Nearly 52% agricultural households indebted, shows NSSO survey

The levels of debt are as high as 93% in Andhra Pradesh and 89% in Telangana

Wage and salary employment, not agriculture, was the principal source of income for 56% of the marginal land owning families, according to the survey. Photo: Mint
Wage and salary employment, not agriculture, was the principal source of income for 56% of the marginal land owning families, according to the survey. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: Nearly 52% of agricultural households in India are indebted and levels of debt are as high as 93% in Andhra Pradesh and 89% in Telangana, shows key indicators from an NSSO (National Sample Survey Organisation) report released on Friday.

The report, Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households in India, is based on a countrywide survey of nearly 35,000 households by NSSO (70th round) for which data was collected on the agricultural year spanning July 2012 to June 2013.

The survey shows that rural India had an estimated 90.2 million agricultural households— about 57.8% of the total estimated rural households in the country. About 45% of farm households belonged to OBC (other backward classes) while 13% belonged to scheduled tribes.

An agricultural household was defined in the survey as a household receiving value of produce of more than Rs.3,000 from agriculture with at least one member self-employed in farming.

Interestingly, the survey shows that for 56% of the marginal land owning families (with land less than 0.01 hectare) wage and salary employment, not agriculture, was their principal source of income. Another 23% reported livestock as their principal source of income.

Average monthly income per agricultural household during the agricultural year July 2012- June 2013 was estimated at Rs.6,426. Net receipt from farm business (cultivation and farming of animals) accounted for 60% of the average monthly income per agricultural household, the survey noted. Income from wages and salary accounted for nearly 32% of the average monthly income.

About 44% of the estimated agricultural households in the country had an employment guarantee scheme or MGNREGA job card. However, only 38% in the lowest land class (less than 0.01 ha) had job cards. “The reported lower rate of possession of MGNREGA job cards in lowest size class is noteworthy in the context of higher dependency of these households on wage/salaried employment,” the survey noted.

The survey further reported that 12% of all households and 13% marginal land holding households did not have a ration card that entitles them to subsidized food.

The survey reported that 52% of households in the country were indebted, with levels of indebtedness varying from 93% in Andhra Pradesh and 82.5% in Tamil Nadu to 37% in Chhattisgarh and 17.5% in Assam. The average amount of outstanding loan was highest for Kerala (Rs.2,13,600) followed by Andhra Pradesh (Rs.1,23,400) and Punjab (Rs.1,19,500).

On sources of credit, the survey revealed high levels of dependence on non-institutional channels. Nearly 40% of all loans came from informal sources with 26% advanced by moneylenders. Marginal land holding households suffer the most with only 15% of their credit from institutional sources such as the government, cooperatives and banks—for households in the highest land class (with land more than 10 hectares) the ratio is 79%.

The survey revealed low levels of awareness among households of government procurement operations—at minimum support prices (MSP)—and even lower level of sale of these crops to procurement agencies. Except for sugarcane, less than half of the households, which were aware about MSP, sold off their crop to agencies. For instance, among households reporting sale of paddy crop only 32% were aware of MSP operations and only 13.5% households actually sold to procurement agencies (during July to December 2012).

Most farm households were unaware of crop insurance schemes, the survey said. Over 95% paddy and wheat growers and nearly 99% of sugarcane farmers did not insure their crops during two consecutive agricultural seasons- Kharif 2012 and Rabi 2013.

Farmers continue to remain far removed from new technologies and guidance from state run research institutes, the survey data shows. Over 59% of the farm households received no assistance from either government or private extension services. Of the 40.6% households who received extension assistance, only 11% of the services came from physical government machinery- extension agents, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and agricultural universities. More farmers depended on other progressive farmers (20%), media including radio, TV, newspaper (19.6%) and private commercial agents (7.4%).

NSSO conducted a similar survey on ‘Situation Assessment Survey of Farmers’ during January - December, 2003 in the rural areas of the country as part of its 59th round. “Due to the change in coverage and difference in some important concepts and definitions followed in this survey vis-a-vis the 59th round survey, the results of these two rounds are not strictly comparable,” ministry of statistics and programme implementation stated in a release.

“The latest survey is a stark reminder that little has changed for farmers in the last decade. While formal credit flow has multiplied by four times in this period, small and marginal farmers have certainly not benefitted. The question is who has benefitted from this increased outflow to the agriculture sector,” asks Himanshu, assistant professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and visiting fellow at Centre de Sciences Humaines. “More worrying is the absence of MSP operations and extension services for most farm families- what it means is that the agriculture sector which sustains half the country is still out of the radar of government policy,” he adds.

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