Gujarat’s agriculture growth – what is the real story?

Came across this piece in ToI by Prof. Ashok Gulati, the eminent agriculture economist. I wish more agri econs wrote for media as there is much to know and learn. Instead of the usual macro jumbo-mumbo the media guys should actively seek scholars who do research on real issues.

Anyways, Prof. Gulati says if there is anything to learn from Gujarat’s story, it is agri performance. More than Gujarat, the blogger is interested in the agri story:

As temperatures rise this political season every party is beating its breast about being more inclusive, whether in terms of caste, class or community. There is also an interesting debate on development models with the Gujarat model under intense scrutiny. Rahul Gandhi has named it a ‘toffee model’ (or a crony capitalist model) while others have compared it with Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Bihar, and even lately, Uttar Pradesh. There is also the ‘dole’ model of giving freebies, from food to water to power to laptops, which many states take pride in. The electorate would like a serious debate on these models, but unfortunately much existing debate remains empty political rhetoric.

It is amazing that there is no serious discussion on agriculture in the political discourse in general. All the more so because this sector engages more than half of India’s work force (54% as per the 2011 Census) and most of the poor, especially the landless, eke out their existence from it. We hear a lot about food price inflation making holes in consumers’ pockets, but don’t hear much on how to tame it by raising agricultural productivity and building efficient value chains.

..Since agriculture is a state subject, it would be good to see how different states have performed on agricultural growth during the 1990s (1990-91 to 2000-01) and 2000s (2001-02 to 2011-12). A decade-long period is important to look at because agri-GDP at state level can be very volatile and shorter periods do not often reflect the true picture. State-level agricultural performance would be a real test of their ‘inclusive’ policies and growth models as the results will cut across different castes and communities.

The results, based on data from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) for major states, paint the following picture. While the overall performance of agriculture improved very marginally from 2.9% per annum growth in the 1990s to 3.3% in the 2000s, certain states demonstrated a much bigger turnaround. Going by the agri-GDP growth registered at state-level during the 2000s, Gujarat tops the list with 9.8% per annum growth, up from a meagre 2% during 1990s. The former is almost three times the growth rate registered at all-India level.

So, if one wants to discuss the Gujarat model of development, it cannot be viewed as a ‘toffee model’ but more as an ‘agriculture turnaround model’. Compare this with the Kerala model, where agri-GDP growth has been zero for the 2000s (down from 1.3% during 1990s). Or with UP or Tamil Nadu or West Bengal models, all of which registered less than 3% growth in agriculture during 2000s.

One would imagine it is industry which has gained in Gujarat..but it is agriculture..And then Gujarat is not alone in the list:

Agriculture’s success stories during 2000s rest in four more states: Rajasthan (9.6%), Chhattisgarh (8.9%), Madhya Pradesh (7.4%) and Jharkhand (6.9%) which have registered impressive growth of almost 7% or higher over a decade-long period. 

Why is there no discussion and scrutiny of these? Was it due to just a fluke of good rainfall or were there some policies and investments that really deserve credit and which others may benefit from?

Well for scrutiny you need agri experts/econs to become part of the mainstream debate. There are hardly people barring Prof Gulati. One does not know what is going on? A media which is obsessed with the Dalal street and the entire focus remains there. It is all about following the money honey even if it touches the lives of limited number of people..

Agriculture as a subject needs to make a comeback. It is extremely important given how many people depend on the sector and our huge population.

True pro-people policies augment income earning capacity of the largest number of people. And Gujarat has done that through its agrarian miracle. Several factors have contributed to its success: from technological success of Bt cotton to check dams recharging groundwater, to Narmada waters, to Jyotigram giving regular and reliable power supply in rural areas, Krishi Mahotsav which transformed the agri-extension landscape, ever-flourishing dairy sector and well connected, good quality roads in rural areas.

These factors have contributed immensely to augment incomes of rural people. And that’s the best example of inclusiveness, which will stay there for long. Of course, people who are not convinced with this role model would like to pick holes even here.

State-level agri-GDP being quite volatile, they may pick years that suit them for their coloured views. But anyone committed to Indian agriculture today cannot neglect what has happened in Gujarat during the last decade.

Came across these papers by Gulati et al looking at details of Guj agri model and this critique of the model.. Which is closer to the truth? Need healthy debate on this..

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One Response to “Gujarat’s agriculture growth – what is the real story?”

  1. Kannan Says:

    Thanks for spotting this as well as pointing to the critique

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