AGRICULTURAL R&D SPENDING—CHINA AND INDIA INVESTING HEAVILY, BUT INVESTMENT RETREATING IN LOW-INCOME COUNTRIES
Two reports into the global patterns in agricultural R&D spending have recently caught my attention. Agricultural research is critical for greater productivity, efficiency and poverty reduction. Rapidly growing countries with large farming populations such as India and China 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 India’s Agricultural Research and Development, 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 & Technology Indicators (ASTI) programme. The recent August 2016 report reveals that agricultural research spending in India has doubled since 2000 from 190 crore rupees in 2000 to 330 crore in 2014, ensuring that research keeps pace with GDP and inflation.
As a percentage of Agricultural GDP, 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. However, 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 Nature in September 2016, based on data series maintained by the University of Minnesota’s 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 are high-income ones. They also note a significant increase in the role of private-sector AgR&D in comparison to government funded AgR&D. For middle-income countries, the private proportion of domestic spending was 37% in 2011 compared to 19% in 1980. They particularly highlight China, where more than $6 billion, or around 57% of the country’s entire domestic AgR&D spending, came from the private sector in 2011. The Nature study highlights that whilst middle-countries investment on Ag R&D has increased significantly, that in low-income countries remains relatively static, and that in fact, on a per capita basis, investment by low-income countries has shrunk considerably – particularly those 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.