Agri Business

Haryana’s plan to wean farmers away from paddy comes a cropper

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on May 30, 2019


The Haryana government’s plan to wean farmers away from water-guzzling rice crop for the coming kharif season does not seem to have many takers due to apprehensions about yield and potential benefits.

On May 21, Chief Minister Manohar lal Khattar announced a pilot project under which farmers would be encouraged to grow maize or arhar (tur) instead of rice in one block each in seven districts. The State government hoped to divert nearly 50,000 hectares from rice cultivation. The farmers opting for the scheme would receive ₹4,500 per hectare cash benefit, free seeds and free crop insurance cover from the government.

However, farmers contacted by BusinessLine said the scheme was unlikely to succeed as the State government has failed to address several important issues for farmers who are willing to make the switch.

“We are all concerned about the depleting groundwater levels in the State. If the State was really concerned about it why did they announce it at the eleventh hour,” asked Rattan Mann, Bharatiya Kisan Union State President. It should have taken the farmers into confidence in advance, say, February or March, he felt. He said most farmers in these blocks have prepared rice seedlings for transplantation..

The seven blocks identified by the State agriculture department are in Ambala, Karnal, Kaithal, Kurukshetra, Jind, Sonepat and Yamunanagar districts. Suresh Gahlawat, Additional Director of Agriculture (Extension) in Haryana said, “We are accepting online applications from farmers in these blocks who want to participate in the scheme from Tuesday. We assure them that the produce from these fields will be procured by the Government at minimum support price.”

Gahlawat said 5,438 applications have been received from farmers till Wednesday.

Partap Singh, a farmer from Thanesar block in Kurukshetra, said farmers in his area are not upbeat about this. Firstly, they are not sure the government would actually procure their produce as it was just a verbal assurance. “The input costs associated with growing rice may be more, but the farmer is also confident of getting more as output is higher. That is not the case with maize,” he said.

Echoing similar feelings Rajinder Singh, a former agriculture extension officer from Karnal, said “A farmer growing rice would usually earn around ₹50,000-55,000 per acre, whereas maize will yield him only ₹25,000-30,000 at best.” He was also concerned about the government distributing seeds. “How would a farmer know about the quality of seeds. The government should have allowed farmers to buy the seeds from the market and reimburse them, he suggested.

According to Mann, another reason that may deter farmers from the scheme is menace of wild animals. Maize will definitely attract animals like Nilgai, he said.

Published on May 30, 2019

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