Food Crops of India

Food Crops of India

This article deals with ‘Food Crops of India ’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here


  • Due to its large population and limited land, Indian agriculture is largely dominated by food crops.
  • Food crops include cereals and pulses, amongst which rice, wheat, jowar, bajra, maize, barley, ragi, gram and tur are important.

1. Rice

  • Rice is an indigenous crop and staple food of the majority of Indians.
  • After China, India is the second-largest rice producer in the world.

Conditions required for growing Rice

Temperature It is a tropical crop, growing with mean temperatures of 24°C.
Annual Rainfall Require high rainfall above 150 cm. It can be grown with the help of irrigation facilities in low-rainfall areas
Soil Deep fertile clayey, or loamy soils
Labour required Labour-intensive crop requiring an abundant supply of cheap labour
Important Varieties IR-8, Jaya, Padma, Hamsa, Krishna, Sabarmati, IET 1039, CR Dhan 205, AR Dhan 306, CRR 451 etc.

Producer States 

  • West Bengal (largest producer in India), UP, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Andhra, Odisha, Assam, & Haryana.
Food Crops of India

Issues associated with its cultivation

  • Due to the increased use of High Yielding Variety (HYV) seeds (CR Dhan 205, AR Dhan 306, CRR 451 etc.), many indigenous varieties have disappeared.
  • It is a water-guzzling crop grown in arid regions like Punjab and Haryana with the help of tubewell irrigation. It has led to a rapid downfall in the groundwater level.

2. Wheat

  • Wheat is the country’s second most important food crop, after rice.
  • India ranks 5th in the production of wheat in the world. 

Conditions required for growing Wheat 

Temperature Wheat requires a cold and moist climate at the time of sowing and a warm and dry climate at the time of ripening (10-15°C at the time of sowing and 20-25°C at the time of ripening of grains.)  
Rainfall Requires less rainfall than rice ranging between 50 to 75 cm
Western disturbances in North India significantly help wheat production by providing the required moisture in a cold climate.
In drier regions, it can be grown with the help of irrigation.
Soils Well-drained clayey or loamy soil
Important varieties Sonalika, Kalyan, Sona, Sabarmati, Lerma, Roso, Heera, Shera, Sonara-64.

Producer States

  • Over 85% of India’s wheat production comes from 5 states, namely Uttar Pradesh (highest producer), Punjab (highest yield per hectare), Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh
  • Apart from these regions, the black soil tract of the Deccan covering parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat also grows wheat.
Wheat growing regions of India

3. Millets – Bajra, Jowar and Ragi

  • In this too, 
    • Bajra is grown mainly in North India.
    • Jowar is grown mainly in Peninsular India 
    • Ragi is grown mainly in South India.
  • Millets have high nutritional value. 


  • It is a coarse grain and forms the staple food for poor people. Its stalks are used as fodder for cattle and for thatching purposes.
  • Bajra is a crop in warm and dry regions.

Conditions required for growing Bajra 

Temperature  High temperatures ranging between 25 to 30°C
Rainfall They can grow well in low rainfall of up to 45 cm.
Soils Sandy soils and shallow black soil

Major Producers

  • It includes 
    1. Arid regions like Rajasthan (the largest producer)
    2. Rain shadow regions of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.  
  • Note: In Punjab, millets, especially Bajra, were grown earlier. But with the development of irrigation facilities, farmers of Punjab have adopted highly productive crops like wheat and rice in place of low-productive crops like Bajra. Therefore, a sharp decline has been noticed in the cropped area under crops like Bajra in the last few decades.


  • Jowar is the third important food crop of our country. 
  • Although a coarse grain, it is rich in carbohydrates, protein, minerals, and vitamins. Hence, it provides cheap food to a large section of the poor population.

Conditions required for growing Jowar 

Jowar has a tendency to grow even in adverse climatic conditions. Basically, they are warm and dry climate crops.

Temperature It grows in high temperatures within a wide range of 20 to 32°C.
Rainfall It can grow well even in low rainfall of up to 30 cm.
Soils Black and Red soil

Major Producers

  • Jowar is essentially a crop of Peninsular India.
  • Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh are the leading producers of Jowar


  • Ragi is a coarse grain but very rich in iron, calcium, other micro-nutrients and roughage.

Conditions required for growing Ragi 

They grow well in warm and dry climates. 

Temperature They grow in a warm climate
Rainfall They grow well in arid regions
Soils Red, Sandy, Loamy and Shallow Black soils.

Major Producers

  •  Karnataka is the largest producer of Ragi, followed by Tamil Nadu.

Benefits of Millets

Considering the benefits of Millets, FAO has decided to celebrate 2023 as the ‘UN International Year of Millets‘.

1. Climate Smart

  • They are climate-smart and can tolerate warm climates and droughts. 
    • Millets are photo-insensitive as they don’t require specific photoperiod for flowering.
    • Millets are thermophilic as they can thrive in high temperatures and xerophilic (i.e. can survive in limited water)
  • Millets have less water requirement as compared to other crops due to an efficient root system
  • Millets are less affected by diseases and pests.
  • Carbon Sequestration: Millets are C4 Carbon Sequestration crops contributing to the reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere.

2. Nutrition

  • Millets are rich in vitamins, calcium, iron, potassiummagnesium, and zinc, which can reduce the malnourishment and hunger problem in India.
  • Millets have a low glycaemic index. They are beneficial to highly diabetic people.  
  • Millets are gluten-free. Hence, they are beneficial to gluten-intolerant people.

3. Positive Externality

  • Millets have an excellent ability to sequester carbon and assist in climate adaptation.  
  • It can get proper nutrients from Organic Fertilisers. Chemical fertilizers are not required.

4. Productivity

  • Millets have a short growing period of 65 days. It allows multiple cropping, thus helping farmers to increase their incomes.

5. Cultural Aspect

  • Millets are traditionally associated with the cultivation practice of tribals, e.g. Karnataka Ragi Habba (Festival).
  • Millets have a long history in the Indian subcontinent, and their reference can be found in poetry, ayurvedic recipes etc. Hence, millets are interwoven into the socio-cultural fabric of numerous regions of India.

6. Export Potential

  • Millet has great export potential as millet is the staple food in most of Africa. From 2013-18, India exported 15.4% of the world’s Bajra.

7. More from Less

  • Millets do not require
    • High mechanization
    • Fertilizers 
    • Large supply of water
    • Pesticides and insecticides
  • Hence, it can increase the real income of farmers because input cost is low. 


  • Unfavourable agricultural Policy: Crop loans, subsidies, and Public Distribution System (PDS) are favourable for crops such as Rice, Wheat etc. which acts as a disincentive towards cultivating Millet.
  • Dietary Habits– Due to increasing urbanization and industrialization, people are converging towards consuming Rice and Wheat (India Council of Agricultural Research 2014.) 
  • Lack of Awareness about the socioeconomic and nutritional benefits of Millet distorts its demand and supply. Moreover, Millets have a ‘poor man’s food’ tag, further reducing their consumption. 

Efforts to promote Millets

  1. 2018 was declared the National Year of Millets.
  2. Millets are part of the National Food Security Mission (NFSM).
  3. India has more than 500 StartUps which are involved in Millet Value Chain. Indian Institute of Millet Research is incubating 250 Millet StartUps under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana-RAFTAAR. 
  4. FAO has decided to celebrate 2023 as the ‘UN International Year of Millets‘.


  • India is world’s top producer & consumer of pulses. But even after that, India is not self-sufficient in the case of Pulses.
Pulses production in India
  • Major pulses that are grown in India: are tur, urad, moong, masur, peas and gram.
  • Pulses can be grown in all parts of the country except the heavy rainfall areas. 

The share of different pulses in total pulse production 

Pulse Share Major producers
Gram / Chana 45% Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra
Tur / Arhar 15% Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh
Urad 10% UP, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra
Moong 10% Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh
Masur 5% UP, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar
Others 15%  

The area under pulses has decreased in the country. The main reason is the area under pulses is being shifted to the more profitable crops like rice and wheat after the green revolution.

Importance of Pulses

  • Pulses are rich in vegetable protein. Since most Indians are vegetarians. Hence, pulses are the primary source of protein for a majority of people
  • Pulses are leguminous crops which can fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil and hence are usually rotated with other crops.

Government Initiatives to promote Pulse Production

  1. National Food Security Mission (NFSM)-Pulses: Aims to Increase Pulses production by 3 Million tonnes 
  2. Increase in MSP of Pulses 
  3. Price Support Scheme (PSS) under PM-AASHA 
  4. Creation of Buffer Stock of Pulses by NAFED. 
  5. Price Stabilization Fund Scheme to check volatility in the prices. 

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