Chauhans Madhya Pradesh gives tough chase to Modis Gujarat on farm front

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 3 2012, 09:01am hrs
With persisting drought conditions, Narendra Modis Gujarat may long have peaked in farm growth leadership. The guy to watch, therefore, is Shivraj Singh Chauhan, chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. Chauhan could steer the states farm sector growth to a spectacular 18% in 2011-12 (through on a low base of the previous years 2%) and is aiming at 12% average growth for the 12th Plan period.

In comparison, Gujarat, which claimed to have grown its farm sector at close to 11% in the decade till 2010 (a figure disputed by agricultural economists who peg real growth at 5-6%), posted just 5.2% growth in 2011-12. Indias farm GDP grew 2.8% in 2011-12 while the average growth for the 11th Plan period (2007-12) was 3.3%, against the targetted 4%.

Traditionally, Madhya Pradesh reported low and fluctuating growth in agricultural GDP. What boosted output were a combination of policy measures a massive increase in the area under irrigation, bonus for grain procurement that increased farmers income and strategies for timely crop diversification, among others. About 73% of MPs population depends on agriculture, while the sectors share in state GDP is about 40%, much higher than the national average.

While production of various crops have improved, wheat production in Madhya Pradesh hit a record 12.7 million tonnes in 2011-12. Also, farm yields have increased from 831 kg per hectare to 1,223 kg per hectare during the 11th Plan period.

The Gujarat chief minister has often been praised for investor-friendly policies, which accelerated the states economic growth. Modi is the BJPs poster boy with prime ministerial ambitions, envied by senior party colleagues. But the saffron strongman clearly has a tough competitor in party confrere Chauhan, at least when it comes to driving the farm sector, which is tipped as more politically rewarding.

According to analysts, the gap between two states in the farm GDP growth is likely to widen this year as most of Gujarat has received deficient monsoon rainfall while Madhya Pradesh has received normal rainfall, likely boosting kharif production of paddy and pulses besides retaining soil moisture for the rabi crop.

Increasing irrigation coverage and virtually negligible interest on agricultural credit along with conversion of large fallow land into crop production have resulted in Madhya Pradesh emerging as second-biggest wheat producer state replacing Haryana this year, Madhya Pradesh Agriculture Production Commissioner NN Upadhyay told FE. To help farmers access credit, the state government has announced farm loans at zero rate of interest and targets to disburse Rs 8,500 crore during 2012-13. Last year, interest rate on such loans was fixed at 1% and the disbursal was Rs 7,500 crore.

Madhya Pradesh has covered 1 lakh hectare of agricultural land under irrigation while repairing close to 2.5 lakh hectare of old irrigation facilities. During 2011-12, the state produced a record 13.4 million tonnes wheat against Haryanas 11 million tonnes.

During 2010-11 and 2011-12, Madhya Pradesh offered a procurement bonus of Rs 100 per quintal to farmers besides the minimum support price offered by the central government.

We have been providing bonus to wheat farmers over the last few years and we want to become the single biggest contributor of wheat to the central pool in the next few years, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan recently told FE.

The biggest jump in contribution to the Food Corporation of Indias procurement pool in the year through June was reported by Madhya Pradesh. The state civil supplies corporation purchased close to 8.5 million tonnes of wheat from farmers in the year against around 5 million tonnes the previous year, up 71%.

BJP president Nitin Gadkari also acknowledged that he was stunned by the massive growth in agriculture shown by Madhya Pradesh. When I was told wheat production has doubled in MP, I initially thought the data could be erroneous. Later, I spoke to the chief secretary and indeed found agri-growth was stupendous.

Gujarat has converted more than 15 lakh hectares of arid and semi-arid lands to farming as a result of unconventional and innovative water use methods, leading to higher crop output. Reasonably good rains through the decade along with rising central MSP for crops has supported boosted production of cash crops such as cotton and oil seeds in the state. However, the state is still heavily dependent on rainfall.

Due to low interest rates, loan repayment rate has increased among farmers which allowed them to take fresh loan each year, Upadhyay said. The state government has also taken measures to ensure adequate and timely supply of farm inputs like quality seeds, fertilisers and pesticides for sustaining agricultural growth.