From being net food importer in the 1960s, India has emerged as a net food exporter to the world. Provide reasons.


05:23 AM

The question “From being net food importer in the 1960s, India has emerged as a net food exporter to the world. Provide reasons." was asked in the Mains 2023 GS Paper 1.  Let us look at the model answer to this question.

Answer: Once heavily dependent on food imports and aid, India has remarkably transformed into a major agricultural exporter. Through sustained enhancements in irrigation, infrastructure, crop diversification, supportive policies and export promotion over decades, India became a leading agri-exporter. (In 2021-22, farm exports touched USD 50 billion, rising 19.92% driven by production gains, reforms and export growth.)


Production in 1960-61 (million tonnes)

Production in 2021-22 (million tonnes)








Reasons for India's transition from a net food importer to a net food exporter

  • Green Revolution: The Green Revolution, which started in the late 1960s, led to a significant increase in food grain production through the adoption of high-yielding variety seeds, chemical fertilisers, pesticides and better irrigation facilities.
    • This technological upgrade in agriculture led to a significant increase in food grain production, turning India from a food-deficient nation into one with a surplus. Punjab, Haryana and western UP were the major beneficiaries.
  • Increased Irrigation cover:


Area under irrigation (million hectares)

In 1950-51


In 2021-22




  • Irrigation cover  through projects like dams, canals etc., has been increased from 18% of cropped area in 1950-51 to 48% in recent times.
  • This has lowered the dependency on monsoon and also, ensured water availability in drought-prone regions.
  • Better Farming Techniques:
    • Mechanisation of agriculture such as the use of tractors, power tillers, harvesters etc. improved farm productivity.
    • Better agronomic practices and extension services have helped disseminate advanced techniques among farmers.
    • This has enabled us to shift focus from traditional crops like cereals to high-value crops like fruits, vegetables, spices etc. which generate higher incomes.
  • Crop Diversification: Indian agriculture has diversified from staple cereals to high-value commercial crops like cotton, jute, oilseeds, fruits, vegetables, dairy, poultry etc. in response to rising domestic and export demand.
  • Government Policy Support: Government initiatives like subsidies on seeds, power and fertilisers, crop insurance, and minimum support prices have incentivised farmers and boosted production.
  • Food Processing and Exports: Government schemes like PMKSY, SAMPADA, and Mega Food Parks have promoted food processing, value addition and exports.

Sustained productivity growth through technology, investments, diversification and supportive policies has enabled India's remarkable transition to a leading agricultural exporter. However, challenges like smallholdings, overdependence on rain, infrastructure gaps and income disparities persist. Further efforts on irrigation, market reforms, high-value crops and farmer welfare are imperative to maintain competitiveness.