Officials worried over fall in foodgrain production

Higher acreage coming under cash crops and the decline in area under pulses and food crops has set off alarms bells in official circles of Maharashtra.

Over the last four years, cash crops such as sugarcane and cotton have been fetching record prices, prompting farmers to shift to these crops. Even in Aurangabad, which is traditionally a non-cotton area, over 30 per cent of cultivable area came under cotton in 2010.

Shifting pattern

In 2007-08, production of food crops such as rice, jowar, bajra, nachani (finger millet) and corn was at 124 lakh tonnes and in 2009- 0 the production dipped to 102 tonnes.

A similar situation was seen in the case of pulses like tur, mung and urad dal – in 2007-08 the production was 30 lakh tonnes, which by 2009-10 had declined to 23 lakh tonnes, while oil seeds, whose production was at 49 lakh tonnes in 2007-08, declined to 28 lakh tonnes in 2009-10.

Official apprehension

A State government official said, “This year, if the trend of planting cash crops instead of food crops continues and unfortunately gets coupled with erratic rainfall, then it could lead to disastrous consequences. The food inflation will go through the roof and could lead to law and order problems in the State,” the official said.

Remedial plans

He said that the State government is gearing to take remedial measures such as subsidies on seed distribution, promotion of bio-fertilisers and new equipment for tilling the land, integrated pest management and incentivising production of seeds so that “even if a crisis arises, it is handled properly and foodgrain production does not fall drastically.”

The decline in the area under pulses and food crops was also on the agenda of the Chief Minister, Mr Prithviraj Chavan, who earlier this week while addressing Cabinet colleagues and State Government officials at the kharif review meeting said that in 2010-11 the area under cereals and pulses dropped by about 15 lakh hectares.

Agriculture expert Mr Jagadeesh Sunkad said that lower acreage under food crops and pulses could compromise the food security of the State and precipitate food inflation. The State's food security cannot be dependent on imports of foodgrains from other states, he said.

(This article was published on May 27, 2011)
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