Our interview today with: Florian Wenke.

The graduate economist received his academic education at the universities of Heidelberg, Göttingen, and Pune in India. He has been intensively involved with the subcontinent since 2012 and has since then spent more than 7 years there.

His professional focus is on foreign trade promotion. After various jobs in this field, he joined Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI), the German government’s foreign trade promotion agency, at the beginning of 2020. Since the spring of 2021, he has been reporting on economic developments in India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives for GTAI from Mumbai.

India is on its way to becoming a world power. Around 1.43 billion people already live there today, more than in China. In four years, the Indian economy will have overtaken Germany and Japan. The country is currently in fifth place and aims to be the third-largest economy in the world by 2030.
The main growth drivers are the large cities and the innovation hubs that the government is building and expanding everywhere. However, India is also a huge agricultural country: around 50 percent of the population still lives in rural areas. India has around 100 million farmers and grows 400 different varieties of rice.
However, images of loaded ox carts and people cutting rice by hand do not do justice to the agricultural scene in India.

  1. Digitalisation and precision farming have long since found their way into the Indian agricultural sector. In your opinion, where does India stand and what can we expect from India in the coming years?

India is at the beginning of its development. The majority of cultivated areas are very small – around 86 per cent are smaller than two hectares. This makes it difficult to utilise numerous applications in the field of precision farming. However, the government is working on increasing industrial added value in the country. To put it simply, more industry means more factories. These require manpower. If more people work in factories, they are not available for agriculture. Therefore, land is being consolidated and more digital and mechanical tools are being used. Digital applications are already being used, but not yet on a large scale or in all agricultural enterprises.
On average, the Indian population is young and open to new technology. Accordingly, the topics of digitalisation and precision farming will develop dynamically in the coming years.

  1. India has a booming start-up scene, especially in online payment systems. However, although India has such a large agricultural sector, outsiders often have the impression that this area is not particularly popular with start-ups and receives little attention. What is the reason for this, or is it misleading?

The impression is misleading. Start-ups discovered agriculture for themselves some time ago, partly because many founders come from smaller towns or rural regions of the country. They are therefore familiar with the specific problems and concerns of farmers. Many start-up founders are not primarily interested in financial success with their applications but want to improve people’s lives. Specifically, it is about increasing the income of people in rural areas. This is done, for example, through digital marketplaces that connect buyers and sellers directly and without an intermediary. But there are also other application examples, such as the analysis of weather data or the correct use of agricultural chemicals. Applications are also used to evaluate plant and soil data, which help to correctly identify pest infestations and determine the right time to apply fertilisers or pesticides. As long as the applications are easy to use and farmers recognise the benefits, the apps will also be used.

  1. India can currently feed its population. However, food consumption is increasing, the food processing industry is underdeveloped, and logistics are challenging. So, India does not have a production problem but a distribution problem. What efforts is the country making to solve this problem?

India is one of the largest food producers in the world and the security of supply for its population is very important to the government. Even with a growing population, India will be largely self-sufficient. There is still significant potential for increasing yields per hectare, for example by new varieties or increased mechanisation. What is currently more of a problem is that much of what is harvested rots before it reaches the consumer. The estimated losses are between 6 and 15 per cent for fruit, between 5 and 12 per cent for vegetables, and between 4 and 6 per cent for cereals. This could be avoided for the most part. The government is aware of the problem and is trying to counteract it. There are funding programmes for the expansion of cold chains, but also more food processing. Canned fruit, for example, not only has a longer shelf life but also creates more added value in the country – so you kill two birds with one stone.
Independently of this, the entire country is currently experiencing a massive expansion of infrastructure, driven by public investment. Better and faster transport routes help the entire economy, including the agricultural sector.

Scroll to Top