The total geographical area of Gujarat is 19,602,400 hectares, of which crops take up 10,630,700 hectares[verification needed]. The three main sources of growth in Gujarat’s agriculture are from cotton production, the rapid growth of high-value foods such as livestock, fruits and vegetables, and from wheat production, which saw an annual average growth rate of 28% between 2000 and 2008 (According to the International Food Policy Research Institute). Other major produce includes Bajra, Groundnut, Cotton, Rice, Maize, Wheat, Mustard, Sesame, Pigeon pea, Green gram, Sugarcane, Mango, Banana, Sapota, Lime, Guava, Tomato, Potato, Onion, Cumin, Garlic, Isabgul and Fennel. Whilst, in recent times, Gujarat has seen a high average annual growth of 9% in the agricultural sector, the rest of India has an annual growth rate of around 3%. This success was lauded by Former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
The strengths of Gujarat’s agricultural success have been attributed to diversified crops and cropping patters; climatic diversity (8 climatic zones for agriculture); the existence of 4 agricultural universities in the state, which promote research in agricultural efficiency and sustainability;co-operatives; adoption of hi-tech agriculture such as tissue culture, green houses and shed-net houses; agriculture export zones; strong marketing infrastructure, which includes cold storages, processing units, logistic hubs and consultancy facilities.
The adoption of cooperatives in Gujarat is widely attributed to much of the success in the agricultural sector, particularly sugar and dairy cooperatives. Cooperative farming has been a component of India’s strategy for agricultural development since 1951. Whilst the success of these was mixed throughout the country, their positive impact on the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat have been the most significant. In 1995 alone, the two states had more registered co-operatives than any other region in the country. Out of these, the agricultural cooperatives have received much attention. Many have focused on subsidies and credit to farmers and rather than collective gathering, they have focused on facilitating collective processing and marketing of produce. However, whilst they have led to increased productivity, their effect on equity in the region has been questioned, because membership in agricultural co-operatives has tended to favour landowners whilst limiting the entry of landless agricultural labourers.An example of co-operative success in Gujarat can be illustrated through dairy co-operatives, with the particular example of Amul (Anand Milk Union Limited). Amul Was formed as a dairy cooperative in 1946, in the city of Anand, Gujarat. The cooperative, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF), is jointly owned by around 2.6 million milk producers in Gujarat. Amul has been seen as one of the best examples of cooperative achievement and success in a developing economy and The Amul pattern of growth has been taken as a model for rural development, particularly in the agricultural sector of developing economies. The company stirred the White Revolution of India (also known as Operation Flood), the world’s biggest dairy development program, and made the milk-deficient nation of India the largest milk producer in the world, in 2010. The “Amul Model” aims to stop the exploitation by middlemen and encourage freedom of movement since the farmers are in control of procurement, processing and packaging of the milk and milk products. The company is worth 2.5 billion US dollars (as of 2012).
70% of Gujarat’s area is classified as semi-arid to arid climatically, thus the demand on water from various economic activities puts a strain on the supply. Of the total gross irrigated area, 16–17% is irrigated by government-owned canals and 83–84% by privately owned tube wells and other wells extracting groundwater, which is the predominant source of irrigation and water supply to the agricultural areas. As a result, Gujarat has faced problems with groundwater depletion, especially after demand for water went up in the 1960s. As access to electricity in rural areas increased, subermersible electric pumps became more popular in the 1980s and 1990s. However, the Gujarat Electricity Board switched to flat tariff rates linked to the horsepower of pumps, which increased tubewell irrigation again and decreased the use of electric pumps. By the 1990s, groundwater abstraction rates exceeded groundwater recharge rate in many districts, whilst only 37.5% of all districts has “safe” recharge rates. Groundwater maintenance and preventing unnecessary loss of the available water supplies is now an issue faced by the state. The Sardar Sarovar Project, a debated dam project in the Narmada valley consisting of a network of canals, has significantly increased irrigation in the region. However, its impact on communities who were displaced is still a contested issue. Recently, in 2012, Gujarat began an experiment to reduce water loss due to evaporation in canals and to increase sustainability in the area by constructing solar panels over the canals. A one megawatt solar power project set up at Chandrasan, Gujarat uses solar panels fixed over a 750 metre stretch of an irrigation canal. Unlike many solar power projects, this one does not take up large amounts of land since the panels are constructed over the canals, and not on additional land. This results in lower upfront costs since land does not to be acquired, cleared or modified to set up the panels. The Chandrasan project is projected to save 9 million litres of water per year.
The Government of Gujarat, to improve soil management and introduce farmers to new technology, started on a project which involved giving every farmer a Soil Health Card. This acts like a ration card, providing permanent identification for the status of cultivated land, as well as farmers’ names, account numbers, survey numbers, soil fertility status and general fertiliser dose. Samples of land from each village are taken and analysed by the Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertiliser Corporation, State Fertiliser Corporation and Indian Farmers Fertilisers Co-operative. 1,200,000 soil test data from the villages was collected as of 2008, from farmer’s field villages have gone into a database. Assistance and advice for this project was given by local agricultural universities and crop and soil-specific data was added to the database. This allows the soil test data to be interpreted and recommendations or adjustments made in terms of fertiliser requirements, which are also added to the database.