Identifying the importance of livestock in the Indian agricultural economy

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Question – Identifying the importance of livestock in the Indian agricultural economy, enumerate the steps taken by the government in this regard. Also, discuss the potential impact of climate change on the livestock sector. 15 March 2022

AnswerIndia houses the world’s largest livestock population, of about 515 million Livestock sector plays an immense role in the growth and sustainability of Indian economy. Animal husbandry is always considered as an important factor in supporting and uplifting the socio-economic status of the farmers, by bringing an additional and steady income throughout the year. However, the productivity of this sector is still much lower than the world average. It provides livelihood to two-third of rural communities.

Livestock plays very significant role in agricultural economy:

  • The livestock sector employs 8.8 per cent of the population, and provides livelihood to two-thirds of the rural community.
  • Most of the women in rural India are engaged in the livestock sector. Therefore, strengthening the livestock sector means pushing rural India towards prosperity.
  • It is also a source of subsidiary income for farmers especially during agricultural loss due to natural as well anthropogenic factors.
  • Today, milk is the largest agricultural commodity in India in terms of production and value. In 2019-20, the cost of milk alone was around Rs 8 lakh crore.
  • Milk, meat and eggs are an important source of minimal protein so it provides nutritional security.

The major constraints faced by the livestock sector are:

  • Scarcity of feed and fodder; inadequate veterinary healthcare services; poor reproductive and productive performance of indigenous animals; wide gap between demand and availability of proven male germplasm; late sexual maturity of dairy animals; shortage of vaccines and diagnostics; and indiscriminate breeding under field conditions.
  • It is a paradox that India is surplus in food production but also deficient in food and fodder. Studies show that quality seeds of improved fodder varieties are not available.
  • Second, poor animal health and diseases lead to low milk and meat yields. Animals are susceptible to several diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), brucellosis, or Black Quarter. The annual losses due to only FMD exceeds ₹20,000 crore. If just FMD is controlled, milk production will increase by at least 5-6 per cent per year and export of meat, 3-5 times.
  • The third, and most important, component is maintaining genetic purity among indigenous animals. This requires semen conservation facilities of indigenous breeds. India is the only country having 50 breeds of cattle, 19 breeds of buffalo, 34 breeds of goat and 44 breeds of sheep.
  • तीसरा और सबसे महत्वपूर्ण घटक स्वदेशी पशुओं में आनुवंशिक शुद्धता बनाए रखना है। इसके लिए स्वदेशी नस्लों के वीर्य संरक्षण सुविधाओं की आवश्यकता है। भारत इकलौता ऐसा देश है जहां 50 नस्ल के मवेशी, 19 नस्लें भैंस, 34 नस्ल बकरी और 44 भेड़ें हैं।

Climate change impacts livestock directly (for example through heat stress and increased morbidity and mortality) and indirectly (for example through quality and availability of feed and forages and animal diseases).  Climate change is a threat to livestock production through competition for natural resources, quantity and quality of feeds, livestock diseases, heat stress and biodiversity loss while the demand for livestock products is expected to increase by 100% by mid of the 21st century.  Livestock sector contributes 14.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, driving further climate change. Consequently, the livestock sector will be a key player in the mitigation of GHG emissions and improving global food security.

Major government schemes towards growth of livestock sector in India:

Development programmes:

  • National Livestock Mission aiming to enhance the level of nutrition and standard of living of livestock keepers and farmers through sustainable, safe and equitable livestock development.
  • Rashtriya Gokul Mission for development and conservation of indigenous breeds through selective breeding in the breeding tract and genetic upgradation of bovine population.
  • National Programme for Dairy development aiming to enhance quality of milk and milk products.

Disease control programs:

  • Scheme on Livestock health and disease control, which is a Centrally sponsored scheme aimed at providing financial assistance for control and containment of animal diseases.
  • National Animal Disease reporting system is a web based platform for reporting of animal disease from the level of block veterinary institutions on a real time basis.

Infrastructure Development funds:

  • Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development with a corpus of Rs 15,000 crore for incentivizing investments in the sector.
  • Dairy processing and infrastructure development fund to provide loan assistance to eligible borrowers to modernize milk processing plants and to create infrastructure.

Farmer centric policies, coupled with heavy investment in agricultural technology, will make it possible to meet the challenges of climate change by meeting the needs of improving the productivity of agriculture and livestock.

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