Agriculture plays an important role in the Indian Economy. Agricultural reforms are best evaluated by studying the yield which is defined as the kilogram produced per hectare. Better agronomical techniques such as improved mechanization, better irrigation, better seed varieties, prudent use of fertilisers, etc. leads to a higher yield or a good harvest. Other factors which affect yield are quality of soil and climate (monsoons etc.). While some of these factors are beyond control, many of them are controllable and can thus can have a major impact on the yield.
Fig 1: Importance of Crop yield
The Gujarat Story
The study of agriculture in Gujarat provides a very instructive case study. Plotting the yield of different crops over the last four decades, we can see an across the board, pan crop and pan Gujarat improvement in the yield since the year 2000-01. In every crop, the year 2000-2001 stands out as a break-out year after which the Gujarat agriculture story takes a dramatically positive upward turn.
The graph in Fig. 2 depicts the principal crops for which Gujarat has a higher yield than the national average yield. As can be seen, there are wide variety of crops in which the yield in Gujarat is higher than the national average.
Fig 2. Source: Socio-economic Review 2016-17, State of Gujarat
The story of this increase in yield over the years in Gujarat becomes more evident when we study the increase in yield of individual crops and the area under cultivation and the production.
Study of Yield of Cereals
The graph below (Fig. 3) shows the trends in Bajra production and its yield along with the area of cultivation.
Fig 3. Source: Socio-economic Review 2016-17, State of Gujarat
We see that the despite a decrease in the area under cultivation for Bajra the total production of Bajra is not impacted. The year from which the increase in yield takes an exponential turn is also unmistakably visible in the graph.
The story is same for rice and wheat, the two other crops that make up the total cereal production kitty. The graph below (Fig. 4) plots the total yield for wheat and rice since the year 1980-81 and the trend is similar for both the crops.
Fig 4. Source: Socio-economic Review 2016-17, State of Gujarat
If we plot the total cereals (which includes bajra, rice, wheat, jowar and maize) area under cultivation, total production and yield, the effect that increase in yield has is even more dramatically evident (Fig. 5). The total area under production falls by 34.4% % till 2016-17 as compared to 1980-81 but the total production has risen by 47.31% during the same period. The year from which the story takes a positively significant upward trend is also unmistakably evident. The effect of this increase in yield on the earnings per hectare for the farmers cannot be underestimated.
Fig 5. Source: Socio-economic Review 2016-17, State of Gujarat
Study of Yield of Oilseeds
The agricultural story of Gujarat is though not limited to cereals but that it is a state wide, pan crop phenomenon is made out from the graph below (Fig. 6). The area under production for total oilseeds has risen by mere 10% till 2016-17 as compared to 1980-81 but the total production has risen by 183%. The years between 2000-01 to 2016-17 witnessing the boom years that contributed to the rise in the yield.
Fig 6. Source: Socio-economic Review 2016-17, State of Gujarat
Study of Yield of Cotton
Gujarat’s success is however most visibly apparent when we study the Cotton production in the state over the years. Gujarat is one of the leaders in cotton production of the country. In 2016-17, Gujarat’s contribution was 27.07 % of the total cotton production in the country. The graph below (Fig. 7) shows a comparison of the shares of different states in cotton production in India, as also the regional production figures (the bars in black colour).
Fig 7. Source: Socio-economic Review 2016-17, State of Gujarat
The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices in its Sugarcane Price (2017-18) estimated the average net returns between FY2011-12 to FY 2013-14 for cotton in India and the top two cotton producing states Gujarat and Maharashtra. The results are not only stark but revealing.
As we can see in the graph below (Fig. 8), the net returns, i.e. rupees per hectare, in Gujarat is more than double the national average net return and more than six times than that of Maharashtra.
Fig 8. Source: Commission of Agricultural costs and Prices, Price Policy for Sugarcane (2017-18)
Plotting the net return as a percentage to the cost (Fig. 8) we see that a farmer in Gujarat on an average gets 32% returns. The equivalent figure for all India is 15% while that for a farmer in Maharashtra is just 4%. This shows that in net returns per hectare as well as in net returns as percentage of cost, the farmer in Gujarat is significantly better placed than his peers in other states. (This also gives us an insight into one of the possible reasons farm distress in some other states.)
As to why a farmer in Gujarat, who produces cotton, might be doing better than his compatriots in other states, we don’t have to look for reasons beyond the graph below. The story is similar to other crops – the continuous upward turn in yield since the year 2000-01.
Fig 9. Source: Socio-economic Review 2016-17, State of Gujarat
An Overall View
To get one comprehensive view of the Gujarat agricultural story, we can visualise the performance of the overall agricultural yield of Gujarat in a snapshot by using a weighted yield (Fig. 10) of principal crops.
The weighted yield (Wt.) was calculated using formula given below:
Weighted Yield (of a year) = Wt. of total cereal X (yield of cereal that year) +Wt. of total pulses X (yield of pulses that year) +Wt. of total oilseeds X (yield of oilseeds that year)
The Weight (Wt.) of crop was calculated using the formula: production of the respective crop that year/ total production of all the crops in the study that year.
For this weighted yield calculation, cotton has not been included since production is accounted for in bales while for other crops it is tonnes.
Fig 10. Source: The True Picture Calculation
The analysis is unmistakable. Gujarat has dramatically improved the yield in all principal agricultural produces since the year 2001. Something seems to happened since the year 2001. The weighted yield that had risen by a mere 5.5% in two decades before 2001 rise by as much as 80% in the next 16 years
How did Gujarat manage to improve its yield rather sharply after 2001?
Gujarat is largely a semi-arid to arid region. The success of Gujarat’s agricultural sector lies to a large extent in the reform initiatives taken by the state government after 2001, primarily in irrigation among other things. While Gujarat had started building check-dams long before, the number of check dams went up dramatically after 2001 spurring agricultural productivity. Gujarat also promoted drip irrigation to conserve water. Gujarat also simplified the procedures by making it easier for farmers to avail loans and subsidies.
The other major contributing factor was the Jyotigram scheme. The scheme provided regular, high-quality three-phase electricity to all villages, greatly helping farming. Additionally, separate electric feeders were provisioned for domestic use and for agricultural use.
While the causes for this phenomenal Gujarat agricultural story can be studied in greater detail, what is unmistakable are two facts: pan state, pan-crop increase in yield and the year from which the Gujarat story becomes a breakout story. Gujarat must have done something different from the year 2001, which is not only worth studying in greater detail, but also worth replicating across the country. In a remarkable coincidence, the year 2001 is the same year that Narendra Modi became the Chief Minister of Gujarat and therefore it would not be an exaggeration to term this Gujarat Agricultural story as the Modi Miracle. With high octane focus on Pradhanmantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana and the commitment to electrify every village and household, the national level replication looks eminently doable.