Economics Prelims cum Mains

Time to shift focus from land to water productivity in farming

The news

  • A report released by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) this week said that Indian agriculture needs to “stop being obsessed” with the land productivity and instead start worrying about water productivity.

About the report

  • The report was titled- “Water Productivity Mapping of Major Indian Crops”.
  • It is a part of a research project with ICRIER, mapping a water atlas for ten major crops — rice, wheat, maize, red gram or tur, chickpea or channa, sugarcane, cotton, groundnut, rapeseed-mustard and potato.
  • These together occupy more than 60% of the country’s gross cropped area.


Highlights of the report

  • Indian agriculture uses almost 80% of all the country’s water resources, which are increasingly under stress.
  • This means changing the objective of agriculture development to increasing productivity per unit of water, especially irrigation water is crucial.
  • The starkest differences between land and water productivity are seen in rice and sugarcane cultivation.
  • Punjab reports the highest land productivity for rice, producing four tonnes per hectare. However, it only produces 0.22 kg of rice for every meter cube of irrigation water.
  • Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, on the other hand, produce 0.75 and 0.68 kg for the same amount of water. However, low irrigation coverage results in low land productivity in these States. Jharkhand has only 3% of its land under irrigation.
  • For sugarcane, another water-guzzling crop, Tamil Nadu reports the highest land productivity, producing 105 tonnes per hectare. Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh also have high rates of land productivity.
    • However, all four States in the water-stressed sub-tropical belt have an irrigation water productivity of less than 5 kg/m3.
    • In fact, an average of 40 rounds of irrigation is needed in Tamil Nadu.
  • In the Gangetic Plain, States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh need five and eight rounds of irrigation respectively.


Way ahead

  • Cropping patterns must be re-aligned to water availability, using both demand and supply side interventions.
  • With water and power subsidies skewing cropping patterns, reform in these areas is required, with a shift from the price policy approach of heavily subsidising inputs to an income policy approach of directly giving money farmers on per hectare basis.
  • Prices will then be determined by market forces.


  • National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is an apex development financial institution in India, headquartered at Mumbaiwith regional offices all over India.
  • The Bank has been entrusted with “matters concerning policy, planning and operations in the field of credit for agricultureand other economic activities in rural areas in India”.
  • NABARD was established in 1982 on the recommendations of B.Sivaraman Committee, (by Act 61, 1981 of Parliament) to implement the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Act 1981.
  • It is one of the premier agencies providing developmental credit in rural areas.
  • NABARD is India’s specialised bank for Agriculture and Rural Development in India.
  • It is headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

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