Madhya Pradesh eyes new wheat high

Looks to surpass Punjab, but needs to address storage problem.

Bhopal | Published: January 10, 2014 2:13 am

Madhya Pradesh, which has scripted a success story in agriculture, is likely to continue its strides in the current rabi season and has set its eyes on overtaking Punjab, the traditional major, in wheat production.
The state was always known for producing quality wheat such as sharbati rather than quantity, but in recent years the government and farmers have focused also on volumes of other wheat varieties and ensured that MP is now spoken of in the same breath as Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
“Wheat production this year is expected to be in the vicinity of 190 lakh tonnes which, if achieved, will surpass Punjab’s production which has stagnated around 172 tonnes,’’ says principal secretary (agriculture) Rajesh Rajora. UP will still maintain its top position in production, with the estimates about 300 lakh tonnes.
Though sowing of some varieties is still being done, the agriculture department estimates the acreage will go up to 62,000 hectares from last season’s 57,000 hectares. Increased irrigation facilities and populist decisions of the state government, such as giving a bonus over and above the minimum support price (MSP) announced by the central government, have attracted more and more farmers to wheat.
Rajora says compared to Punjab, where 99 per cent of the crop is irrigated, MP still has some distance to cover because, despite the recent increase in facilities, not more than 84 per cent is irrigated. MP also has low productivity (yield per hectare) compared to Punjab and Haryana’s.
According to Energy Minister Rajendra Shukla, feeder separation helped the government meet farmers’ demand for electricity, a factor that will contribute to more production.
This year, wheat production is likely to be 30 lakh tonnes more than last season’s. But not all the wheat produced in MP is sold to the government because premium varieties such as sharbati and durum are purchased at market rates. Sharbati production accounts for nearly 15 lakh tonnes while durum production ranges between 5 and 8 lakh tonnes. Also, about 10 per cent of the produce is reserved for seeds.
Higher procurement will also create a problem of storage. Though capacity has increased over the last few years, lack of storage space causes the foodgrains to rot. The government’s present storage capacity is 115 lakh tonnes but it won’t be enough given that produce from earlier years is still stocked.
Last year, the government’s production and procurement estimates had fallen below the target. The government is yet to officially announce the procurement target this season. Last year, it could procure 85 lakh tonnes against the original target of 115 lakh.
The agriculture department estimates that the storage problem will aggravate due to the expected increase in the production of gram. The state accounts for nearly 40 per of the country’s gram production but usually the market price is higher than the MSP. Since farmers get more money, they sell to traders and the government is spared the burden of procuring and storing the crop.
Agriculture department sources say the government could end up buying gram from farmers if its production touches 47 lakh tonnes.
Food and Civil Supplies Minister Vijay Shah agrees there is a need to take effective steps to increase storage capacity given that agricultural production has been increasing every year. According to him, the present storage capacity is 61.40 lakh tonnes, which includes the space in private warehouses. He claims MP was the first state to have a warehousing and logistics policy. According to him, 1.40 lakh tonnes wheat was stored in silo bags in 2012-13.
The warehousing corporation, however, claims MP won’t face any storage woes this time because it has already targeted a capacity of 152 lakh tonnes. The corporation says steel silos of capacity 50,000 tonnes each are being constructed in 10 districts.
Meanwhile, the Madhya Pradesh Khet Mazdoor Congress has demanded that the number of centres for purchasing wheat and paddy be increased because farmers have to wait for days to sell their produce. The Congress alleges that the delay allows middlemen to benefit at farmers’ cost.

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