China and India Step Up Agricultural R&D Spending

Two significant re­ports into global pat­terns in agri­cul­tural research and development (R&D) spend­ing have re­cently been published. Agri­cul­tural re­search is crit­i­cal for greater pro­duc­tiv­ity, ef­fi­ciency, and poverty re­duc­tion. Rapidly grow­ing coun­tries with large farm­ing pop­u­la­tions such as China and In­dia have paved the way in im­ple­ment­ing agri­cul­tural in­sur­ance schemes and are in­vest­ing heav­ily in agri­cul­tural R&D.

In its lat­est re­port on the land­scape of agricultural research and development in India, the In­ter­na­tional Food Pol­icy Re­search In­sti­tute (IF­PRI) finds that In­dia has one of the best-staffed agri­cul­tural re­search and de­vel­op­ment sys­tems in the world. The IF­PRI pro­vides a global data­base of agri­cul­tural re­search in­vest­ment through its Agri­cul­tural Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy In­di­ca­tors (ASTI) pro­gramme. This report published in Au­gust re­veals that agri­cul­tural re­search spend­ing in In­dia has significantly increased from US $616 million in 2000 to $1.06 billion in 2014 (at constant 2011 US Dollar value), en­sur­ing that re­search keeps pace with in­fla­tion and the growth in GDP.

As a per­cent­age of GDP generated by agriculture, In­dia spends 0.3% of its “AgGDP” on agri­cul­tural re­search, which rep­re­sents a much higher share than neigh­bor­ing Pak­istan (0.18%), but only half the share in­vested by China (0.62%). It is also con­sid­er­ably less than the 1.8% spent by Brazil. How­ever, in terms of re­searchers, In­dia em­ploys more than dou­ble the num­ber of re­searchers as Brazil does, with 12,750 peo­ple em­ployed in this sec­tor (ex­clud­ing the pri­vate re­search in­dus­try), com­pared to 5,800 in Brazil. Given the very dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tions and struc­ture of the farm­ing in­dus­try, this rep­re­sents a ra­tio of only 4.6 per 100,000 farm­ers in In­dia, com­pared to 57 per 100,000 in Brazil.

An­other analy­sis re­cently pub­lished in the journal Nature in Sep­tem­ber 2016, based on a data se­ries main­tained by the Uni­ver­sity of Min­neso­ta In­ter­na­tional Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Prac­tice and Pol­icy (In­STePP) Cen­ter in St. Paul, shows that for the first time in mod­ern his­tory, mid­dle-in­come coun­tries are in­vest­ing more in pub­lic-sec­tor agri­cul­tural re­search and de­vel­op­ment than high-in­come ones. They also note a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the role of pri­vate-sec­tor agricultural R&D in com­par­i­son to gov­ern­ment funded agricultural R&D. For mid­dle-in­come coun­tries, the pri­vate pro­por­tion of do­mes­tic spend­ing was 37 percent in 2011 com­pared to 19 percent in 1980.  They par­tic­u­larly high­light China, where more than $6 bil­lion, or around 57 percent of the coun­try’s en­tire do­mes­tic agricultural R&D spend­ing, came from the pri­vate sec­tor in 2011.

The Na­ture study high­lights that while mid­dle-coun­tries’ in­vest­ment on agricultural R&D has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly, in low-in­come coun­tries it re­mains rel­a­tively sta­tic, and that on a per capita ba­sis, in­vest­ment by low-in­come coun­tries has shrunk con­sid­er­ably – par­tic­u­larly for nations in South Asia and Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa. They note that with­out ef­forts to im­prove the global spread and adap­ta­tion of lo­cally rel­e­vant tech­nolo­gies, it is likely to get much harder for poor farm­ers to feed them­selves, let alone their na­tions’ in­creas­ingly ur­ban­ized pop­u­la­tions.


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