In Punjab’s first season of crop diversification, basmati scores on all counts, maize and cotton lose on production but gain on prices.
The first results of Punjab’s efforts at crop diversification are out. The crops the state is seeking to move towards, such as maize and cotton, have gained in prices, though there has also been a setback with bad weather pulling production of both crops below what it was even before the diversification.
Punjab has adopted a policy under which it plans to divert around 12 lakh hectares from water-guzzling paddy to high-value crops in the next five to seven years. Implementation began this kharif season (April to October) and new crops were to be diverted to around 1.60 lakh hectares. According to Punjab Farmers’ Commission records, the state diverted 72,000 hectares to basmati (exceeding the initial target of 50,000 hectares), 23,000 hectares to maize against the proposed 40,000 hectares, 15,000 hectares to cotton against the proposed 50,000 hectares, over 20,000 hectares to sugarcane, and some area to agro-forestry, pulses, fruits and fodder. Rice is grown on 27-28 lakh hectares in Punjab, including 4-5 lakh hectares under basmati and the rest under paddy.
The target for maize is 5.5 lakh hectares in the next five years; the addition of 23,000 hectares raised the existing area from 1.29 lakh hectares to 1.52 lakh. Other five-year targets include 7 lakh hectares each for basmati and cotton, 2.6 lakh hectares for sugarcane, 3 lakh hectares for agroforestry, 1.2 lakh hectares for pulses, and 1 lakh hectares for fruits etc.
Despite getting a larger field, maize and cotton have seen production dropping respectively by 24 and 29 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year. On the other hand, basmati has risen 55 per cent in terms of arrivals in mandis.
All three crops, however, have fetched good prices this year. For basmati, the state government did not announce the minimum support price it had promised, yet farmers earned Rs 3,500 to Rs 5,700 per quintal for Pusa 1121 and Pusa 1509, which are disease-resistant and high-yielding varieties, according to Punjab Mandi Board sources. The prices last year were Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000. According to the agriculture department, a farmer spends an average Rs 1,600 to Rs 1,800 on growing every quintal of basmati.
Last year by December 5, 11.05 lakh tonnes basmati had arrived in various markets; this year until the same date, 17.10