The state of agriculture in India looks bleak

Recently, the National Statistical Office released the Situation Assessment Survey (SAS) of agricultural households for the year 2018-19. According to the report, 50.2% of agricultural households have taken loans averaging Rs. 74,121.

 

Recently, the National Statistical Office released the Situation Assessment Survey (SAS) of agricultural households for the year 2018-19. This was the third SAS survey, which was conducted to assess the socio-economic conditions of rural India.The previous surveys were organised in the years 2002-03 and 2012-13.


In SAS 2018-19, results are provided in the form of the average income of a family engaged in agriculture, which includes income from crops, animals, wages and non-agricultural activities. As per the study, the income had increased up to Rs 7,683 in 2018-19 from Rs 6,436 in 2012-13. This was majorly on account of higher wage incomes, which rose 6.7 per cent every annum.


In 2018-19, more than 90% of farmers who were engaged in cultivation said that real incomes from it actively decreased at the rate of 1.3% per annum. The decline was experienced by most of them.


Image credit: Nandhu Kumar, Unsplash


Farmers across India seem to be in a crisis owing to the slowdown in the economy, escalation in input costs, poor fertilizer reforms, irregular distribution of fertilizers, fuel price increases, and reduction in productive assets.


The wholesale price index of agricultural machinery also indicated a decline in the prices of agricultural commodities between 2016-18. As a result, 50.2% of agricultural households have taken loans averaging Rs. 74,121, according to the SAS report.


The figure in the SAS report is worrying, because a large number of households in rural India are still dependent on agriculture. However, if agriculture is tied with privatization and the minimum support price of products is not fixed, then people will not have many opportunities outside of farming, especially when the average farm size has continued to decline.


This pattern has been pointed out in the last SAS report of 2012-13, followed by the Financial Inclusion Survey of 2016-17 (of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development), and also the latest SAS report. Sugarcane farmers in the country have been agitating for fair and timely payment of dues ever since 1998, when the sugarcane industry was privatised.


In the recently released Periodic Labor Force Survey (PLFS), the dependence of people on agriculture has increased even more during the pandemic. Due to the periodic lockdowns, rural incomes have become heavily dependent on agricultural wages and they are likely to continue being so until the pandemic ends.


Both the PLFS and the SAS reports show a reverse trend in the structural transformation of India's agricultural economy. This in turn is affecting the standard of living and working conditions of farmers. Even if COVID-19 subsides, the agriculture sector might be headed for a deep crisis.


 

Edited by Roshni Shroff

Written by Lalit Pandey

 

The above piece was curated from the following sources: 


Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households and Land and Livestock Holdings

The State of Agriculture in India

Wholesale Price Index of agricultural machinery

How to pay Rs 20,000 dues of sugarcane farmers, SC asks 11 states

Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) – Quarterly Bulletin