Agri Business

Agri-economists call for package to spur Punjab farm sector

Press Trust of India Chandigarh | Updated on February 24, 2011

Concern over stagnant yields and fall in water table

Agri-economists have called for special economic package for Punjab from the Centre in the upcoming budget to rejuvenate its agri sector plagued with stagnant yields, declining share in Gross State Domestic Product, plummeting water table and piling debt.

They argued in favour of a fiscal package to enable Punjab – the food bowl of the country, in providing food security to the nation in the future, particularly, in the wake of high commodity prices that are fuelling inflation.

“A special package for Punjab is really needed to invigorate the State's farm sector which has been passing through a tough time... The Centre has to announce a package for short-term and long-term needs of the State (Punjab) if it wants it to continue feeding the country,” noted Mr Sucha Singh, economist and Director General of Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID).

Funds shortage

Justifying the demand for the package, Mr Gill pointed out that the State's farm research and extension activities had completely collapsed on account of shortage of funds with the State government.

“It is essential to provide funds to strengthen research and extension activities in order to develop new high-yield and less water-consuming crop varieties, which will also withstand the impact of climate changes,” he said.

Punjab, known as the bread basket of the country, contributes 50 per cent of wheat and 30 of rice on an average to Central pool.

However, according to the State economic survey, farm production in the State has reached plateau with soil health deteriorating due to intensive wheat-rice cultivation.

The average yield of wheat and paddy has been hovering around 43 quintals and 58 quintals a hectare for the past several years.

Water table

To arrest the declining water table, the economists stressed on the need for funds to be utilised for recharging and desilting water bodies, setting up ponds or small dams to store rain water and popularising micro irrigation schemes. Out of 142 blocks in the State, water table in 107 blocks is overexploited and in five it is critical.

Farm experts also sought rise in Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops other than wheat and paddy, and their assured marketing to make diversification exercise successful in the State.

“The Centre must raise or announce MSP for crops like pulses and oilseeds and give assurance of their lifting to encourage farmers to come out of wheat-rice cycle,” said the Punjab State Farmers' Commission Chairman, Mr G.S. Kalkat.

In the absence of remunerative price and assured marketing of other crops, farm diversification has failed to take off in Punjab.

Mounting farm debt, which is pegged at Rs 36,000 crore in the State, has also been a big challenge for the State authorities, with farm economists seeking ‘out of the box' solution from Centre to contain the same. They want farm credit on both short and long term basis be given at 3 to 4 per cent interest rate to reduce the farmers' burden.

Published on February 24, 2011

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