SUBJECT : Agriculture

Cultivation area of both crops has fallen around 80% from 1979-80

The area under cultivation for maize (makki) and mustard (sarson) has dwindled drastically in Punjab despite the state government’s push for breaking the wheat and paddy cycle and encouraging diversification of crops.

This in turn has also affected the food pattern in the state.

Come winters makki di roti (coarse maize bread) and sarson da saag (mustard plant) were culinary delights that were savoured in every household of the state earlier, but with time this practice is changing and the erstwhile culinary delight is now confined to restaurants.

Data compiled by the department of food processing Punjab (DOFPP) shows that maize cultivation went down by more than 80% from 1979-80 to 2012-13. This further went down in the 2014.

In the fifth five-year plan the state government envisaged to get back the area under maize cultivation back to 550,000 hectares and announced a an increase in minimum support price (MSP) for maize to ` 1,310 in 2013. But it failed to create efficient marketing infrastructure which resulted in weak response towards the crop in 2014.

Similarly for rapeseed mustard cultivation plummeted around 80% from 1979-80 to 2012-13. Moreover, DOFPP doesn’t even register mustard as an oilseed as it is mostly being cultivated for personal consumption.

Dr KS Bawa, senior medical officer, civil hospital, Jalandhar said, “The food consumption pattern of the people in the state has changed drastically in the past one decade. Coarse food has been replaced by polished and processed food.”

“The area under maize cultivation has been cut down by the farmers as the productivity has increased. Earlier the yield of maize was around 3 to 5 tonnes per hectare but now due to scientific intervention yield has gone up to 10 to 12 tonnes per hectare,” said Jaswinder Singh Sangha, a farmer in the state. “But the farmer is not reaping the benefits. The government fixed a minimum support price of ` 1,310 per quintal, for maize in the 2013, but the procurement process was not initiated properly. Hence the agents bought the crop for ` 700 to 800 as farmers needed money for sowing paddy which is a secured harvest,” he added.

Maize is generally used as poultry feed and is required for the starch industry.

Swantantra Kumar Aeri, chief agriculture officer Jalandhar said, “It is not that rapeseed mustard is not being sown in the area. We have asked the farmers to practice under cropping and mixed cropping to encourage diversification and the practice is getting popular by the day.”

However, Balram Singh, a farmer who have been sowing rapeseed mustard since 1990 said, “The demand for rapeseed mustard in the state is almost negligent and it is mostly procured by local millers. There is also no MSP on mustard and hence farmers in the state have lost their interest in sowing mustard.”

Due to the apathy of both the centre and the state government farmers have indulged in water intensive farming. For instance the state government does not provide subsidised electricity after paddy harvest, as a result of which farmers are sowing other water intensive crops during the wheat and paddy interval, which can fetch them a good price.

“The farmers prefer to sow crops which will earn them quick profits as there is easy availability of water in the region. Thus, mustard cultivation, which is done in dry lands, has shifted to Rajasthan,” Balram said.

Source: 15 January, 2015, Hindustan Times