million tonnes of Arhar was announced. The farmers responded with increased production of Arhar. The output of Arhar was Rs 8600 crore in 2015-16 which spiked to Rs 16,200 crore the next year 2016-17.

Livestock- Animal Husbandry is Showing the Way

Animal rearing is an age-old profession in India. We get products like milk, meat, eggs, etc. However, commercial aspects of animal husbandry were less given the highly fragmented nature of animal husbandry. But the White Revolution made dairy industry a big hit. But yet another aspect is becoming prominent- meat.

The consumption of meat has gone up in last couple of years. Breeding of hens, sheep, pigs, ducks for their meat is being done by farmers. Meat contributed to 19,7% to the output in livestock in 2011-12 while in 2016-17, it increased to 22.4%. The growth in output of meat can be seen from this graph.

The reader will note the steeper growth post 2014.


Overall, the total livestock output has also grown fast after 2014.

Fisheries and Aquaculture

India has been blessed with 7500 km of coastline. Fish has been the staple diet of coastal communities for centuries. Inland fisheries have also been famous with artificial breeding of fish in farm ponds. This acts a supplement to farmer income. The point of changing culinary choices is valid here too. Demand for fish within and outside India has been growing.

Modi government noted this trend and launched the Blue Revolution, a comprehensive program to promote fishing industry. It includes use of modern boats, better nets, chilling and transport infrastructure and subsidies for taking up farm fishing. The impact is steeper growth in output of fishing and Aquaculture.

The overall picture that Indian agriculture presents us is that of changing farmer as well as consumer preferences. Farmers are looking at diversifying their incomes by producing variety of crops and taking up non-farm activities like dairy, poultry and fisheries. This is buttressed by changing consumer demands as people consume more diverse products within and outside India.

Sounds refreshingly different than the usual clutter around farmers’ issues, isn’t it?