Punjab slips in agricultural production, Bihar showing remarkable move: study

Written by Charanjit Ahuja | Chandigarh | Updated: Dec 24 2007, 04:29am hrs
From a top performing state, Punjab has slipped into the league of least-growing agricultural states in post-reform India, while Bihar has propelled itself to the top in the same period. The state has slipped to the 14th slot in farm growth measured in 17 states, while Bihar has topped the list, according to a recent study by Punjab University, Chandigarhs Professor of Economics, Gurmail Singh.

When contacted, Punjab chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal, admitted that Punjab has witnessed stagnation in agriculture with a mere 1% growth . He told FE during the 35th Kisan Panchayat of northern states organised by the Punjab unit of Bharitya Kisan Union here recently that even though 2% farmers of the state contribute 50% foodgrain for the central pool, they have been denied remunerative prices for their produce by the Centre.

Badal said till the price of produce was linked with the price index, growth in agriculture would continue to stagnate or show a negative trend. He said the fate of the farming community was being decided by the Centre, while states were being kept out of the price fixing mechanism.

The CM said Punjab had chalked out a comprehensive programme to improve soil health of agricultural land, new varieties of seeds were being provided and new techniques of farming and irrigation were being encouraged. He said to improve the canal irrigation network in the state Rs 4,000 crore would be spent. To make the state power surplus, a plan was being implemented. He said 30% subsidy would be provided on agriculture machinery. The study by Dr Singh mainly talks about the impact of liberalisation and blames soil and technology fatigue, unfavourable weather and surge in import of edible oil and other commodities in the post-WTO period for dragging Punjab down. After maintaining a steady rate of over 4% per annum for close to three decades, agricultural growth crashed to a low of 1.1% during the 90s. Population growth in agriculture brought about virtual stagnation of farm incomes for about 15 years. Efforts for diversification notwithstanding, the wheat-paddy cycle has intensified in the state, the study.

Meanwhile, Bihar emerged as the fastest growing state in the reform period. High fruit and vegetable production boosted agriculture in Bihar as the annual growth rate jumped to 4.4%.

The study suggests that to reverse the trend, there is need for protection from floods, consolidation of fragmented holdings and exploitation of untapped technology. The other suggestions are promoting internationally competitive agro-prcessingindustries and marketing networks, raising investment in agriculture research and development and tapping recent breakthroughs in bio-technology.