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Agriculture in India: Information About Indian Agriculture & Its Importance

February, 2018


Agriculture plays a vital role in India’s economy. Over 58 per cent of the rural households depend on agriculture as their principal means of livelihood. The share of primary sectors* (including agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishery) is estimated to be 20.4 per cent of the Gross Value Added (GVA) during 2016-17 at current prices.

The Indian food industry is poised for huge growth, increasing its contribution to world food trade every year due to its immense potential for value addition, particularly within the food processing industry. The Indian food and grocery market is the world’s sixth largest, with retail contributing 70 per cent of the sales. The Indian food processing industry accounts for 32 per cent of the country’s total food market, one of the largest industries in India and is ranked fifth in terms of production, consumption, export and expected growth. It contributes around 8.80 and 8.39 per cent of Gross Value Added (GVA) in Manufacturing and Agriculture respectively, 13 per cent of India’s exports and six per cent of total industrial investment.

Market Size

India's GDP is expected to grow at 7.4 per cent1 in 2018-19. India's food grain production reached 275.68 million tonnes in 2016-17 and is targeted at 274.55 million tonnes in 2017-18.

India has been the world's largest producer of milk for the last two decades and contributes 19 per cent of the world's total milk production.

India is emerging as the export hub of instant coffee which has led to exports of coffee increase 17 per cent in calendar year 2017 to reach US$ 958.80 million.

India topped the list of shrimp exporters globally in 2016 with exports of US$ 3.8 billion which are expected to double to US$ 7 billion by 2022.

Total area in India, sown with rabi crops reached 61.79 million hectares in January2 2018.

India is the second largest fruit producer in the world. India's horticulture output reached 300.64 million tonnes in 2016-17 and is expected to reach 305.43 million tonnes in 2017-18. 

Agricultural export constitutes 10 per cent of the country’s exports and is the fourth-largest exported principal commodity. Agricultural exports from India reached US$ 24.66 billion during April-November 2017 with exports of basmati, buffalo meat reaching US$ 2.61 billion and US4 2.76 billion, respectively.

India is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices and spice products. Spice exports from India grew by 6 per cent year-on-year between April-September 2017 to US$ 1.37 billion.

Dairy sector in India is expected to grow at 15 per cent CAGR to reach Rs 9.4 trillion (US$ 145.7) billion by 2020.

The online food delivery industry grew at 150 per cent year-on-year with an estimated Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) of US$ 300 million in 2016. The sector grew 15 per cent every quarter during January-September 2017.


According to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), the Indian agricultural services and agricultural machinery sectors have cumulatively attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) equity inflow of about US$ 1.99 billion and US$ 466.31 million, respectively, during April 2000 to September 2017. The food processing sector attracted FDI of US$ 8 billion in the same period.

Some major investments and developments in agriculture are as follows:

  • In January 2018, India Agri Business Fund II (IABF-II), co-sponsored by Rabobank, the UK’s CDC Group and Asian Development Bank (ADB), made an investment worth US$ 10 million for a minority stake in Global Gourmet Pvt Ltd, a frozen food products exporting company.
  • In December 2017, a mobile application which can forewarn farmers about diseases affecting the livestock has been launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
  • A loan agreement of US$ 318 million was signed between the Government of India, Government of Tamil Nadu and the World Bank in December 2017 for the ‘Tamil Nadu Irrigated Agriculture Modernization Project' through which is expected to benefit around 500,000 farmers in the state.
  • Sugar production in India is expected to grow 23 per cent to reach 25 million MT in sugar year 20183.
  • Cotton output in India is expected to increase by 9 per cent in 2017-184 to 37.7 million bales.
  • In December 2017, India and Colombia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation in the fields of agriculture and fisheries.

Government Initiatives

Some of the recent major government initiatives in the sector are as follows:

  • The Government of India is going to provide Rs 2,000 crore (US$ 306.29 million) for computerisation of Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS) to ensure cooperatives are benefitted through digital technology.
  • Around 100 million Soil Health Cards (SHCs) have been distributed in the country during 2015-17 and a soil health mobile app has been launched to help Indian farmers.
  • With an aim to boost innovation and entrepreneurship in agriculture, the Government of India is introducing a new AGRI-UDAAN programme to mentor start-ups and to enable them to connect with potential investors.
  • The Government of India has launched the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) with an investment of Rs 50,000 crore (US$ 7.7 billion) aimed at development of irrigation sources for providing a permanent solution from drought.
  • The Government of India plans to triple the capacity of food processing sector in India from the current 10 per cent of agriculture produce and has also committed Rs 6,000 crore (US$ 936.38 billion) as investments for mega food parks in the country, as a part of the Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters (SAMPADA).
  • The Government of India has allowed 100 per cent FDI in marketing of food products and in food product e-commerce under the automatic route.
  • A new platform for selling agricultural produce named e-RaKam has been launched by the Government of India and will operate as a joint initiative of Metal Scrap Trade Corporation Limited and Central Railside Warehouse Company Limited (CRWC).
  • According to the Agriculture Ministry, 50,000 hectares of area is available for coconut cultivation in Bihar, the Coconut Development Board plans to equip the farmers thus making India the world leader in production, productivity, processing for value addition and export of coconut.

Road Ahead

India is expected to achieve the ambitious goal of doubling farm income by 2022. The agriculture sector in India is expected to generate better momentum in the next few years due to increased investments in agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation facilities, warehousing and cold storage. Furthermore, the growing use of genetically modified crops will likely improve the yield for Indian farmers. India is expected to be self-sufficient in pulses in the coming few years due to concerted efforts of scientists to get early-maturing varieties of pulses and the increase in minimum support price.

India's Gross Value Added (GVA) at basic prices increased by 6.1 per cent during the July-September 2017 quarter, driven by agriculture and government spending. GVA from agriculture, forestry and fishing sector grew 1.7 per cent in this July-September 2017 quarter.

The government of India targets to increase the average income of a farmer household at current prices to Rs 219,724 (US$ 3,420.21) by 2022-23 from Rs 96,703 (US$ 1,505.27) in 2015-16.

Going forward, the adoption of food safety and quality assurance mechanisms such as Total Quality Management (TQM) including ISO 9000, ISO 22000, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Hygienic Practices (GHP) by the food processing industry will offer several benefits. 

Exchange rate used: INR 1 = US$ 0.0155 as of January 04, 2018.

References: The Economic Survey 2016–17, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Department of Commerce and Industry, Union Budget 2017–18, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Press Releases, Media Reports, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Crisil

Note: * as per revised estimates of CSO, 1IMF forecast, 2as on January 19, 2018, 3October 2017 to September 2018, 4cotton year starts in October and ends in September