What Is The Primary Sector? (With Roles And Contributions)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The consumer market products exist due to work performed across a range of job sectors, from primary to quaternary. The primary sector is the first phase of any manufacturing process covering raw material acquisition. Primary sector jobs comprise a variety of industries, ranging from mining to agriculture.

In this article, we discuss "what is the primary sector?", activities under the primary sector, the differences and interactions with the other sectors, roles and contributions of this sector along with bills and schemes and examples of the different sectors across different industries.

What is the primary sector?

If you have an interest in economics, you may wonder, "What is the primary sector?". The primary sector of the economy includes industries that extract raw materials for other sectors of the economy. The reason to call it the primary sector is that it serves as the foundation for all other products. Since most of the natural products we consume come from agriculture, dairy, forestry and fishing, another term for the primary sector is agriculture and allied sector.

Primary sector industries typically involve companies that engage in the extraction, harvesting and collecting natural products from the earth and animal byproducts. Companies that process and package raw materials also come under the primary sector. The company gathering resources in the primary sector can sell them directly to consumers and it is more common for primary sector businesses to sell the product to industries in the secondary and tertiary sectors.

Related: B.Sc. Agriculture Scope (Jobs, Career Growth And Salary)

Activities under primary sector

In the primary sector of the economy, activities involve using natural resources, which include land, water, forest, raw materials and minerals. People who work in the primary sector are red-collar workers because of the outdoor nature of their work. Usually, in most underdeveloped countries, the primary sector predominates.

Here are some of the major activities that come under the primary sector:

  • Agriculture and allied activities: Farming and its various forms fall under the primary sector. Raising livestock and growing crops represent the development and cultivation of raw materials.

  • Fishery: Commercial fishing is a primary sector job where fishers catch and sell fish. A primary sector fishing company can operate a large vessel with mass gathering technique or by an individual or a small group that uses line fishing to catch fish for sale.

  • Forestry: The forestry industry harvests trees from forests or tree farms. This provides the raw materials required for the production of wood for use by various secondary and tertiary sector businesses.

  • Mining: A mining company extracts ore and other raw materials from the earth and methods of mining can vary depending on the raw materials a company extracts. A primary sector mining company may work with secondary or tertiary companies across a wide range of industries depending on the raw materials it gathers.

  • Hunting: It is the process of killing animals for their meat, hides and other products to sell as raw materials to other industries. Hunters may employ various tools, the most common of which are bows, rifles and shotguns, with different animals requiring distinct hunting techniques.

Differences and interactions between the primary and other sectors

All economic sector has distinct characteristics and interactions between them benefit each. The main differences and interactions between the other major economic sectors are:

Secondary sector

The secondary sector of the economy consists of industries that manufacture goods from raw materials. Unlike the primary sector, businesses in the secondary sector do not directly gather or extract materials. Rather, secondary sector businesses purchase raw materials from primary sector businesses. After manufacturing, secondary sector companies may sell directly to consumers or tertiary sector businesses.

Related: Jobs In Supply Chain Management (With Salaries And Skills)

Tertiary sector

The tertiary sector consists of businesses that provide services directly to consumers. While some tertiary sector companies may perform transformative actions on raw materials, their direct customer interaction categorises them as tertiary sector companies. The primary sector company's raw materials help develop products for the tertiary sector companies. A primary sector company may also act as a consumer for a tertiary sector company, purchasing products from a tertiary sector provider to fulfil their resource extraction work.

Quaternary sector

The quaternary sector consists of businesses with an intellectual component. This includes the education, consultancy services, information technology and research industries. Businesses in the quaternary sector may collaborate with those in the primary sector to improve the primary sector's performance. Activities such as researching more efficient methods of extracting raw materials and educating primary sector employees about the new technologies can help a primary sector company increase its productivity.

Related: What Does An IT Professional Do? Duties And Requirements

Roles and contributions of primary sector

Here are some of the roles and importance of the primary sector in the nation's economy:

Contributing to national income

Agriculture contributed more than half of the national income during 1947. Its contribution has decreased in current years. According to estimates of annual national income released by the national statistical office, agriculture and the allied sector contributed about 18.4% to the national income in 2019-20.

Employing a large segment of the population

Agriculture is the backbone of the nation's economy. It is the primary occupation of the majority of the country's population. During 1947, approximately 70% of the population relied on agriculture and allied activities. With the growth of the manufacturing and service sectors, dependency on the primary sector has decreased. According to available data, in 2019, the primary sector was employing about 42.6% of the country's population.

Related: What Is Employment And How Does It Work?

Supplying food to peoples

Food is the basic human requirement for survival. Agriculture can become extinct without food production and distribution. The country's food demand is very high and rising year after year due to population growth. As per data, in 2019-20, the food grain production in the country was around 295.67 million tonnes. This comprises wheat, rice, coarse cereals, maize, tur, gram and pulses.

Equipping industries with raw materials

Agriculture provides raw materials for industries such as sugar, jute, cotton textiles and vanaspati. Paper industries require particular grass, bamboo and other plant material. Paper production is impossible without agriculture. Consider the food processing industry, which produces a wide variety of packaged foods, including pickles, juice, biscuits, bread and semi-prepared foods. Agriculture is the sole reason for the food processing industry to exist.

Bills and schemes in the primary sector

Here are some of the bills and schemes in the primary sector:

  • The agricultural biosecurity bill, 2013: It establishes an authority to prevent, control, eradicate and manage pests and diseases of plants and animals to help ensure agricultural biosecurity. Besides this, to comply with the country's international obligations regarding the facilitation of imports and exports of plants, animals, their products, aquatic animals and to regulate the agriculturally significant microorganisms, including for matters linked with or incidental to those obligations.

  • The minimum support prices (MSP): The MSP, introduced in 1966-67 is the price at which the government purchases certain crops from farmers to protect them from price drops. Since then, the MSP rule grew to include a wide range of crops and as per the 2013 government report, MSP covers 25 crops.

  • National food security mission (NFSM): The government introduced this scheme in 2007 to increase wheat, rice and pulses production on a sustainable basis to ensure the country's food security. NFSM also encourages the use of farm machinery or implements in the farming of target crops to enhance the efficiency of production.

Examples of the primary sectors and other sectors in markets

Here are some of the examples showing the various sectors working together to create a final product for consumers across multiple industries:

The primary sector and other sectors in the fuel industry

Recovering crude oil and converting it into fuel for a car can entail collaboration between businesses from all economic sectors:

As a primary sector business, an extraction company drills for extracting oil from deep within the earth. They perform extractions efficiently and safely using techniques developed and refined by researchers working in the quaternary sector. The company then sells the crude oil to oil refineries operating in the secondary sector. Through the refinement process, the refinery converts crude oil into consumer-ready gasoline. The refinery then sells the gasoline to a gas station, distributing it to consumers in the tertiary sector.

The primary sector and other sectors in the restaurant industry

Food in a restaurant is the result of work across all the economic sectors:

A tertiary sector restaurant may require fresh meat on a daily basis to prepare meals for its guests. The restaurant's meat and other products come from various primary sector sources, including farmers, hunters and fishers. A primary sector meat supplier sells their product to a butcher who cleans and prepares it for restaurant use. The butcher can sell the meat cuts to the restaurant, where professional chefs who have received education from professionals in the quaternary sector prepare the meat for consumers.

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