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Farm lessons from China and Israel

If I say that Indian agriculture has the potential to double or even triple its output say in the next 15-20 years, many people will laugh it away. But the reality is that many countries have done it, and we can do it too, provided our agri-food policy framework takes a dramatic turn, from being subsidy-led to investment-driven, from being consumer-oriented to producer-oriented, and being supply-oriented to demand-driven by linking farms with factories and foreign markets, and finally, from being a business-as-usual to an innovations-centred system. At least, this is what we can learn from a comparative study of Indian, Chinese and Israeli agriculture in a just-released book ‘From Food Scarcity to Surplus- Innovations in Indian, Chinese, and Israeli Agriculture’ by Ashok Gulati, Yuan Zhou, Jikun Huang, Alon Tal, and Ritika Juneja (Springer Nature, 2021).

China, for instance, produces three times more agri-output than India from a smaller arable area (119 million ha vs India’s 156 million ha). The average holding size in China was just 0.9 ha in 2016-18, which is even smaller than India’s 1.08 ha in 2015-16. So, there is no doubt that smallholders can do wonders if they are given the right incentives, good infrastructure and research support, and right institutional framework to operate. As a result of all this, the absolute poverty headcount ratio of $1.9/day at 2011 purchasing power parity (PPP) definition was only 0.7% in China against 13.4% in India in 2015, as per World Development Indicators.


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