Agriculture is one of the most important sectors of Indian economy. It is the supplier of food and raw materials in the country. At the time of independence more than 70 per cent of India's population depended on agriculture to earn livelihood.
Accordingly the share of agriculture in the national product/income was as high as 56.6 per cent in 1950-51. However with development of industries and service sector during the plan periods, the percentage of population depending on agriculture as well as the share of agriculture in the national product has come down.
In 1960, the percentage of labour force engaged in agricultural activities was 74 which gradually came down over the years to 51 per cent in 2012. In 1960 the share of labour force in industry and service sectors stood at 11 and 15 percent respectively. But in 2012 these shares increased to 22.4 and 26.5 percent respectively. It has been observed in most of the economies that along with economic development shift in labour force from agriculture to industry and service sector takes place.
Agriculture is the source of food supply. The production of food grains has increased from nearly 55 million tonnes in 1950-51 to 259 million tones in 2012-13. Because of the growth in food grain production, India's dependence on import of food grains has declined and almost become nil.
Keeping in view the rapid growth in India's population, increase in food grain was a necessity which the country achieved significantly. Except for pulses, increase in food grains has been mode possible by increase in cereals and various cash crops.
Agriculture is also a major source of foreign exchange earning through export. The share of agriculture in India's export in the year 2011-12 was 12.3 percent. The major items of export include tea, sugar, tobacco, spices, cotton, rice, fruits and vegetables, etc.