Home Economy Agriculture Has Covid-19 affected the agricultural growth rate in India?

Has Covid-19 affected the agricultural growth rate in India?

Despite the country battling with pandemic, the agricultural growth rate in India was positive in the first wave. India’s production of food grains has been escalating with each passing year, and with the passage of time it has emerged as one among the top producers of several crops such as wheat, rice, pulses, sugarcane and cotton.

June 20, 2021: Given India is an agro-based economy as this sector employs more than 50% of the country’s workforce, the agricultural growth rate in India is better than most countries.

In fact, agriculture is the only sector to clock a positive growth of 3.4 per cent at constant prices in 2020-21.

Agricultural growth rate in India

India’s production of food grains has been escalating with each passing year, and with the passage of time it has emerged as one among the top producers of several crops such as wheat, rice, pulses, sugarcane and cotton.

It is the highest producer of milk and second highest producer of fruits and vegetables.

In 2013, India contributed 25% to the world’s pulses production, the highest for any one country, 22% to the rice production and 13% to the wheat production.

Image: Agriculture India

In fact, despite the first wave of Covid-19, agricultural growth rate in India wasn’t much affected. The agricultural sector saw a positive growth of 3.4 per cent at constant prices in 2020-21 during the first wave of the COVID-19.

It also accounted for about 25% of the total quantity of cotton produced, besides being the second highest exporter of cotton for the past several years.

But opposing these statistical achievements, is the fact that the agricultural yield (quantity of a crop produced per unit of land) is found to be lower in the case of most crops, as compared to other top producing countries such as China, Brazil and the United States. Although India ranks third in the production of rice, its yield is lower than Brazil, China and the United States.  The same trend is observed for pulses, where it is the second highest producer.   

The country’s agricultural growth has been fairly volatile over the past decade, ranging from 5.8% in 2005-06 to 0.4% in 2009-10 and -0.2% in 2014-15.

This fluctuating graph in agricultural growth has an impact on farm incomes as well as farmers’ ability to take credit for investing in their land holdings.

A few detrimental issues affecting agricultural productivity include the decreasing sizes of agricultural land holdings, continued dependence on the monsoon, inadequate access to irrigation, imbalanced use of soil nutrients resulting in loss of fertility of soil, uneven access to modern technology in different parts of the country, lack of access to formal agricultural credit, limited procurement of food grains by government agencies, and failure to provide remunerative prices to farmers.

Image: Tractor Junction

Agricultural growth rate in India across different states

To understand the agricultural growth rate in India, we need to know the agricultural development in each state.

This analysis of the growth performance in the states is undertaken considering three distinct phases of agricultural development in India viz the first phase of green revolution 1970-71 to 1979-80, second phase of green revolution 1980-81 to 1990-91, and the period after economic reform 1991-92 to 2007-08).

Toppling and multiplying growth rates of value of output and productivity for the country during the whole period (1970-71 to 2005-06) revealed that all India agricultural output and yield grew at the rate of 2.6% and 1.43% respectively.

The states like Haryana (3.46%), Madhya Pradesh (3.38), Rajasthan (3.36%), Goa (3.3%) and West Bengal (3.24%) reflected a higher growth in the level of output whereas the states like Madhya Pradesh (2.81%), Rajasthan (2.5%), Haryana (2.5%), Punjab (2.12%) and Uttar Pradesh (2.04%) registered higher growth in productivity during the whole span under spectrum.

There has been a lag in delivering outputs in the state of Jammu and Kashmir as it remained poor in both respects during the whole period.

 The study revealed that the performance of the Indian agriculture during the first phase of the green revolution (1970-71 to 1979-80) was not extraordinary. All India growth for the agricultural output and yield during this period was recorded as 1.88% and 1.48% per annum respectively.

However, during this time period few states achieved outstanding growth in the rate of output and yield. In the level of output, the states like Manipur (6.46%), Arunachal Pradesh (5.9%), Maharashtra (5.78%), Punjab (5.43%) and Haryana (3.36%) performed significantly well, whereas in case of yield the states Punjab, Maharashtra, Manipur achieved significant growth.

In actuality, during this period the effect of the green revolution did not make itself felt all over the country.

The evidence is collected from the observed lower growth rate of other states like Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Orissa, Bihar, Karnataka and Jammu and Kashmir in both output and yield.

However, the effect of the green revolution was visible from the second phase of the green revolution, from the period 1980-81 to 1990-91. It has been observed from the rollercoaster exponential growth rate that all India agricultural performance registered an unprecedented improvement in both output and yield growth during the second phase of the green revolution.

These spikes in growth rate of value of output and yield for India were 3.34% and 3.38% per annum respectively during this period. Most of the states grew at an accelerated rate in both output and yield during this period.

The states such as Tamil Nadu (5.46%), West Bengal (5.25%), Rajasthan (5.5%), Punjab (4.9%), Haryana (4.78%) and Madhya Pradesh (4.62%) excelled in a pronounced growth in agricultural output and the states of Punjab (6.38), Haryana (6.29), Madhya Pradesh (6.11) and West Bengal (5.48) bagged a magnificent growth in yield rate. In addition to this, during this period the states of different regions i.e, West Bengal of eastern region, Rajasthan of central region, Tamil Nadu of Southern region contributed to the higher

Highs and lows

Several other states, except a few, registered higher growth compared to the previous period during the second period.

Unfortunately, the study proclaims that the phase of outstanding growth could not be sustained till the reform period. The agricultural output and yield growth of the country underwent a serious slowdown during the post reform period.

All India growth in output and yield rate declined to 2% and 1.16% per annum during this period compared to 3.34% and 3.38% in the previous period. With the exception of states like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa, all the states experienced a significant deceleration in both output and yield growth in the reform period.

Some states also registered negative growth during this period. In fact, according to many researchers the most important factor for this agricultural downturn may be the result of trimming down of food grain production in the post-reform period in India.

Occupying a majority as food grain comprises nearly 60% of the total crop output in India and most of the states are dependent on production of food grain, the deceleration in food grain production is reflected in the result of growth of value of crop output.

It can be safely inferred from the resultant numbers projected that there was a significant acceleration in growth rate in the value of output and yield during the 2nd phase of green revolution but the post liberalization period has marked a sign of depression both in agricultural output and its yield rate in India.

Covid-19 impact

According to DownToEarth, agriculture is the only sector to manage a positive growth of 3.4 per cent in 2020-21. However, this was during the first wave of the pandemic.

Farmers had harvested their Rabi crop. But sales have been impacted as COVID-19 infections have risen and mandis (wholesale markets) have remained closed since April 2021 due to lockdown-like restrictions in many states.

During the first wave, there were some supply chain issues related to the product’s transport from the primary mandis to the secondary and bigger markets.

But this time around, there are several concerns about taking the produce even to the primary mandis due to rising COVID-19 cases in rural areas and imposition of lockdowns.

By Arpita Patro


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