Despite bumper harvests year after year, income from agriculture falls

Punjab govt wants farmers to adopt diversified high-yield crops

 Despite Punjab’s rare feat of producing bumper harvest of wheat and rice crop for decades, the contribution of agriculture to the state’s income is now on the wane.

The traditional wheat-paddy plantation pattern that has been practiced by Punjab farmers since long is proving increasingly unviable, which is why Punjab has now proposed to the Union government a plan that will bring down paddy cultivation on a whopping 1.2 million hectares of  area in the state. Punjab accounts for majority of wheat and rice produced in the country.

The plan, systematic agricultural interventions, will be put in place over the next six years to deflect farmers from paddy plantation and coax them to adopt diversified high yield fruit and crop plantations.

The wheat-crop rotation pattern practiced in Punjab has suffered largely on account of certain inherent problems including inadequate storage, poor remunerative prices, rising input costs, indiscriminate use of pesticides.

This paddy season too, Punjab registered a bumper harvest, a record high of over 130 lakh tonnes at close of procurement season Tuesday.

But despite advisories against increasing the area under paddy produce, this seasons figures in-fact indicate an increase since last season.

Overexploitation

Depleting groundwater table has been the fallout with overexploitation of ground water at alarming high proportions in Punjab.

The water table in over eighty per cent of Punjab is depleting with an average decline across the state ranging between 50 and 100 cm a year.

Of 138 hydrogeological blocks, over 100 are listed as dark or grey zones due to over-exploitation.

The central groundwater board early this year banned new bores in 18 blocks that had crossed the critical over-exploited juncture.

Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal said the only way out was through diversification and improved marketing.

“Our plan is shifting 1.2 million hectares of area under rice cultivation to other crops like maize, cotton with a main focus on fruits and vegetables during the next six years. Fruit and vegetable cultivation is a viable and remunerative alternative to existing crops,” he said, adding that its time for old agricultural marketing approach to be changed to new business model through the application of advance technology.

Israel-Punjab join hands

Israel will partner Punjab’s endeavour to diversify its agricultural crops and to improve production.

The cooperation between Israel and Punjab in agriculture will be implemented in two centres of excellence that are being set up in Punjab – one for vegetables in Khatarpur, and one for fruit in Khanaura. The Centres are likely to be ready by March 2013, said sources.

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