The agriculture sector plays a significant role in the Indian economy. Around 60% of the total Indian population is engaged in agriculture, contributing about 18% of the country’s GDP. Farmers are plagued by several issues. These directly or indirectly affect the farmer’s life. From procurement of inputs to marketing and post-harvest activities, farmers face a lot of challenges. However, the problems faced by farmers go often unnoticed. Here are some major problems faced by farmers in India.
1. Small and Fragmented land holdings:
Indian Agriculture is mainly dominated by small and fragmented land holdings. This makes the farmers less competent. According to the 10th Agricultural Census in 2015-16, India’s total operational land holding was 146.45 million hectares and the total operated area was 157.82 million hectares. Among them, marginal and small operational holdings together (0 – 2 ha) constituted 86.2% of the total operational holdings. Due to this fragmentation of land, farmers do not generate adequate income. This is because of difficulty in mechanization, practicing usual agricultural practices like monocropping and products which leads to deterioration of land quality. This leads to high production costs and low productivity. The root cause of this problem started due to the inheritance law.
2. Lack of Marketing and Storage facilities:
Problems faced by farmers in agricultural marketing include transportation costs, inadequate market infrastructure, price fluctuation, lack of proper market information, and the role of exploiting local traders and middlemen. Lack of storage facilities in rural areas has been a limiting factor for post-harvest losses. Nearly 16% of fruits and vegetables, 10% of oilseeds, 9% of pulses, and 6% of cereals produced are being wasted every year due to lack of storage facilities. Since most of the agricultural produce is perishable, farmers are distressed to sell the produce immediately after harvest even at lower prices. This gives them a meager income. Insufficient storage facilities make it difficult for the farmers to meet people’s demands during the off-season.
3. Poor Adoption of Mechanization:
Regardless of the expansion of mechanization in India, most of the agricultural operation is still done by labourers. The highest level of mechanization in India about 60 – 70% is observed in plowing, harvesting, threshing, and irrigation. Although machinery has been invented in seeding, weeding, and other agricultural operations, only a few farmers use it for crop production. Due to small land holdings, small farmers find it difficult to adopt mechanization. Lack of awareness among rural farmers and capital constraints create this problem.
4. Credit Availability:
In the agriculture sector, availability and access to timely, adequate, and low-cost credit from financial institutional sources is more important, especially to marginal and small farmers. Along with all other inputs, capital is one of the most crucial inputs for increasing agricultural production. Access to credit is one of the factors influencing farm productivity. Farmers facing capital constraints would use fewer inputs by not investing in better technologies, machinery, and equipment in their production activities compared to others having no such constraints. This affects not only productivity but also the produce quality.
Improved credit access may facilitate optimal use of inputs and have a major impact on crop productivity. Availability of credit may allow farmers to satisfy their cash needs induced by the agricultural production cycle and requirements for consumption. Even though governments are improving agricultural credit policies, regional imbalance in credit distribution is still persistent over the years.
5. Poor irrigation facilities
80% of water consumption in India is for irrigation in agriculture. Depletion of the groundwater table is a major factor affecting agriculture. Good irrigation helps farmers to carry out timely agricultural activities. The steady decline in the groundwater table can be noticed in recent times due to its over-exploitation as 65% of irrigation uses groundwater sources. In India, irrigation facilities are limited, and the majority of farmers are still dependent on rainfall. Rainfed agriculture accounts for about 51% of the net sown area in our country and occupies nearly 40% of total production.
In the areas under irrigation, farmers mainly follow flood irrigation methods. Even though microirrigation systems are gaining importance nowadays most of their adopters are large farmers. Poor farmers are unable to afford it. Out of the total area sown in the year 2021, the net irrigated area occupies around 68.38 million hectares. Out of which the area under micro-irrigation is only 12.90 million hectares which accounts for only 18.8% of the net irrigated area.
6. Soil fertility depletion
After the Green Revolution in the 1960s, the use of chemical fertilizers has been increased. To get quicker results, farmers have started using fertilizers excessively. Excessive usage of chemical fertilizer contributes to reduced organic matter content and humus content, decreased number of beneficial insects, poor growth, increased pest attacks, and altering of soil pH which ultimately leads to low productivity.
Imbalanced use of urea leads to soil fertility depletion over a period of time. In the year 2022-23, urea accounts for more than half of the total fertilizer production (58.4%) total consumption (57.9%), and 35.9% of imports. Other causes of soil depletion include a lack of proper cropping systems and continuous cultivation. In India, the total area under the monocropping system during the year 2015-16 was approximately 52.8 million hectares, which is about 47% of the total cropped area.
7. Inadequate access to crop insurance schemes
The major problems persistent with crop insurance schemes faced by farmers include lack of proper awareness of insurance schemes, evaluation of extend of damages caused due to crop losses, inadequate coverage of insurance schemes and non-payment / delayed settlement of claims.
8. Impact of climate change
Climate change can lead to changes in weather patterns, such as increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like droughts, floods, and storms. These changes can affect soil fertility, crop yields and livestock production, leading to reduced productivity and income for farmers. Farmers may need to invest more in pest and disease management practices, which can increase their costs and reduce their profits. Heat waves can cause heat stress in crops, which affects the yield especially when they occur during pollination, pod or fruit set. Climate change can lead to water scarcity in some regions which can affect irrigation and reduce yield. Farmers may be forced to rely on rain-fed agriculture, which can be more unpredictable and vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Unpredictable rainfall affects several agricultural operations and unexpected rainfall during harvest will lead to total crop loss. Heavy rains that result in flooding can be detrimental to crops and soil. In India, around 33.9 million hectares of cropped area have been damaged due to hydro-meteorological calamities including heavy rainfall and floods between 2015-16 and 2021-22.
9. Price volatility:
Price volatility can have a significant impact on the livelihoods of farmers, especially small farmers who are more vulnerable to market fluctuations. Price volatility can lead to income instability for farmers as sudden drops in prices can reduce their income and profits. This can make it difficult for farmers to plan and invest in their farms, leading to a vicious cycle of poverty and low productivity. This situation creates uncertainty for farmers as they are not sure of the prices they will receive for their produce in the future. This makes it difficult for farmers to make informed decisions about what crops to grow, how much to produce, and when to sell their produce.
10. Poor training and extension facilities:
Agricultural extension programmes help farmers by means of transfer of technology, assisting farmers in problem-solving and contributing to rural development. But extension system in India is not equally balanced. Without adequate training and access to extension services, farmers may not be aware of the latest farming practices, techniques and technologies that can help them to increase crop yields. This results in reduced yield, which can affect farmer’s income.
Lack of training and extension services can make farmers vulnerable to pests and diseases that can cause reduced yield. Without access to information on how to prevent or mitigate these risks, losses are incurred. Farmers may not have knowledge of recent schemes, financial assistance and how to access the financial resources to invest and increase their yield due to lack of training and extension activities.
11. Limited spending on R&D by Government:
Limited spending on research and development (R&D) by Government have a negative impact on farmers in agriculture including reduced productivity, increased costs, and reduced profitability. If Government spending on R&D is limited, then farmers may not have access to new technologies and practices, improved crop varieties, leading to reduced productivity and competitiveness in the market. Government investing less in R&D may force farmers to invest their own resources in adapting to changing conditions which can be expensive. This may increase the production cost, making it difficult for farmers to compete in the marketplace.
Indian farmer community is comprised mainly of small and marginal farmers who majorly face all the above challenges in agriculture. Farmers face a lot of problems in agriculture right from nature’s activities to man-made activities including climate change, soil erosion, biodiversity loss, water resource depletion, lack of capital, labour and other inputs etc. Major cause of these problems is mainly due to lack of proper awareness, less adoption of modern technologies, lack of capital or gap between farmers and government institutions. These problems cannot be fully solved but can be mitigated to some extent by following wise agricultural practices, sustainable use of resources and bridging the gap between rural farmers, government and financial institutions.