The role of agriculture in India’s economic development continues to be of great importance, as a producer of food, as an employer of about two-thirds of the labor force, and as a source of purchasing power for much of the nonagricultural consumer goods and services in the economy. Thus, rapid growth in agricultural is essential for sustainable growth and development of the economy. Within agriculture, foodgrain production is by far the major activity, covering about 80 percent of the cropped area in India and providing the main staple source of food. Foodgrains provide almost all the calories and proteins consumed by the poor and provide the rural poor with the bulk of their employment and income. Further, with a population of some 800 million people, what happens to India’s foodgrain supply demand balances had important implications for the global balances. That will be particularly so as India continues to accelerate its overall rate of growth of per capita income. Government policy in India has always given substantial importance to foodgrain production. Such support, particularly since the beginning of the green revolution in the mid-1960s, has contributed to remarkable growth in this sector despite many constraints. Yet with a growing population, rising incomes, and the substantial latent demand of the poor for foodgrains, the country will require continuing high growth in production. The past performance and future prospects of India foodgrain production and consumption are of considerable importance in Third World and global food considerations. India, which faced food deficits till mid-1970s, became self- sufficient or marginally surplus thereafter; but even with this remarkable food production performance, rapid economic growth and poverty alleviation have not been achieved. The implications of the achievement of these goals, say by 2000, on the food demand are not very clear, considering the interlinkages between the growth in foodgrain production and that in consumption, particularly in the rural areas. India is fortunately endowed with data that enables these implications to be analyzed. In this study of foodgrains in India, J. S. Sarma and Vasant P. Gandhi critically examines past growth and performance in foodgrain production as well as developments in the growth and patterns of foodgrain consumption. The study finds that rapid growth in foodgrain production will be necessary but extremely demanding, especially in the context of the dual objectives set by Indian planners- acceleration of economic growth and alleviation of poverty. Within agriculture, these objectives will require not only rapid increase in foodgrain production but even faster growth, through diversification, in the nonfoodgrain sector, including livestock production and horticultural crops, in which income elasticities of demand and employment potential are high. However, even an impressive performance may leave foodgrain deficits that would require imports and an appropriate development strategy if accelerated economic growth and poverty alleviation are to be achieved. The international FOOD Policy Research Institute has developed a collaborative research program on the future growth in Indian agriculture under a memorandum of understanding the Indian Council of agricultural Research and with funding from the research program, undertaken in collaboration with research institutions and scholars in India, is to contribute toward increased understanding of the options and complexities in the future policies for agricultural growth. The present study is a step in this direction. We expect its results to be useful in the policy formulation process, not only in India but also in other countries, especially since India’s richness in data and experience allows analysis that may be difficult to duplicate elsewhere.


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