Economics Prelims cum Mains

Slide in farm size but women land owners rise: Agriculture census

The News

  • The provisional agriculture census 2015-16 has been released.


About agriculture census

  • It is a large-scale statistical operation for collection of requisite data and derivation of quantitative information about the structural characteristics of agriculture in the country.
  • The data provides valuable inputs to policy makers as they plan various interventions.
  • The agriculture census is carried out at five-year intervals as part of the world agriculture census programme.


Agriculture census in India

  • Agriculture Census forms part of a broader system of collection of Agricultural Statistics in India.
  • Through Agriculture Census, basic data on important aspects of agricultural economy of operational holdings in the country is collected.
  • The first census in India was conducted in 1970-71.
  • The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare is implementing Agriculture Census Scheme, quinquennially, to collect and compile data on operational holdings in the country.
  • Being a Central Sector Plan Scheme of the Government of India, for Agriculture Census Scheme, 100% financial assistance is provided to the States for conducting the Census programme.
  • The current agriculture census is the 10th in the series.


News Summary

  • The field work of Phase-I, phase-II and Phase-III of Agriculture Census 2015-16 has been completed and provisional results of the census has been released now.
  • The final figures of the census, comprising other details, are expected to be released by December.
  • Data regarding irrigation status, tenancy particulars, cropping pattern and dispersal of holdings, etc. has been collected.
  • Being the final unit for agriculture-related decisions, an operational holding has been taken as statistical unit at micro-level for various policy interventions.


Provisional data from the 10thagriculture census

  • The figures show landholdings have doubled in past 45 years (from 71 million in 1970-71 to 146 million in 2015-16), resulting in decline in average size of farms by more than 50%.
  • However, the pace of such division is declining.
  • Number of land holdings increased by 12% from 1995-96 to 2000-01, 7.5 % after that till 2005-06, 6.9% by 2010-11 and 5.33% till 2015-16.
  • Moreover, the percentage share of female land holders increased from 12.79% (17.65 million) in 2010-11 to 13.87% (20.25 million) in 2015-16.
  • Their numbers were nearly 11% ( 15.11 million) in 2005-06.
  • Further, the total number of operational holdings in the country has increased from 138 million in 2010-11 to 146 million in 2015-16 – an increase of 5.33%. (The operational land is used wholly or partly for agricultural production).
  • The highest variation (increase) was found in the case of Madhya Pradesh (12.74%) followed by Andhra Pradesh (11.85%), Rajasthan (11.12%), Kerala (11.02%), Meghalaya (10.90%), Karnataka (10.78%) and Nagaland (10.50%).
  • Similarly, there is decrease in the operated area from 159.59 million hectares in 2010-11 to 157.14 million hectares in 2015-16, showing a decrease of 1.53%.
  • As far as operational land holding is concerned, the sharpest fall has been in Goa (28.17%) and lowest in Manipur (0.09%).
  • The Census found that the average size of operational holding has declined to 1.08 hectare in 2015-16 as compared to 1.15 hectare in 2010-11.
  • The average size of operational holding is highest in Nagaland (5.06 hectare) and lowest in Kerala (0.18 hectare).
  • Out of 36 states and UTs, 14 states — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal — account for about 91.03% in terms of number of operational holdings.
  • The small and marginal holdings taken together (up to 2 hectares) constitute over 86% (125 million) of the total holdings in 2015-16 as against nearly 85% (117 million) in 2010-11.



Trend analysis

  • The increase in farm land holdings, a consistent trend since the 1970s, has been slowing down in the past 20 years.
  • There is a rise in the number of female land holders, a possible indicator of higher involvement in farm activities.
  • The trend could mean the association of farming with “kisan bhai (farmer brothers)” might be less exclusively a male domain than popular belief has it.
  • The trend may reflect migration of men to cities for non-agricultural activities and also explain slowing down of land division as rural people seek alternate livelihoods.
  • Decreasing size of land holdings, however, remains a serious challenge.
  • Decline in average size of farms is a real worry for policy-makers as this makes agriculture unremunerative for farmers.
  • Decrease in the operated area reflects diversion of farm land for non-agriculture activities during the period.


Significance of agriculture census

  • Agriculture plays an important role in the Indian Economy.
  • It is the principal source of livelihood for majority of the population in the country, provides bulk of wage goods required by non-agriculture sectors and most of the raw materials for the industries sector.
  • Due to the dominant position of Agriculture in the Indian economy, collection and maintenance of Agricultural statistics assumes special importance, particularly, in respect of statistics relating to the agricultural holdings.
  • Periodic Agriculture Census is important as it is the main source of information in the country on basic characteristics of operational holdings such as land use, cropping pattern, irrigation status and tenancy particulars.
  • This information is tabulated by different size classes (marginal, small, semi-medium, medium and large) and Social Groups including Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, which are needed for development planning, socio-economic policy formulation and establishment of national priorities.
  • Census also provides the basis for development of a comprehensive integrated national system of agricultural statistics and has links with various components of national statistical system.

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