In this article we will discuss about the causes of low agricultural productivity in India with remedial measures to improve it.

Causes of Low Agricultural Productivity:

The causes of low agricultural productivity in India may be broadly grouped under categories viz.:

(1) Natural Factors

(2) Technological Factors


(3) Institutional or Structural Factors and

(4) General Factors.

(1) Natural Factors:

Agriculture in India is dominated by Nature, specially rainfall. It is said to be a gamble in the monsoons. The rains may be insufficient or unevenly distributed: they are uncertain and sometimes we have too much of rain resulting in floods causing widespread damage and destruction. There may be other natural calamities befalling Indian agriculture e.g. hailstorm, frost or attack by pests and insects.

These inclemencies of weather seriously handicap the Indian farmer in stepping up agricultural output. The farm production cannot be quickly expanded but it can certainly be unexpectedly damaged or reduced by bad weather, pests or diseases. Also, Nature has not made all land of uniform quality- Naturally there are differential outputs resulting from lands of varying fertility.

(2) Technological Factors:

These factors broadly refer to the use of fertilizers and manures, improved seeds, improved tools and implements, the use of irrigation water, etc. In all these respects, the Indian farmer is still behind the farmers of other advanced countries.


Partly of course, the reason for its nun-use is the poverty but equally, important is the fact that the attitude of Indian farmers is not changing for the better. It is only recently that some of the farmers have started using improved implements like steel ploughs, sugarcane crushers, oil pumps for drawing water etc.

The use of Better seeds can bring about an increase in production by 10 to 20 per cent. But unfortunately, most of the farmers still use the ordinary seeds instead of the improved seeds.

Similarly, as in the case of Japan, the use of phosphatic and nitrogenous fertilizers can bring about a technological breakthrough in Indian agriculture. But also these are not being adopted rapidly. It is often noticed that the fertilizers which are sold at subsidized price by the Government to the farmers are being re-sold by the farmers to traders at black market prices.


Improved seeds, tools, implements, fertilizers, etc. will be of no use if they are not combined with adequate and regular supply of water. In view of shortage of irrigation facilities, Indian agriculture has been referred to as a gamble in monsoon.

Hardly 22% of total cultivated land in India is under irrigation and in the absence of irrigation water, most of the farmers have to depend on monsoons, farther, in the absence of continuous irrigation facilities, only single cropping is possible.

Naturally, output per acre as well as per worker is low. Apart from poor availability of irrigation facilities, there is also the paradoxical problem of poor utilisation of the available irrigation facilities. This fuel is vividly brought out by Mrs. Kusum Nair in her “Blossoms in the Dust.”

She gives us instances of farmers who refused to use the irrigation water (and depended on the monsoon) even when the collector of a district sat down in a temple on hunger-strike in order to induce the farmers to use the irrigation water.

Financial facilities are utterly inadequate so that the farmer has to depend on the village money-lender who charges exorbitant rates. According to the All-India Rural Credit Survey Report, 1950-51, more than 90% of the total agricultural credit is advanced by the money-lenders. The institutional credit covers barely 6.4% of it.

The co-operative credit movement has not expanded enough to meet the credit of Indian farmers fully. “The vicious circle resulting in poverty, debt and high interest rates holds the small cultivator in a tight grip.” Consequently, the programme of agricultural production suffers.

Too many cooks spoil the broth’ is a proverb which applies to Indian agriculture. Experience tells us that agricultural productivity is in inverse proportion to the number of people engaged in it. There is excessive pressure of population on land resulting in small, uneconomic and fragmented holdings. The area sown per capita works out to about 0.86 acre only. It has been estimated that about 25% of the working force in Indian agriculture is surplus and is, therefore, in disguised unemployment.

The surplus labour constitutes unproductive dependents who reduce agricultural incomes which would have been otherwise saved and invested. Lack of Investment is responsible for the continuance of primitive techniques, insufficient use of essential inputs like fertilizers and irrigation of land. This inevitably results in low agricultural productivity.

(3) Institutional or Structural Factors:

These factors broadly relate to the defective structure of landholdings in India. The average agricultural holding in India is only around 5 acres. Even this small holding may not be located at one particular spot. It is often fragmented and located at different places in small plots of an acre or two.


The operational holding is often so small that it is difficult to move an ordinary plough. The small scattered holding also results in waste of time in the movement of the cultivator from one plot to another. It has been calculated that a pair of bullocks could cultivate about 13 acres of land.

Almost all farmers own a pair of bullocks but their land may be only 5 acres so that the bullocks are un-utilised to the extent of 8 acres. Similar under-utilization prevails in respect of the ploughs, implements etc. The reason for large sub-division and fragmentation of land in India is, of course, the pressure of population on laud and the system of inheritance.

Another important reason for low productivity has been the absence of adequate incentives for the cultivators of land. Incentives could prevail if the tiller of land is himself the owner of the land. But in India, till recently, there was system of Zamindari and Jagirdari under which the hind belonged to these landlords.

It is true that Zamindari has been abolished. At the same time there are still a number of tenant-cultivators who have to pay very high rents and they have no security of tenure. The tenancy laws passed by various States have not been enforced sincerely.


Practically these are as good as no laws. Under such circumstances, the tenant-cultivators may not bring about additional capital formation in agriculture in the form of land improvements, soil conservation, use of irrigation improved seeds and fertilizers, etc.

(4) General Factors:

The general causes may be briefly divided into three sub-divisions.

Firstly, there is overcrowding in agriculture. Land being inelastic and population being elastic there is a continuous decline in the per capita availability of land. For instance, the area of land per cultivator has declined from a little over 100 cents in 1901 to only around 62 cents in 1991.

Secondly, many of the Indian farmers, being ignorant, illiterate superstitious, conservative and caste-ridden, are not motivated by the desire to live better. Hence Mrs. Kusum Nair rightly remarked, “They (Indian farmers) look at the stars to worship them, not to pluck them.”


Thirdly, there has also been an inadequacy of a number of non-farm services required by the farmers. These services refer to the requirements of agricultural credit, marketing, warehousing, processing, transporting, etc.

In respect of almost all these services, the farmers still depend on the non- institutional agencies like moneylenders, traders, commission agents, adatias, dalals, etc. All these agencies exploit the cultivators to such an extent that very little capital is left with the farmers for increasing capital formation in land and hence the low productivity.

“In short, soil erosion, water-logging, lack of irrigation facilities coupled with inadequacy and uncertainty of the rainfall, excessive pressure on the soil, personal inefficiency of the farmer, social institutions, sub-division and fragmentation, exploitative character of the land-tenure system, outmoded agricultural techniques, lack of finance and good marketing arrangements and indifference and inefficiency of the administration are the principal causes of low agricultural productivity in India.”

Remedies Suggested to Improve Agricultural Productivity:

The cause of low agricultural yield explained above themselves do suggest the remedial measures we give below:

1. Importance of agricultural practices by the use of more: fertilizers, improved seeds, pesticides, improving agricultural implements and the lives stocks, introduction of double cropping and more productive crop rotation etc.

2. Extension of irrigational facilities and tackling the problems of soil-erosion and water logging on a war-footing.


3. Improvement of the marketing and credit facilities to ensure to the farmer the full reward of his hard labour.

4. Relieving equal pressure on the soil by developing employment opportunities in the non-farming sector of the economy.

5. Improving the quality of the farmer by giving him general and technical education.

6. Bringing into existence holdings which are economic in size and reform of the inequitable and inefficient land system. The reforms should not be merely on paper but should be effectively implemented.

7. Improvement of the political and administrative set-up so that the agricultural problems be tackled more effectively.

8. Tenancy laws be made more favourable to the actual tiller by reducing rents and total elimination of the absentee-landlords.


9. Rural credit be thoroughly reorganised to make it available at cheap rates and in sufficient amounts, warehousing facilities be provided all over the country so as to eliminate money-lenders and all middlemen.

10. Holdings be consolidated and mechanised co-operative farming introduced whenever possible and outmoded techniques be totally replaced by modern techniques.

11. The resources and enterprises of men of means with farming aptitudes be attracted so that private investment in farming is stimulated.

These are some of the measures required to break stagnation of Indian agriculture and bring about its rejuvenation.