About 60% of India's population is employed in the agricultural and allied sector, which contributes 18% of the country's GDP. Official figures show 11,772 farmers committed suicide in 2013 across India. That is 44 deaths every day.
Not much has changed in the last two years since I wrote the following post titled "India's Agrarian Crisis: A Farmer Commits Suicide Every 30 Minutes" on my Haq's Musings blog in 2013:
An Indian farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes. About 200,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves over the last decade, according to media reports quoting India Rural Development Report 2012-13 released in September this year.
More recent news indicates that the crisis is continuing unabated. About two-thirds of the farmer suicides are being reported from 5 states: Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Other states are not immune. Indian Punjab has seen nearly 7000 farmers kill themselves in the last decade. Gujarat, the home of BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, reported 60 farmer suicides in 2012-13.
A report by Center for Human Rights and Global Justice blames failures of biotech crops, particularly Bt cotton, for the tragedy. The report also says inadequate policy responses are contributing to the crisis. Others believe it is caused by poor irrigation. They say that cotton requires a lot more water relative to other crops. It takes 25,000 liters of water to produce one kilo of cotton, about 50 times more than to grow a kilo of potatoes, according to a report in Forbes magazine.
The problem of suicides appears to be at least in part due to the fact that India's value added agriculture continues be among the lowest in the world. Unlike India, Pakistan managed to significantly raise agriculture productivity and rural incomes in 1980s through a livestock revolution. Economic activity in dairy, meat and poultry sectors now accounts for just over 50% of the nation's total agricultural output. The result is that per capita value added to agriculture in Pakistan is almost twice as much as that in Bangladesh and India.
Professor Mike Boland of Kansas State University. The professor explains how it applies to agriculture as follows:
"Many raw commodities have intrinsic value in their original state. For example, field corn grown, harvested and stored on a farm and then fed to livestock on that farm has value. In fact, value usually is added by feeding it to an animal, which transforms the corn into animal protein or meat. The value of a changed product is added value, such as processing wheat into flour. It is important to identify the value-added activities that will support the necessary investment in research, processing and marketing. The application of biotechnology, the engineering of food from raw products to the consumers and the restructuring of the distribution system to and from the producer all provide opportunities for adding value."
Although Pakistan's value added to agriculture is high for its region, it has been essentially flat since mid-1990s. It also lags significantly behind developing countries in other parts of the world. For example, per capita worker productivity in North Africa and the Middle East is more than twice that of Pakistan while in Latin America it is more than three times higher.
|Agriculture Value Added Per Capita in Constant 2000 US$--Source: World Bank
|Agriculture Value Added Per Capita in South Asia, North Africa and Latin America--Source: World Bank
Growth of value added agriculture in Pakistan has helped the nation's rural economy. It has raised incomes and reduced rural poverty by creating more higher wage jobs. It has had a salutary effect on the lives of the rural poor in terms of their ability to afford better healthcare, nutrition and education. Doing more to promote value added agriculture can accelerate such improvements for the majority of Indians and Pakistanis who engage in agriculture and textiles and still live in rural areas.
Here's a video on Indian farmers' suicides:
Farmer suicides in India by next9news
India-Pakistan Economic Comparison in 2014
Most Indians and Pakistanis Employed in Agriculture and Textiles
Pakistan Leads South Asia in Value Added Agriculture
Pakistan Among Top Meat and Dairy Consuming Nations
Upwardly Mobile Pakistan
Comparing Pakistan and Bangladesh
FMCG Boom in Pakistan
Agricultural Growth in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh
Pakistan's Decade 1999-2009
Musharraf's Economic Legacy
World Bank Report on Rural Poverty in Pakistan
India's Twin Deficits
Pakistan's Economy 2008-2010