Agriculture sector undergoes a historic change as livestock surpasses the economy of food grain
Rise of livestock
Policy makers in India are finally acknowledging a structural shift in the agriculture sector they have been noticing for a decade. Economic contribution of livestock is today more than that of food grain crops. Traditionally, of the three components of the sector—crops, livestock and fisheries—crops drove the growth, and food grains are a major part of it. As a result, policy and programmes focused on crops.
When in 2002-03, monetary contribution of livestock surpassed that of food grains, policy makers ignored it as a temporary coping mechanism of the poor in the face of sluggish agriculture due to repeated droughts. But livestock contribution has since remained higher by 5-13 per cent, says Pratap Singh Birthal, principal scientist at the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research. In fact, both livestock and fisheries components have been growing faster than the crops component for a decade. A report for the upcoming 12th Five Year Plan in December accepted this shift by recognising livestock as the engine of agriculture growth.
Livestock now controls a quarter of the agriculture gross domestic product (GDP). In 2010-11, it generated outputs worth Rs 3,40,500 crore (at current prices). This was 28 per cent of the agriculture GDP and about 5 per cent of the country’s GDP. “The total output from livestock was higher than the value of food grains (Rs 3,15,600 crore) and fruits and vegetables (Rs 2,08,800 crore), and this is going to go up substantially,” estimates V K Taneja, vice-chancellor of Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Science University in Ludhiana.
After livestock, paddy is the next highest contributor to the agriculture GDP, says A Rajasekaran, senior manager with the National Dairy Development Board at Anand in Gujarat. In 2009-10, output from livestock was 2.5 times the value of paddy and more than thrice the value of wheat, as per the Central Statistical Office data. “Animals are natural capital, which can be easily reproduced to act as a living bank with offspring as interest, and an insurance against income shocks of crop failure and natural calamities,” says Taneja.
Livestock output is the fastest growing among the three components. Its contribution to the total output of the agriculture sector increased from 15 per cent in 1981-82 to 26 per cent in 2010-11. “This provided a cushion to agriculture growth,” says Birthal. The rate of growth of livestock output has, however, slowed down. In 1980s, its growth rate was 5.3 per cent—almost twice that of the crops. This declined to 3.6 per cent in 2000s but is still 1.5 times the rate of growth of the crops component.
Driving livestock growth are changes in the utility of livestock for farmers and in food consumption pattern. Importance of livestock as the “draught power” has declined due to mechanisation of agricultural operations and declining farm sizes (see ‘Female bias). Use of dung is also being replaced by chemical fertilisers. At the same time, consumption of livestock products like eggs, milk and meat is increasing due to rise in the income of the booming middle class, both in urban and rural areas. Between 1983 and 2004, the share of animal products in the total food expenditure increased from 21.8 per cent to 25 per cent in urban areas and from 16.1 per cent to 21.4 per cent in rural areas.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.