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Tapping the wire: Indian Agri’s hunger for power

Despite its emergence as a manufacturing champion, the subcontinent’s farmers still account for a sizeable share of electricity consumption. We explore why in a couple of charts.

 

Indian agriculture accounts for a declining share of the country’s GDP. Yet it still engages nearly half of its population and remains one of its biggest power consumers – despite Delhi’s rise as an industrial and services powerhouse, farmers eat up more than a fifth of what comes out of the grid.

This results from a variety of trends. Demand for food continues to grow as the population increases and living standards improve. The agriculture sector is also becoming more mechanized, and there is still much margin for machines to gain ground – on a metric of tractor use per 1,000 hectares, India comes in at under 16, compared with an indicator of 211 in Italy and 461 in Japan, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Greater utilisation would push power use upwards, though the fragmented nature of land ownership, limiting economies of scale, may dampen tractor take-up.

But the largest part of agriculture’s continued hunger for power results from India’s extensive use of irrigation, which relies heavily on electric pumps. Most of them are of very low efficiency. Pushing for the adoption of more adequate equipment would help cut power demand, but experts warn sustained education is needed to bring farmers up to speed with new agricultural methods.