Agri – Food system in India UPSC NOTE

 Report from the UN – FAO say?

  • A report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has laid bare the staggering hidden costs of our global agri-food systems, surpassing an astonishing $10 trillion.

  • In middle-income countries like India, these costs constitute nearly 11% of the GDP.

  •  This manifests as higher poverty, environmental harm, and health-related impacts, including undernourishment and unhealthy dietary patterns. 

  • The report blames “unsustainable business-as-usual activities and practices” for these escalating costs.


  • This pointing to a need to transform agri-food systems. 

  • One way to do so is to shift to multi-cropping systems that have the potential to protect farmers’ well-being, improve nutritional outcomes for our communities, and positively impact ecological health.

What are the impacts of intensive agriculture?

  • Impressive improvements in agricultural productivity have been achieved in India over the last five decades by mainstreaming mono-cropping systems and chemical-intensive farming practices.

  • The Green Revolution focused on the marketing of high-yielding varieties of paddy and wheat on agricultural lands.

  • These high yielding crops constitute more than 70% of India’s agricultural production

  • The infusion of seeds purchased from multinational corporations and fertilizers undermined seed sovereignty, dismantled Indigenous knowledge systems, and fuelled a shift from diverse crop varieties and staples such as pulses and millets to monoculture plantations.

  • This trend also compromised the nutritional needs of households and resulted in adverse ecological consequences including excessive extraction of groundwater.

  • This privatisation and deregulation of agricultural inputs also increased indebtedness among agrarian households

  • In 2013, the debt to asset ratio of a farmer’s household in India was 630% higher than in 1992

  • Agriculture in India has increasingly become unviable: the average monthly household income of a farming household sits at ₹10,816.

Which are the crops being favoured?

  • Under the National Food Security Act 2013, 65% of households (around 800 million people) in India are legally assured a right to food at subsidised rates through the Public Distribution System and welfare programmes. 

  • To meet this requirement, the procurement of food crops is coordinated by the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

  • There is a requirment to maintain a central pool of buffer stock and to procure, transport, and store foodgrain stocks in the country. 

  • This procurement policy heavily favours rice and wheat. 

  • In 2019-2020, the FCI procured 341.32 lakh million tonnes (MT) of wheat and 514.27 lakh MT of rice. 

  • Whole wheat and rice also became export commodities. 

  • The Indian government approved the procurement of a total of only 3.49 lakh MT of coarse grains such as jowar, bajra, ragi, maize, and barley by State governments for the central pool.

  •  For local distribution, which is less than 1% of total foodgrain procurement. 

  • The area under cultivation of coarse grains dropped by 20% between 1966-1967 and 2017-2018.

  • The area under rice and wheat increased by nearly 20% and 56% respectively.

  • Other water-intensive cash crops like sugarcane and areca nut have also flourished under policies favouring investments. 

  • This trend threatens food security and the production of nutritional crops. 

  • The expansion of sugarcane cultivation affects biodiversity, increases the pressure on groundwater resources, and contributes to air and water pollution. 

  • And ironically, small and marginal farmers in India are among the most food and nutrition insecure.

How can crop diversification help?

  • A systemic shift in food regimes, from local to global value chains, is essential. 

  • The starting point for addressing these complex systemic issues could arise from local efforts, such as the diversification of farms.

  • Diversified multi-cropping systems, rooted in agroecology principles, could be a viable solution to revitalise degraded land and soil

  • Practices known by various names locally, like ‘akkadi saalu’ in Karnataka, involve intercropping with a combination of legumes, pulses, oilseeds, trees, shrubs, and livestock

  • This approach enables cash provision from commercial crops, food and fodder production, and offers ecosystem services such as nitrogen fixation and pest traps, and supports the local biodiversity. 

  • They also collectively contribute to improving soil health.

  • Critics have often argued against alternative farming systems, suggesting they may lead to a decline in farmer income even if the environment improves.

  • But the FAO report says that there are substantial “hidden costs” associated with the current systems which need to be factored into long-term evaluations of income

  • Moreover, millets, whose yield per hectare is comparable to those of rice and wheat, are also more nutritious, grow in semi-arid conditions without burdening groundwater tables, require minimal input, and provide a diversified food basket.

  • While crop diversification will involve some loss of productivity using a narrow metric of kg/Ha.

  • It would preserve natural capital and allow farmers to become nutritionally secure

How can farmers transition?

  • It is unrealistic to expect farmers to shift away from mono-cultivation of rice and wheat overnight. 

  • This transition needs to be systematic, allowing farmers to adjust gradually. 

  • For instance, moving from chemical-intensive practices to non-pesticide management, then adopting natural farming practices, can reduce input costs.

  • Farmers can diversify income through value addition, incorporating livestock and poultry..

  • A visual representation of a diversified farm involves allocating 70% for commercial crops, 20% for food and fodder, and 10% for environmental services like oilseeds (acting as trap crops). 

  • Over time, the fraction of commercial crops could be lowered to 50% and border crops could be replaced with locally-suitable tree species for fruits and fodder

  • Integrating livestock rearing could further improve incomes. 

  • Some preliminary economic modelling of these pathways indicates the potential to improve ecological outcomes for the landscape and sustain farm incomes.

  • However, addressing challenges related to local seeds, institutional arrangements for market access, drudgery, and the need for farm labour is crucial when envisioning such a transition.

  • Scaling up these practices requires collaboration among institutions, policymakers, and social groups to articulate economic incentives for farmers to shift from high-input monoculture to diversified cropping.



Amritsar,1,Art & Culture,1,August 2023,251,Courses,7,Daily Current Affairs,48,December 2023,189,Disaster Management,2,Environment and Ecology,54,February 2024,180,Foundation Course,1,GDP,1,GEMS Club,1,GEMS Plus,1,Geography,67,Govt Schemes,2,GST,1,History,2,Home,3,IAS Booklist,1,Important News,71,Indian Economy,46,Indian History,2,Indian Polity,56,International Organisation,12,International Relations,58,Invasive Plant,1,January 2024,240,July 2023,281,June 2022,6,June 2023,268,May 2022,17,Mentorship,2,November 2023,169,October 2023,203,Places in News,2,Science & Technology,66,September 2023,205,UPSC CSE,111,
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Agri – Food system in India UPSC NOTE
Agri – Food system in India UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
Loaded All Posts Not found any posts VIEW ALL Readmore Reply Cancel reply Delete By Home PAGES POSTS View All RECOMMENDED FOR YOU LABEL ARCHIVE SEARCH ALL POSTS Not found any post match with your request Back Home Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat January February March April May June July August September October November December Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec just now 1 minute ago $$1$$ minutes ago 1 hour ago $$1$$ hours ago Yesterday $$1$$ days ago $$1$$ weeks ago more than 5 weeks ago Followers Follow THIS PREMIUM CONTENT IS LOCKED STEP 1: Share to a social network STEP 2: Click the link on your social network Copy All Code Select All Code All codes were copied to your clipboard Can not copy the codes / texts, please press [CTRL]+[C] (or CMD+C with Mac) to copy Table of Content