India is expected to be the world’s most populous country in six short years. Is its agriculture sector prepared to feed its growing population?
More than 40 management-level researchers and university representatives from various parts of India gathered last month to discuss what the latest ASTI data reveals.
The event, which took place August 17 in New Delhi, presented data on agricultural research spending, human capacity, and outputs based on results from a survey ASTI conducted in collaboration with the National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM).
PK Joshi from IFPRI’s New Delhi Office, Ganesh Kumar and Kalpana Sastry from NAARM, and Gert-Jan Stads from ASTI set the stage and shared results, while experts from the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), the Agricultural Economics Research Association (AERA), the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), and others offered insights on key issues and challenges.
The data offer a lot of good news: India has one of the best-staffed agricultural research and development systems in the world with three quarters of its 12,750 government agency and university-based researchers holding PhD degrees. After a gradual decline in the first decade of the 2000s, the establishment of new universities and colleges has led to a rebound in research capacity in more recent years.
Despite these positive trends, however, challenges remain. In 2014, India invested just 0.30 percent of its AgGDP in agricultural research. The government’s current goal to spend at least 1 percent of its agricultural GDP on research and education by 2017 appears unrealistic. Recent increases in agricultural research spending were largely driven by rising salary costs, rather than costs supporting actual research programs and infrastructure. There is also a strong gender imbalance among agricultural researchers, with women making up only 18 percent of agricultural researchers and being largely absent in management positions.
India’s private sector has an important role to play in agricultural research and development— in 2009, for example, it supplied an estimated 20 percent of the country’s agricultural research spending. But much remains unknown about sector’s impact on food security, poverty, and other development goals. Speakers agreed that accurate and timely data on private sector spending in India’s agricultural research is critically needed.
According to a report released by NAARM, agriculture is the most important sector of the Indian economy – a source of employment for more than half the workforce and of income for rural Indians who make up the vast majority of the population. India’s remarkable transformation from a net importer to a net exporter of staple food has happened largely thanks to research that produced new technologies for increased productivity.
The ASTI data presented in New Delhi makes the case for continuing this research, with policy support and funding, to feed this growing nation’s people.