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Gujarat emerges a silver lining

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Virendra Pandit

Gandhinagar, Aug. 7 At a time when many parts of the country are worried due to inadequate monsoon rains, Gujarat is looking forward to yet another satisfactory crop this kharif season. This is despite change in rainfall patterns and lack of rains in the northern districts.

According to official sources here, the average rainfall this monsoon season has been about the same as the national average that is 55 per cent of the normal average of 900 mm annual rainfall.

Out of 225 talukas in Gujarat, around 40 in North Gujarat areas of Banaskantha, Sabarkantha, Patan and Mehsana districts have received less rainfall this year, between 8 to 10 inches (200 to 250 mm). The rest of the State received “adequate” rainfall, official sources say. Due to this, the reported sowing is more than 104 per cent on an average as of now, most of which was completed during the wet spell in mid-July.

This year, the Government expects to bring 87 lakh hectares under cultivation; sowing has already been completed in 77 lakh hectare and is still continuing. According to Mr S R Choudhary, Director of Agriculture, sowing has been completed cent per cent in areas under groundnut and 98 per cent under cotton. While cotton has been sown in 23 lakh hectares, groundnut acreage this year is 16.70 lakh hectares. Due to delayed rains, there was some apprehension that cotton production could be affected by about 5-10 per cent.

Reasons for optimism

The reasons behind Gujarat’s optimism stems from the success of its efforts at water management during the last one decade, added by the irrigation and drinking water released in some arid districts from the Sardar Sarovar dam on the River Narmada. During the last 10-odd years, the State was able to construct more than one lakh small and medium ‘check-dams’ to prevent the scarce rainy water going waste. Besides, the drip irrigation system, wherein farmers were able to utilise the available water in an optimum manner, has been a success even in the parched North Gujarat districts.

The share of cotton in Gujarat agricultural output has increased from 6 per cent to 12 per cent within seven years.

Production of the fruit and vegetable segment also registered a robust growth of 12.8 per cent between 2001 and 2008, which is more than double of that in the 1990s.

Availability of water from means other than the rains have improved traditional crops as well and reduced the farmer’s dependence on the monsoon. In 2008-09, however, inclement weather and climatic change temporarily halted this growth rate.

For instance, wheat production in Gujarat was reduced from 3.77 million tonnes in 2007-08 to 2.89 million tonnes in2008-09, although sowing area was also reduced, from 1.3 million hectares (2006-07) to 1.2 million hectares as some farmers preferred to sow more cash crops than wheat.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 8, 2009)
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