Commercialization of agriculture is a phenomenon where agriculture is governed by commercial consideration i.e. certain specialised crops began to be grown not for consumption in village but for sale in national and even in international market. The commercialization of Indian agriculture started post 1813 when the industrial revolution in England gained pace.

Commercialization of agriculture became prominent around 1860AD (During American civil war which boosted demand of cotton from India to Britain as America was not able export cotton).commercialization of Indian Agriculture took place to feed the industries of India because India was far behind in industrial development as compared to Britain, France, Belgium and many other European countries of eighteenth century.


Till the end of the first half of the 19th century the Indian villages were essentially self-sufficient, it has only a few exchanges to make with the outside world. The need for money was rarely felt, instead grain was the standard of value which was used by the villagers for exchanges or for remunerating services.

The development of transport and foreign trade led to the introduction of new variety of crops such as tobacco, groundnuts and potatoes while at the later stages the commercial requirement of the company led it to encourage the cultivation of Indigo, Jute, tea and coffee.

The most significant event was the revolution in the means of transport the railways was rapidly extended from 1853 and the same time the work of the road construction was also seriously taken in hand, A road from Bombay to Agra was commenced in 1840 and by 1853 the grand trunk road had been extended from Banaras to Delhi. Every railway station acted like mandi or export centre to which traders and exporters alike flocked. The opening of the Suez Canal in1869 cut the sea-route between India and England by over 3000miles and shortened the period of journey between Calcutta and London by 36 days.

In England the new and more efficient steamships began to replace the old, slow moving sailing vessels. However it was the American civil war which dramatically and clearly revealed a break in the economic isolation in India. The war transferred the British demand of cotton from America to India as the result the export of cotton at once jumped from 5lakhs bales in 1859 to 12.6 bales in 1865.

 Yet another contributory factor was the introduction of money economy in the form of cash assessment of land revenue. Formerly the peasant was not faced with the problem of obtaining money, now he had to find money by the sale of his product, so the problem of finding a market for the produce was started here. The new land tenure policy introduced in India like the zamindari system had made agricultural land a freely exchangeable commodity.


It should have been acted as catalyst in increasing Agricultural productivity but in reality it was not happened due to poor agricultural organization, obsolete technology, and lack of resources among peasants. The commercialization of agriculture benefitted British planters, traders and manufacturers who were provided with opportunity to make huge profits. It partly benefitted Indian traders and money lenders who made huge fortunes as middlemen for British.

Regional specialization of crops production based on climate condition, soil was an outcome of commercial revolution in agriculture. Commercialization effected traditional relation between agriculture and Industry. In India traditional relation acted as factor for each other development which was hampered. Another important consequence of the commercial revolution in agriculture was linking of the agricultural sector to the world market. Price movements and business fluctuations in the world began to affect the Indian farmers to a degree it had never done before. The farmer in his choice of crops attached greater importance to market demand and price than his home needs. The peasant class got adversely affected owing to imbalance in market conditions.


 Introduced private ownership of land

This divided village into 1) landlords 2) tenants 3) labourers

This this material transformation the agrarian society in India witnessed profound social, economic, political, cultural and psychological change.

  • With generations- land kept dividing among sons=>land fragmentation, diseconomies of scale, lower production. British obliged the farmers to pay revenue in cash and not in kind.
  • The land revenue was increased arbitrarily to finance British wars and conquests. But the farmers had no right to appeal in the court of law.
  • Farmers had no understanding of cash economy + frequent droughts and famines
  • Hence they had to borrow money from unscrupulous grain traders and money-lenders=> compound interest rate, perpetual indebtedness.
  • Eventually, the typical Indian villager was stripped of all savings, caught in debt trap, mortgaging almost everything-whether personal jewellery, land and livestock, or tools and equipment. de-urbanization and de-industrialization of India
  • This led to even greater pressures on agriculture since large categories of highly skilled artisans and non-agricultural workers were thrown out of work.
  • When the British left, India had become a village-based agricultural economy.
  • With an enormous population pressure on agriculture and an adverse land–man ratio of about 0.92 acre per capita at independence.
  • Trade tariffs and excise duties were set so as to destroy Indian industries, and squeeze domestic trade.


 Most of the Indian people suffered miserably due to the British policy of commercialization of Indian agriculture. It resulted in reduced area under cultivation of food crops due to the substitution of commercial non-food grain in the place. Between 1893to 1894 to 1945-46, the production of commercial crops increased by 85 percent and that of the food crops fell by 7 percent. This has devastating effect on the rural economy and often took in the shape of famines. This misery was further enhanced by the population of India was increasing every year, fragmentation of land was taking place because of the increasing pressure on land and modern technique of agricultural production were not introduced in India. Thus the commercialization of agriculture in India by the British was also one of the important causes of the impoverishment of the Indian people.