Data Focus

As holdings shrink, farm families forced to take up wage labour and animal husbandry

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on October 27, 2021

Nearly 37 per cent of agricultural household income came from crop production and cultivation, compared to 48 per cent in 2012-13

There is no evidence to suggest that fragmented landholding has hit agricultural production, but it has definitely altered the income sources of agricultural households.

The latest National Sample Survey (NSS 2018-19) shows that 37 per cent of agricultural household income came from crop production and cultivation, compared to 48 per cent in 2012-13. Along with working for wages, farmers now earn more from animal farming, non-farm business, and leasing of land.

In 2012-13 (during the 70 NSS round), the average monthly income of agricultural households was ₹6,426, of which ₹2,071 came from wages, ₹3,081 from crop production and cultivation, ₹763 from farming of animals, and ₹512 from a non-farm business. The data for income from leasing of land is unavailable.

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The NSS 77th round in 2018-19 shows a major shift in income sources. The average monthly income has gone up to ₹10,218, with the maximum coming from wages (₹4,063), followed by income from crop cultivation and production (₹3,798). There is a substantial rise in income from animal farming (₹1,582). Farmers are also earning comparatively higher income from non-farm business and leasing out land.

Sharp decline in holding

When it comes to self-employment, 68.9 per cent of agricultural households is into crop production, 2.3 per cent in animal farming and 4.8 per cent in non-agricultural enterprise. About 7.7 per cent of households is into regular wage and/or salaried employment while 14.2 per cent is in the casual labour market.

The latest Agriculture Census shows that the average size of operational holdings has decreased from 2.28 hectares in 1970-71 to 1.84 hectares in 1980-81, 1.41 hectares in 1995-96, and 1.08 hectares in 2015-16. The latest NSS data shows that of the 93.09 million agricultural households in India, 70.4 per cent holds less than or equal to one hectare and the average ownership per household is 0.51 hectare.

Given the declining trend in agricultural holding and the prospective increase in population over time, the fragmentation of holdings is likely to continue and the average size is expected to fall further, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

‘Farm collective is the answer’

Vilas Shinde, Chairman and Managing Director of Sahyadri Farmers Producer Company in Nashik, says small and marginal farmers can sustain themselves and prosper only through collective efforts. He stressed that farmers’ collective is the way forward, as also farmers producer companies.

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Anil Ghanwat, Shetkari Sanghatana leader in Maharashtra, says it is impossible for small and marginal farmers to survive on cultivation. Stressing the need for diversification, he says farmers should be part of secondary and tertiary sector economies.

Published on October 27, 2021

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