Challenges faced by Indian agriculture can broadly be grouped into two categories. One category belongs to the problems that have been long standing. Second category of problems is new and has been emerging from the prevailing agricultural practices, system, changing climate and economy.

1. Stagnation in Production of Major Crops

Production of some of the major staple food crops like rice and wheat has been stagnating for quite some time. This is a situation which is worrying our agricultural scientists, planners and policy makers. If this trend continues, there would be a huge gap between the demand of ever growing population and the production. Nobody wants India to go back to a situation that was prevailing in our country prior to Green Revolution.

2. High Cost of Farm Inputs

Over the years, rates of farm inputs have increased manifold. Farm inputs include fertilizer, insecticide, pesticides, HYV seeds, farm labour cost, etc. Such an increase puts low and medium land holding farmers at a disadvantage.

3. Soil Exhaustion

On one hand green revolution has played a positive role in reducing hunger from India. On the other hand it has also led to negative consequences. One of which is soil exhaustion. Soil exhaustion means loss of nutrients in the soil from farming the same crop over and over again. This usually happens in the rain forest.

4. Depletion of Fresh Ground Water

The second major negative consequence of green revolution is depletion of fresh ground water. Areas where green revolution was successful, it was due to the use of chemical fertilizers and irrigation. Most of the irrigation in dry areas of Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh was carried out by excessive use of ground water. Today, fresh ground water situation in these states is alarming. In the coming few years if this type of farming practice continues, these states are going to face water famine.

5. Adverse impact of Global Climatic Change

Among various challenges, global climatic change is the recent one. It has been predicted that its impact on agriculture would be immense. It is predicted that due to climate change, temperature would increase from 2°C to 3°C, there would be increase in sea level, more intense cyclones, unpredictable rainfall. etc. These changes would adversely affect the production of rice and wheat.

Specifically, rise in temperature in winter would affect production of wheat in north India. Production of rice would be affected in coastal areas of India due to ingress of saline water and increase of frequency of cyclones.

6. Impact of Globalisation

All developing countries have been affected by it. The most evident effect is the squeeze on farmer’s income and the threat to the viability of cultivation in India. This is due to the rising input costs and falling output prices. This reflects the combination of reduced subsidy and protection to farmers. Trade liberalisation exposes these farmers to competition from highly subsidised production in the developed world.

7. Providing Food Security

Before the introduction of green revolution in India, India was not self sufficient in terms of food grain production. Due to partition of India in 1947 the network of canal irrigation system, cotton belt and wheat bowl went to West Pakistan which is now Pakistan. Similarly the jute belt and rice bowl was awarded to East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh.

With the introduction of green revolution, production of food grains increased substantially and India became self sufficient. However, during the last one decade the total production has become stagnant. On the other hand we have added another 16 to 18 million population over this period. Although India has become self sufficient in good it is yet to ensure food security which is dependent upon accessibility, affordability as well nutritional value of the food available. One of the biggest challenges facing India is Providing Food Security to its population.

8. Farmers Suicide

The suicides appear concentrated in regions of high commercialisation of agriculture and very high peasant debt. Cash crop farmers seemed far more vulnerable to suicide than those growing food crops. Yet the basic underlying causes of the crisis remained untouched. Commercialisation of the countryside along with massive decline in investment in agriculture was the beginning of the decline.

Withdrawal of bank credit at a time of soaring input prices and the crash in farm incomes compounded the problems. Shifting of millions from food crop to cash crop cultivation had its own risks. Privatisation of many resources has also compounded the problems. 

The devastation lies in the big five States of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. These states accounted for two-thirds of all farm suicides during 2003-08. Some of the major factors responsible are indebtedness, crop failure and deterioration in economic status. Decline in social position, exorbitant charges by local money lenders for the vulnerable farmers, chronic illness in the family, addiction, etc. have made life of farmers difficult.