Current Cropping Pattern:
It is evident from these data that foodgrains constitute the most dominant crop group that is cultivated in India. It is estimated that total cropped area in the year 2003-04 is around 181 million hectares; the area under foodgrains constitutes more than 2/3rd of the gross cropped area.
Of the foodgrains, the major share goes to cereals. The cereals are cultivated on almost 80 per cent of the area under foodgrains; the remainder 20 per cent being used for producing pulses. The most dominant crop amongst foodgrains is paddy or rice, which was cultivated on more than 34 per cent of the total area under foodgrains and 42 per cent of the area under cereals. Wheat constitutes another major crop sown in India with more than 21 per cent of the area under foodgrains used for the cultivation of wheat alone. It may be added that among the coarse cereals bajara and jowar are the most important. Oilseeds constitute the most important crop group among the commercial or the non-foodgrain crops. Two other important crops in the category of non-foodgrain crops are cotton and sugar-cane. Tea, coffee and rubber are the only significant crops in the category of plantation crops with areas under each being around half a million hectares. Besides cotton, jute and mesta are the other two-three crops which have together about one million hectare of land under cultivation. In sum, the relative importance of foodgrain crops in India is far more than that of the non-foodgrain crops. As has been stated earlier, around 83 per cent of small and marginal farmers and around 68 per cent of the large farmers grow foodgrains. Consequently, only about 17 per cent of small and marginal farmers and about 32 per cent of the large farmers are engaged in growing commercial crops. In the case of small and marginal farmers with steadily declining size of land holding, subsistence farming may be one major reason for the predominance of food crops. In recent years because of the emergence of reverse tenancy (where small and marginal farmers lease-out land to the large farmers), the role of commercial crops among these farms may be an explanatory factor. It must, however, be noted that preference for foodgrain crops among large farmers may be partly explained in terms of the impact of yield growth and the existence of Minimum Support Price System which reduces the risk of farmers in the boom years. In the boom years, excess production need not be accompanied by distress sales at very low prices given the minimum support price system. It is equally important to note that in a large number of cases the tradition of growing foodgrain crops over a long time may be a factor contributing to its dominance.