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Sustainability of Indian Agriculture Exports

Sugandh Bhatnagar
Sugandh Bhatnagar
Indian Agriculture Exports

Agriculture exports are not only the source of foreign exchange for the country, the exports also help the farmers and producers to increase their income. Exports also result in increased production in the agriculture sector by increasing area coverage and productivity. 

India has continuously maintained a trade surplus in agriculture commodities. India’s Agriculture exports increased from Rs 28,600 crores in 2000-01 to Rs 2.7 lakh crore in 2018-19, which is almost 10 times in the span of 18 years.  

India has been performing extremely well on the Agri exports front but, major concern is whether this growth rate will be sustainable over a longer period and the implications that it may have on Indian Agriculture. India’s exports have been entailing a huge cost for the environment. 

India has the highest export volume of rice, which also happens to be water intensive crop. It needs around 3000 to 5000 liters of water for irrigating 1 kg of rice and we know that a 1kg of sugar has a virtual water intake of about 2000 liters and in 2020-21, India exported 7.5 million tonnes of sugar, implying that at least 15 billion cubic meters of water was exported through sugar alone. Given that India is a water stressed country, with per capita water availability of 1,544 cubic meters in 2011, which was 5178 cubic meters in 1951 and might drop to 1140 cubic meters by 2050. Exporting more and more basmati rice and sugar, without thinking of the environmental repercussions is only going to end up depleting water reserves of India.  

Some sustainable strategies for rice and sugar export must ensure that these are produced with much less water. This can be achieved with farming practices such as alternate drying and wetting (AWD), direct seeded rice (DSR) or micro irrigation techniques such as Drip irrigation or Sprinkler Irrigation. Another strategy could be to give incentives to the farmers who adopt such techniques. 

Agriculture production needs to be changed if we want to prevent the irreparable damage to our Agri-ecosystem. We need to come up with a policy does not only focus on increasing exports, but is also sustainable to our environment. 

For the production of rice, farmers apply heavy doses of fertilizers. They are receiving 15 percent subsidies on some fertilizers in states like Punjab & Haryana and even up to 50% on others like DAP. If these subsidies are removed or slashed, rice will not be the preferred crop of farmers and they will shift to environment friendly crops. 

But this does not necessarily mean that the farmers have to compromise on their earnings, presently India is importing pulses in heavy quantity, we can encourage our farmers to switch to pulse cultivation. Pulses are leguminous crops, which also help in increasing nitrogen content in soil. 

To maintain the sustainability of the Agri-exports, crops must be produced efficiently and with minimal subsidies 

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