Maharashtra is probably one among the few States that have a vibrant agriculture base, buoyant financial market and bustling industrial belts. The State grows both food and cash crops in two seasons — Kharif and Rabi.

Maharashtra is a bio-diverse State with nine-agro climatic zones suitable to grow a variety of crops. The main food crops of Maharashtra are wheat, rice, jowar, bajra, pulses, mangoes, grapes, bananas and orange.

Cash crops include groundnut, sugarcane, cotton, turmeric and tobacco.

The State has about 18 million hectare of cultivable land distributed largely among marginal farmers. The state government has invested substantially to improve agriculture infrastructure such as irrigation, seed and fertiliser. The state has a total irrigated area of 33,500 square km.

The consorted effort of the government has helped the State emerge as one of the leading producer of many fruits such as grapes, oranges and mangoes. Most of the fruit produced in the state fetch a premium in the export market.

Interestingly, the regions that grow these fruits have emerged as big brands in the export markets. For instance, Nagpur oranges are sold at a premium in West Asia, the US and other European countries. Similarly, Alphonso mangoes from the southern district of Ratnagiri and south-northern parts of Sindhudurg including Dapoli and Devgad talukas are exported in large quantities.

Table grapes grown in Nashik, which is touted as wine capital of India, is exported to Europe and West Asia.

It is just a co-incident that this buzzing agriculture centre also houses Security Printing Press, the nation’s currency printer.

Progressive State

Anil Jain, Managing Director, Jain Irrigation, said though the State has just 21 per cent of its agriculture land irrigated, it is one of most progressive state as far as agriculture is concerned due to its focus on value added agriculture, especially horticulture.

The farmers in the State are continuously focusing on ways to better their profits by adding value to their produce.

“The Government should try to bring more dry land under irrigation and focus on rain water harvesting at taluka level rather than taking up big projects which are generally time consuming. It should also improve linkages, storage facility and other allied infrastructure to help horticulture in the State,” he said.

Besides agriculture, Nashik is known for its industrial belt. Many leading manufacturers including Bosch India, Mahindra and Mahindra, Ceat, Thyssen Krupp, Samsonite, Atlas Copco, Crompton Greaves, ABB, GlaxoSmithKline, Cipla, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, L&T, Jindal Steel, IBP, Coca-Cola, Siemens, Shalimar Paints and Hindustan National Glass have their factories in Nashik.

The State Government is the process of implementing project to promote horticulture in about one million hectare. Under this project the State has recorded an impressive growth compared to other states in the country. Crops such as grapes, pomegranate and processed banana are exported earning substantial foreign exchange.

Maharashtra, one of the leading states in export of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, has identified eight potential horticultural crops of commercial importance for Agriculture Export Zone, which is supported by the Central Government.

The eight crops that have been identified include Alphonso mangoes, kesar mangoes, onions, pomegranate, banana, orange, floriculture and grapes.

Maharashtra is also one of the leading sugarcane producers. It recently toppled Uttar Pradesh to become India’s largest sugarcane grower. Sugarcane is grown in about 14 districts in the state. The largest among them include Solapur, Kolhapur , Pune, Ahmednagar, Sangli and Satara. The State is expected to crush 545 lakh tonnes of sugar cane to produce 63 lakh tonnes of sugar this year.

The State is the second largest producer of cotton after Gujarat. It is largely grown in Nasik , Pune, Kolahpur, Aurangabad , Latur, Amravati and Nagpur which have a predominantly tropical wet and dry climate. Cotton is largely cultivated under rain-fed conditions in the state. Maharashtra and Gujarat account for about 58 per cent of the country’s total cotton output.

With the buzzing agriculture fortunes has attracted leading corporates to set up there base in the state. The most prominent among them include Rallis India, Bayer, Monsanto, Jain Irrigation and Godrej, to name a few.

The availability of excellent port services has made the State one of the gateway for agriculture exports.

(This article was published on December 11, 2012)
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