main animal, draft animals, Indian farmers, Green Revolution, small holdings
Agriculture, which employs (with forestry and fishing) about two-thirds of India’s workforce and makes up 25 percent of the country’s GDP, remains the most important sector of the economy. Most land is farmed in very small holdings: The average holding in the mid-1990s was about 1.5 hectares (less than 4 acres). About half the land in India is cultivated by farmers owning more than 4 hectares (10 acres). However, few farms are larger than 20 hectares (50 acres) because of limited land reform. Most Indian farmers, particularly those who own smaller farms, cultivate their land by hand or by using oxen. India’s agricultural industry benefited from the government-implemented Green Revolution, which encouraged the use of high-yielding crop varieties, fertilizers, and carefully managed irrigation. The Green Revolution took hold in the 1970s and has resulted in a steady growth in production of food grain. Agricultural production faces occasional declines because of irregular monsoons or other climatic problems. These declines disrupt the economy and spur inflation.
India’s most important crops include sugarcane, rice, wheat, tea, cotton, and jute. Other important cash crops include cashews, coffee, oilseeds, and spices. Another central feature of India’s agricultural economy is the raising of livestock, particularly horned cattle, buffalo, and goats. In 2001 the country had 220 million cattle, substantially more than any other country. The cattle are used mainly as draft animals and for leather. As farmers increasingly use machinery, the number of livestock they raise will probably decrease. Buffalo is the main animal used for producing milk and dairy products. Milk production and distribution increased dramatically in the 1990s because of a nationwide, government-supported cooperative dairy program. Sheep are raised for wool, and goats are the main meat animal. Many Indians, particularly Hindus, refuse to eat beef for religious reasons, although they eat other meat, eggs, and fish.
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