Strong government commitment has resulted in a near doubling of public investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) in India since the mid-1990s, according to the newest country note published by ASTI and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Funding is expected to increase further in the coming years. The government’s latest five-year plan targets a doubling of research spending, to 1 percent of agricultural GDP.
Past investments in agricultural research have paid off for India. The quality of the country’s scientists has considerably improved in the past decade, leading to more PhD-level researchers. However, the total number of researchers has fallen by 8 percent since the turn of the millennium. This drop is due mainly to budget constraints at state agricultural universities. Without an effective policy response, the states’ research capacity could decline further, leading to less time spent on projects tailored to local problems and conditions.
Since the Green Revolution era (1940s to 1960s), India has achieved impressive growth in agricultural production. But agriculture still faces crucial challenges. The vast majority of the population depends on the sector for their livelihood. Production growth continues to lag behind the targeted 4 percent, and poverty and malnutrition remain widespread. Key goals for the coming decades will be meeting the growing and diversifying food demand (especially for meat, dairy products, and vegetables), managing natural resources sustainably, and raising the productivity of rainfed agriculture.
India’s substantial and well-coordinated agricultural research system has a long track record of helping to boost food security and reduce poverty. Nonetheless, additional resources for agricultural R&D will be needed to meet these goals.