More than 50% of farm households in debt

42 per cent of them owe money to banks and 26 per cent owe moneylenders.

Updated - November 28, 2021 07:39 am IST

Published - December 21, 2014 01:52 am IST - NEW DELHI

Nearly 90 per cent of India’s farmers have less than two hectares of land, according to the most extensive survey of farm households to date conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). The survey says the average farm household makes less than Rs. 6,500 a month from all sources of income.

The NSSO released the findings from its 70th Situation of Agricultural Households in India on Saturday. The new survey was for the agricultural year 2012-13 and covered 35,000 households. For this survey, the NSSO defined an agricultural household as one in which at least one member was self-employed in agriculture (even if part-time) and which produced at least Rs 3,000 worth of agricultural produce in a year.

By this definition, 58 per cent of rural households are agricultural households. “While some of the rest could be doing non-farm work, a significant number work exclusively as agricultural labourers, which the NSSO did not count,” an official from the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation explained, asking not to be quoted as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Over half of all agricultural households are in debt; and 42 per cent of them owe money to banks and 26 per cent owe moneylenders. Over 40 per cent of agricultural households have Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) job cards, showing that even those households not classified as ‘labourers’ utilise the scheme.

One in three farm households has less than 0.4 hectares of land and less than 0.5 per cent are large farmers, having over 10 hectares of land. Large farmers are often absentee landlords, the data indicates; 54 per cent of farmers with over 10 hectares possess land in other states.

Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe farm households were over-represented among the poorest classes with the smallest land holdings, the data showed. Large farmers were almost exclusively OBC or forward caste.

While wheat is the most commonly grown crop in the first half of the year, paddy growing dominates the second half, the data shows. In both seasons, however, sugarcane is the most profitable crop, giving its cultivator an average of over Rs 80,000 per season.

Private traders dominate the procurement space, and few farmers have enough information about Minimum Support Prices or report getting the MSP for their produce, the data shows.

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