Contract Farming in India: Types and Advantages

22 Jul 2023
Contract Farming in India: Types and Advantages
Contract Farming is not new to India. For the first time, it was introduced during British rule to grow tea, coffee, rubber, poppy, and indigo. In the 1920s, ITC introduced tobacco cultivation in Andhra Pradesh based on a fair contract farming system. With FMCG company PepsiCo setting up a tomato processing plant in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, the concept got wider recognition in India.

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Contract farming is a system of agriculture in which farmers produce crops or livestock according to an agreement with a buyer, usually a company or cooperative.

It has been gaining more attention in recent years due to its potential to benefit farmers, consumers, and businesses. Let us discuss the types of contract farming and its advantages and disadvantages in India.

What is Contract Farming?

Contract farming is a cooperative agricultural production system where farmers, buyers, or agribusiness firms enter into a formal agreement or contract.

In this arrangement, farmers agree to produce agricultural commodities or livestock according to specific terms and conditions set by the buyer.

The contract outlines various aspects, including the quantity and quality of the produce, delivery schedules, pricing, and often the provision of inputs, technical assistance, and marketing support.

The Contract Farming Act 2020, mainly known as the Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, touched upon the contract farming topic in India. The Act aimed to mitigate the central issues related to the adoption of contract farming in India.

Key Features of Contract Farming

Contract farming in India offers a ready market for farmers' produce, ensuring quality standards, technical support, and reduced marketing costs. The following are the most common aspects of contract farming in India:

  • A formal agreement lays down the terms and conditions agreed between the farmer and the contracting company.
  • The contract specifies the type and quantity of crops or livestock to be produced and any specific cultivation or production practices to be followed.
  • The contracting company may provide farmers with seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, and machinery inputs.
  • The contract outlines the pricing mechanism, including the price per unit or total value of the produce. Once the agreed-upon quantity is delivered, the payments are made to farmers in instalments.
  • The contracting company or buyer commits to purchasing the produce, often at pre-determined prices, which reduces the uncertainties and risks associated with marketing and price fluctuations.
  • The contracting company may share certain production risks with the farmers. It can include risks related to weather conditions, pest infestations, or crop failures.
  • Contracts often include quality control measures to ensure that the produce meets specified standards.
  • The contract period can vary depending on the crop or livestock production cycle. It may be for a single season or extend over multiple years.

Types of Contract Farming

Types of Contract Farming

Some of the different types of contract farming that are widely practised across the globe are:

Centralised Model

  • In this type, the contracting company plays a crucial role in supporting smallholder farmers throughout the production process.
  • It encompasses cultivating various crops such as tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, banana, coffee, tea, and rubber.
  • The scale of contract farming can involve many farmers, often ranging in the tens of thousands.

Nucleus Estate Model

  • It is a variant of the centralised model, where the project sponsor owns and manages an estate plantation closely located to the processing plant.
  • It provides a framework for combining centralised management, processing capabilities, and market access with the participation of satellite growers.
  • It allows for technology transfer, capacity development, and the establishment of reliable supply chains.

Multipartite Model

  • It refers to a contract farming arrangement involving multiple stakeholders or parties beyond the farmer and the buyer or contracting company.
  • In this model, various actors, such as government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), input suppliers, financial institutions, and farmer associations, play a significant role.

Informal Model

  • This type of contract farming in India is widespread. It is a less structured and formalised arrangement without extensive documentation or legal agreements.
  • In this model, the contract terms and conditions are often based on trust, verbal agreements, or customary practices rather than written contracts.

Intermediary Model

  • It refers to a contract farming arrangement where an intermediary links farmers and buyers or agribusiness firms.
  • The contract farming companies (intermediaries) play a crucial role in facilitating and coordinating the contract farming activities.

Advantages of Contract Farming

  • It provides assured market access to farmers.
  • Farmers can secure a pre-determined market for their produce, eliminating uncertainties and risks associated with finding buyers.
  • Farmers have access to quality inputs and the latest farming technologies. This access improves productivity, enhances crop quality, and reduces the financial burden on farmers.
  • Farmers can share certain production risks like weather conditions with the contracting company, which provides all support to minimise risks and increase the likelihood of successful harvests.
  • Farmers can negotiate fair and transparent prices for their produce. It enables them to secure better returns for their efforts and investments, thus increasing their income opportunities.
  • Knowledge transfer equips farmers with valuable skills and helps them adopt sustainable and efficient farming practices.

Disadvantages of Contract Farming

While contract farming offers several advantages, it is crucial to recognise that it also presents certain disadvantages and challenges.

  • It may restrict farmers' autonomy in decision-making as contractual agreements often dictate specific production practices, crop varieties, and quality standards that farmers must adhere to.
  • Due to imbalanced power dynamics, farmers face unequal negotiations, unfair pricing, and limited flexibility for farmers.
  • It involves the transfer of certain risks from buyers to farmers. Farmers may bear weather-related risks, crop failure, or other unforeseen circumstances.
  • In some cases, enforcing contract terms and resolving disputes can be challenging, particularly in regions with weak legal systems and limited access to justice. It can lead to unfair treatment, delayed payments, or other contractual breaches.


Contract farming has the potential to benefit farmers by providing market access, technological support, risk mitigation, and access to resources.

However, addressing the challenges and power imbalances associated with such arrangements is crucial. Policy frameworks and institutional support are necessary to ensure fair contracts, promote transparency, protect farmers' rights, and encourage sustainable agricultural practices.

With proper implementation and monitoring, contract farming can contribute to the growth and development of Indian agriculture, benefiting both farmers and agribusiness firms.

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