Search more articles

Agrarian Development and the Reliability of Food in the State of Assam

 Manisha Sharma[1]

Development is a relative concept which is dynamic in nature and have a movement of progress and growth. It is a means that comes at the cost of another. Here, we can take an example of ‘Economic Growth’ as a crucial means for the utilization of development. Economic development of a country can be determined nationally but it is minimal as it brings inequality. According to Gilbert Hungdo, the president of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), “Agriculture has always been vital to India” (Hungdo, 2020). It is because people need to eat so agriculture remains a crucial function in the economic and societies of countless countries around the world. The country India has enormous diversity in its demographic as well as socio-economic condition. Over the last decades, the country has experiences growth in agricultural productivity. 

The contributions of agriculture in the Indian economy have been increasing over the years. According to the economic survey, the share of agriculture in gross domestic product (GDP) reached almost 20% for the first time in 17 years, making a sole bright spot in performance during financial year 2020–2021. Modern farms and agriculture operations have changed over the years primarily because of advancements in technology, including sensors, devices, machines, and information technology. Personalized e-commerce stores and marketplaces have brought farming products like fertilizers, seeds, machines, and equipment that help farmers grow quality products. Educational portals let farmers know innovative things about farming that increase the contributions of agriculture to the economy. 

While most other states in India are gradually moving away from their traditional agriculture-based economy toward industry or service-oriented economy, Assam is still heavily dependent on the agricultural sectorThe economy of Assam and its development depends on the production of the state. The economy is prevalently agrarian in nature. The government also makes continuous efforts to develop the already existing agrarian economy in the state. Agriculture plays the chief role of revenue earning in Assam economy. The state experiences plenty of rainfall and possess a fertile land which is extremely advantageous for cropping. This led to the flourishing growth in food crops and staples in Assam agriculture.


Food trade is an integral part of food security management as its domestic and global components influence the sustainability of food security. The Indian agricultural domestic trade as well its trade outside the country has developed in periodic segments and one trade segment with another varies substantially in size as well in character. However, they do interop with each other.

·      Pre-Green Revolution (1947-65): This was the most challenging time for food security and food trading in India. During this time, agricultural trade in the country was controlled by poorly structured private sectors with minimal participation from public or government agencies. In the early years following 1947, the whole agricultural input sector and Agri-product market infrastructure were in the planning and development stages. By 2001-02, the marketable surplus of major food grains such as Rice and Wheat had more than doubled, increasing to around 64% and 73% of their entire production, respectively.

·      Post-green revolution (1965 onwards): As a result of new seeds of enhanced high yielding varieties (HYV) of rice and wheat to begin with and the corresponding scientific production technology, the agricultural productivity increased here in a manner unheard of during this period, increasing the volume of marketable produce in the process. With the introduction of the Green Revolution, this marked the start of the commercial period in Indian agriculture (GR). However, the new HYV seeds, improved production technology, the combined efforts of agricultural scientists in the recently established State Agricultural Universities, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and its various institutes, as well as its widely dispersed research network across the country, enation services, collaboration with the international agricultural research network, and the Indian input industry. These inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and farm machinery) aided in the formation of government pro-agricultural policies, the rise of a robust cooperative sector represented by NAFED and the Food and Fertilizer Corporations (FCI and FCI), the consolidation and strengthening of farm credit agencies represented by institutions like the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD), and the expansion of the agriproduct marketing infrastructure.

Due to an Act of Parliament, two significant organizations involved in the marketing of agricultural products, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and the Agricultural Prices Commission (APC), now known as the Commission on Agricultural Cost and Prices (CAPC), were established in 1965. (ICAR,2006). At each harvest season, the primary duty of CACP is to recommend the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for agricultural commodities. While the FCI is in charge of maintaining the buffer stock of food grains and procuring food grains, including rice and wheat in particular.

·      Post Liberalization and WTO (1991 onwards Following a protectionist system in trade insulted the nation's economy to the outside world. As a result, the Indian economy remained restrained until the process of economic liberalization began in 1991 with a significant policy change. Indian manufacturing survived on minimum quality standards and scarcely had any acceptable place in the global commerce when there was no competition in the home market. As a result, India discovered that it was no longer a part of the influential international trade blocs like ASEAN and others. The delicensing and dismantling of different trade controls and registrations because of the liberalization of economic policy in 1991 sparked a series of reforms. These reforms added a competitive aspect and a fair-trade environment. The process of quality improvement in the production lines of both industry and agriculture was undoubtedly encouraged by this.



Assam is an agrarian economy in the sense that agriculture and allied sector continues to support about three fourth population of the state and providing employment to about 50 percent of the total workforce (out of total 8687123 main workers, 36.13% are cultivators and 10.4% were agricultural laborer in 2011) (Economic Survey, Assam, 2014-15). More than 85 percent of the farmer family is small and marginal farmers (Agricultural Census, 2010-11(P)) with average land holding of only 0.63 hectare in a scattered manner. The contribution of agriculture and allied sector to the Gross State Domestic Product at constant (2004-05) prices was more than 20 percent during 2014-15 which recorded a gradual fall since 2005-06 (Economic Survey, Assam, 2014-15). The trend of growth of the agricultural and allied sector (GSDP at constant (2004-05) prices) was erratic during the period 2005-06 to 2011-12 and finally pegged at 3.53 percent in 2014-15 compared to 7.37 percent growth in industry and 7.08 percent growth in service sectors respectively (Economic Survey, Assam, 2014-15). The average growth rate of GSDP in agriculture and allied sector in Assam during 2005-06 to 2013-14 at constant (2004-05) price was 3.65 percent compared to 3.97 percent in India; and only in agriculture sector, this average growth rate was 3.47 percent and 4.1 percent respectively. Saikia, (2014) mentioned that while growth of industry and service sector recorded an encouraging picture with annual average growth of 8.58 percent and 7.33 percent respectively, agriculture and allied sector has achieved annual average growth of 1.24 percent only during the 10th five-year plan. However, total foodgrains output share of Assam in all India increased from 1.9 percent in 1999-2000 to 2.05 percent in 2009-10. Almost all other neighboring hilly NER states depend on Assam for foodgrains and other agricultural products. But despite its overwhelming importance, the progress of agriculture in the state is far from satisfactory. The small farmer-oriented agriculture is stuck with low productivity and stunted growth. Agricultural productivity in the state is one of the lowest in the country. In 2011-12, foodgrain yield in Assam was 1704kg per hectare against its national average of 2078kg per hectare. To Swaminathan (2001a), Assam is one of the “sleeping agricultural giants” in eastern India.



There are two types of agricultural farming prevailing in Assam viz., peasant agriculture and capitalist (tea and partly rubber plantation) agriculture. However, Assam has no extreme mode of production, i.e., neither pure capitalist (landlord capitalism) nor poor peasantry. The peasant agriculture is more important from the point of its contribution to workforce engaged. Lerche (2013) said “All types of peasant agriculture are becoming uneconomical under the corporate food regime and land reforms have made this aspect worse.” Compared to capitalist farming, the peasant agriculture in Assam is handicapped by all sorts of constraints - natural, technological, and socio-economic. The mode of production in pre-colonial Assam is described as semi-tribal, semi-feudal (Guha, 1991). In Assam due to prevalence of ryotwari system of tenancy in most part of the state except Goalpara and a small portion of Cachar district there was no competition for land in the last century, and hence the concentration of land ownership in a few hands did not develop as seen in other parts of the country. The problem of exploitation of cultivators by the landlords is, therefore, not acute in Assam as in other parts of the country (Deka, 1984). 

In the colonial rule, the agrarian property structures in Assam were multiform and varied. There were two broad groups of landholders - (i) those who were settled for special cultivation, i.e., the tea planters (mostly British-owned corporate bodies) and (ii) those who were settled for ordinary cultivation. Though capitals flowing into tea plantation have been immensely profitable for the planters, this had a limited impact on the larger peasant economy of Assam. However, land alienation, commercialization and indebtedness process have started with infusion of merchant capital and immigration of peasants from East Bengal. In the colonial state, in search of new means of revenue collection merchant capital had penetrated the peasant economy. The interests of the merchants have given birth to a novel complex of surplus exaction. Thus, agrarian economy of the state became more market-driven and it was characterized by high indebtedness, rising incidence of landlessness and tenancy. The vestiges of tribalism were wearing off and it was transformed into a semi-feudal mode of surplus production (Das and Saikia, 2011). In the peasant sector, the average size of owned holdings per household was low, estimated to be between five and five and a half acres. Since the need for land revenue was scarcely supplied by the peasants out of a genuine surplus, the impact of it weighed heavily on them. The farmers borrowed money from traders, landowners, and wealthy peasants during the period of paying the land tax and during hard times.

Sharecropping tenant cultivation has been historically as one of the most important semi-feudal forms of surplus extraction in rural Assam. A sizable portion of the state rural farm population is still engaged in share tenancy. Moreover, agrarian structure in Assam is characterized by inequality in the distribution of landholding-owned and operated. The increasing trend in the number of ownership and operational holdings, marginalization in the size of operation holdings, sub-division and fragmentation of land holdings, decreasing trend in the proportion of holdings with partly or wholly leased-in land, etc. are reported to be the main features of the existing agrarian structure. These have serious impact on the agricultural production and productivity of the state (Saikia, 2014). Agricultural production is affected not only by the monsoon and other natural calamities like flood, drought, etc., but also by the technological and socio-economic factors. Low level uses of modern inputs in agricultural operations, low investment in agriculture, lack of credit facilities, lack of irrigation facilities, inadequacy of ground water harvesting infrastructure, poor rural road connectivity, lack of post-harvest processing, shortage of cold storages, inadequate marketing system, poor extension services, etc. are said to be the main factors plaguing the agricultural situation of the state. Goyari, (2005) states “So far as irrigation system is concerned, reportedly there are 2095 numbers of big and small irrigation plants in the state, but interestingly only 75 numbers are in running condition. As regard the use of fertilizers, though it has grown over time, our farmers applied only 74.40kg per hectare against Indian average of 137kg per hectares. On the other hand the cold storages in the state bring about setback in agricultural production, as there are only 22 cold storages which also cannot be run smoothly due to disruption of power." Irrigation Minister, Govt. of Assam stated in the state assembly on 11th Feb, 2014 that a total of 204 minor irrigation projects have been lying defunct and are beyond repair in the state. In addition, 182 minor irrigation projects and a medium irrigation project are non-functional, but can be repaired (The Assam Tribune, February, 2014). Consumption of electricity for agricultural purposes in Assam was only 32.00 million KWH or 0.98 percent of total electricity consumption in 2009-10. But it was 40.29 percent in Haryana, 39.42 percent in Rajasthan, 33.46 percent in Punjab, 34.21 percent in Karnataka and in all India level it was 20.98 percent during the period (Agricultural Statistics at a Glance, 2011-12 and Central Electricity Authority, New Delhi). Only about half of the paddy cultivation in Assam is using HYV seeds, with very little change observed over the last two decades. Contrary to peasant agriculture, capitalist agriculture is found in tea estates which were mostly owned by Kolkata based planters or corporate leaders of the country who were alleged to exercise exploitation for appropriation of surplus value. In rubber plantation of Assam some sort of capitalist mode of production and some society formed cultivation is developing which is yet to evaluate its performance. Thus, notwithstanding such factors, it may be worthwhile to examine whether the existing agrarian structure and relations in the state is conducive to agricultural development through the utilization of potentiality of agricultural land in terms of crop productivity (Saikia, 2014).



Agricultural development problems and economic development problems go together in Assam. Thus, while most of the development problems discussed below are agriculture-related, some of these are also related to the economic development problems in Assam. In addition to some of the major problems such as land fragmentation, lack of modern technology, or continued reliance on rain for irrigation, there are several other problems that hinder the development of agricultural sector in Assam. Identification of such problems should facilitate finding their remedial measures.

The state's Agriculture Extension Service has been impacted by a lack of sufficient people for transferring improved production methods, which is holding up the progress of agricultural technology innovation. Currently, the Department only has roughly 70% of the necessary filed level officials.

Lack of agricultural land consolidation in a state with dispersed land ownership is a significant barrier to the utilisation of advanced machinery, etc.

While the state produces enough certified Paddy and Oil seeds to meet its own needs, it falls short in Pulse seeds.

Since the farmers in the state are poor businesspeople, they rely on the middleman almost exclusively. As a result, when they receive a favorable price for a commodity in one year, they naturally increase production of that commodity the following year, and the law of demand and supply then affects them in the years that follow. They become discouraged and lose hope in agriculture because of this experience.

The state's agricultural landscape has seen significant changes because of population growth and the advancement of agrotechnology.

The state's economy benefits greatly from the development of agriculture, but it is also vital to consider the ecological effects of the shifting patterns of land usage. Habitats and stream channels may potentially be harmed.

Every year, the Brahmaputra and its tributaries cause devastating floods in practically the whole valley, especially during the rainy season (May-August). And this flood destroys everything, including crops and human life.


To increase production, nutrients including phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium are applied as fertilisers, manure, sludge, and crop leftovers. The productivity of the land decreases when they are used more than what the plants require.


To eradicate pests and prevent the growth of weeds and fungus, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are utilised. These substances have the power to degrade agricultural soil quality.




In the case of a State like Assam, heavily dependent on the Centre for carrying out the plan schemes in the public sector (major share of the State plans are to be financed through Central assistance) and on industrialists from outside for important projects in the private sector, exercises aimed at formulating anything like a comprehensive perspective or even medium-term organic plan for the State may appear to be futile. Agriculture plays a pivotal role in the development of Assam. An attempt to draw up an outline of a plan for Assam for the next ten years is needed for the purpose of its progress. Also, large number of assumptions are to be explicitly or implicitly made to arrive at estimates of growth of income, investment, employment etc. At the same time, it is also realised that without such studies planning at the State level would have to proceed without any concrete idea as to the direction the economy may be moving in as also the magnitude and direction of efforts needed to arrive at some desired goal in future.

· Therefore, all vacant posts at field levels will be filled up so that the objective of the SDG could be fulfilled in the specific time frame. 

· More numbers of licences for opening Agencies for Agri-inputs will be issued in village level. It will enhance the reliability, effectiveness and efficiency of agribusinesses in the village. 

· Therefore, a farm approach will be adopted for consolidation of agricultural land to efficiently inject all inputs of higher production to achieve desired productivity and production. 

· Under the Vision 2030, a seed production plan for Paddy, Pulses & Oil seeds to cater the need up to 2030 will be developed.

 · Helps of AAU will be taken for development of new varieties & special Pulse Seed Storage facilities. 

· The aforesaid constraint will be removed through a well devised strategy so that they produce according to the market demand. Here, the government intervention for procurement of marketable surplus will be made.

Therefore, to conclude, it is found that along with some specific suggestions to improve the national development effort in terms of the agrarian development of the country in general and Assam in particular, certain questions should also make sense for the authority in power to think off. What ought to the purpose and role of state planning be? Instead of being sectoral plans limited to issues that the State Governments are concerned with, wouldn't it be preferable for them to be well-integrated, comprehensive plans aiming at the best possible development of the States? And if so, how should one approach the work scientifically, or, in other words, what are the methodologies and approaches to be used for creating such State plans so that they don't just consist of a collection of national targets that have been assigned based on a few indicators?



Guha, A., (1977a). From Planter Raj to Swaraj: Freedom Struggle & Electoral Politics in Assam 1826-1947, New Delhi, People’s Publishing House

Deka, B. R. (1984). Agriculture credit in Assam - A study on institutional sources from 1951-1974. Gauhati University.

Das, D., and Saikia, (2011). Early Twentieth Century Agrarian Assam: A Brief and Preliminary Overview, Economic and Political weekly, Vol. XLVI, No. 14

Saikia, G.C., (2014), Agrarian Structure and Relations in Assam, A Thesis Submitted to Gauhati University, Guwahati, Assam

Goyari, P., (2005). Flood damages and Sustainability of Agriculture in Assam, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XL, No. 26, June 25, pp. 2723-2729

 "Agri share in GDP hit 20% after 17 years: Economic Survey". Retrieved 28 March 2021.

 "Agriculture Technology | National Institute of Food and Agriculture". Retrieved 28 March 2021

 "Applying modern tech to agriculture". Retrieved 28 March 2021.

"E-Commerce for Ag Business: Advantages and Challenges". Penn State Extension. Retrieved 28 March 2021.

The Agricultural Sector in Assam: Its Importance | Assam Portal. (n.d.).


Samra, J. N. (1966). Problems of Economic Development in AssamEconomic and Political Weekly

Recent ornithological publications. (2006). Ibis148(4), 830–843.

Attention Required! | Cloudflare. (n.d.).

Agricultural Production in Assam in the Recent Decades: An Empirical Study of Select Crops in Two Districts of Western Assam.

Pathak, Kamal Chandra. (2020, March 4). Agrarian system with special reference to the outbreaks of Assam (1893-94): An Analytical





[1] Ph.D. Scholar, Under the guidance of Prof. Amit Dholakia, Department of Political Science, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara, Gujarat-390002, Email ID:

Featured post

How to Write Effective Literature Review

A literature review is an essential component of any research project or academic paper. It involves identifying, evaluating, and summarizin...