Assam Economy represents a unique example of poverty amidst plenty. Despite of being richly endowed with natural resources, the State lags behind the rest of India in many aspects like industrialization, infrastructure, etc.
Growth rate of Assam’s income has not kept pace with that of India’s during the Post-British Era; differences increased rapidly since 1970s.While the Indian economy grew at 6 percent per annum over the period of 1981 to 2000, the same of Assam’s grew only by 3.3 percent. In the Sixth Plan period Assam experienced a negative growth rate of 3.78 percent against a growth rate of 6 percent of India’s. In the post-liberalized era (after 1991), the gaps between growth rates of Assam’s and India’s economy widened further.
In terms of the Net State Domestic Product (NSDP), also known as State Income, at 2004-05 prices is also expected to grow by 8.57 percent as per Advance Estimates for the year 2011-12 compared to 7.33 percent during 2010-11.
The economy of Assam continues to be predominantly agrarian. The Agriculture sector in the State providing employment to more than 50 percent of the rural people. The net cultivated area of the State is 28.11 lakhs hectare (2009-10) which is about 88 percent of the total land available for agricultural cultivation in the State. The contribution of Agriculture sector to the State Domestic Product was nearly 25 percent during 2010-11. The area covered under Paddy cultivation was 25.71 lakhs hectares and more than 91 percent of the total area under food grains in the State during the year 2010-11.
Horticultural crop in the State occupy about 15 percent gross cultivated area and annually produces more than 15.0 lakhs MT of fruits, 44.0 lakhs MT of vegetables and 2.0 lakhs MT of spices besides nut crops, flowers and medicinal & aromatic plants thus contributing significantly towards food and nutritional security of the State.
The Index of Agricultural Production (base triennium ending 1981-82=100) for the State increased to 201 for all commodities, including food and non-food items, in 2010-11 as against 186 in 2009-10.
The Industrial scenario of the of the State is mainly confined within the growth of employment oriented Small Scale Sector, which comprises of manufacturing and processing industries. The contribution of manufacturing sector to Gross State Domestic Product is estimated at 7.0 percent during 2010-11 which is not encouraging. The total SSI/MSME units in the State numbered 34327 are providing employment to 178054 persons till the year 2010-11.
The Tea Industry of Assam, playing a vital role in the State as well as in the national economy. The Assam’s Tea industry also possesses a significant reputation in the global economy. The total area under tea cultivation is accounting for more than half of the country’s total area under tea and the Tea Industry of Assam provides average daily employment to more than six lakhs persons in the State which is around 50 percent of the total average daily number of labour employed in the country. The Tea Gardens in the State are covering land of 322000 Hectares out of 578000 Hectares of land in the country as a whole. The estimated tea production of the State was 4875 lakhs kg. as against 9808 lakhs kg. total tea produced in the country during the year 2008 as per report of Tea Board of India. The tea production in Assam constitutes more than 50 percent of the total production of the country.
Among the Plantation crops, Rubber cultivation is also gaining its popularity in the State due to congenial agro climate as well as its eco-friendly activity. The 10213 MT rubber productions covered an area of 27083 Hectares and employment generated of 2767450 mandays in the year 2010-11.
Assam has ample scope for Bamboo based industry like Paper manufacturing industry, since this region has highest concentration of bamboo i.e., around 60% of the total Bamboo of the country. In viewing of the potentialities, The Ministry of Agriculture, Govt of India, has recently launched the National Bamboo Mission and under this Mission it is proposed for plantation of selected species of Bamboo in the State, in an area of 176000 Hectare, as a raw material for Bamboo based industry.
Traditionally, Sericulture, a major cottage industry of the State, is practiced in more than 10532 villages and provided employment to more than 2.5 lakhs of family. Assam has the monopoly in production of Muga, the Golden Silk in the world and 99% of Muga Silk produced in Assam. Assam has also achieved the right of “Geographical Indication” in Muga Silk.
Assam is richly endowed with mineral resources. The performance of Mining Sector during the year 2010-11 was observed as not satisfactory as compared to previous year. Apart from Natural Gas (Utilized) the all other major minerals Coal, Petroleum (Crude) and Limestone of the State has shown downward volume in production during the year as reported by the Indian Bureau of Mines, Government of India. The Index of Mineral Production is worked out at 100.31 in 2010-11. (Economic Survey, Assam 2011-12)