Shivraj Singh Chouhan completed 10 years in office as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh last week. His most outstanding achievement is the excellent performance of agriculture — the agri-GDP of MP grew at 9.7 per cent per annum during 2005-06 to 2014-15, surpassing even record-holder Gujarat’s 7.7 per cent. The last five years have been even more spectacular: The agri-GDP grew at 14.2 per cent per annum. No wonder MP has got the Krishi Karman Award from the president three times in the last five years.
MP is a primarily agricultural state, with almost 70 per cent of its workforce engaged in agriculture, much above the all-India average of 55 per cent. Focusing on agriculture is not only good economics but also good politics. When the largest number gains from growth, it gives political legitimacy for further pushing the reform frontier.
But the high agri growth rates of MP have been challenged by former CM Digvijaya Singh, who claims that the numbers may be fudged. Prima facie, his doubt seems legitimate — no one is used to hearing such high growth numbers in agriculture. This made us dig a little deeper into the agricultural performance of the state and analyse it from both the input and output sides. The evidence largely supports the high growth numbers.
Look at the irrigation ratio, which increased from 30.6 per cent in 2004-05 to 41.2 per cent in 2013-14, an increase of 35 per cent in 10 years. Fertiliser consumption per hectare increased from 53.4 kg to 83 kg in 2014-15, an increase of 55 per cent. Tractor sales, which are reported by private companies and not by government, have increased from 28,500 in 2005-06 to 87,100 in 2014-15, a growth of more than 200 per cent. The seed replacement rate (SRR) for major crops has also increased substantially, leading to better productivity. The SRR for wheat, for example, increased from 8.8 per cent in 2004-05 to 27.2 per cent in 2013-14; for soybean, from 12.5 to 32.3 per cent; for gram, from 2.3 to 15.8 per cent; and for paddy, from 3.4 to 22.6 per cent. Today, MP is the largest producer of certified seeds in the country, producing 4.4 million quintals. There is, thus, ample evidence from the input side that points towards high growth rates.
Evidence from the output side also strongly validates high performance. The production of wheat increased from 7.2 million tonnes (MT) to 12.9 MT, an increase of 79 per cent. Soybean production increased from 3.7 MT in 2004-05 to 7.8 MT in 2012-13 but fell to 5.2 MT in 2013-14. The yields of all major crops have risen. The yield of rice has increased from 720 kg/ ha to 1,474 kg/ ha, of wheat from 1,735 kg/ ha to 2,405 kg/ ha, of soybean from 835 to 1,293 kg/ ha, and of gram from 928 kg/ ha to 1,219 kg/ ha, all between 2004-05 and 2013-14.
Apart from the growth in foodgrain and oilseeds output, even the horticulture and livestock sectors showed spectacular improvements. Milk production has increased by 75 per cent from 5.5 MT in 2004-05 to 9.6 MT in 2013-14, and meat production more than doubled in the same period. The production of horticulture crops increased from 1.2 MT in 2005-06 to 5.7 MT in 2013-14, a stupendous increase of 375 per cent.
What led to this transformation of agriculture in the state? Among the many measures taken, the one that stands out is the strong procurement system put in place for wheat. This incentivised farmers to increase production of wheat while improving the irrigation ratio. MP contributed only 2 per cent of the total wheat procurement in India in the triennium ending (TE) 2002-03. The contribution went up to 24 per cent in TE 2013-14. It is competing with Haryana and Punjab, and still has the potential to go forward.
There are several other factors driving agri-growth in the state but the most important is the leadership and its focus on agriculture. Chouhan has sworn to make agriculture in the state a profitable business. His first mission was to fix roads, power and irrigation. Now, he is focusing on agri-markets and crop insurance. In perishables, he wants to have milk and horticulture corridors, and is trying to plug the gaps in value chains. He is reportedly ready to open up the land lease markets and rationalise mandi taxes and commissions — steps in the right direction.
But 2015 has not been a good year for agriculture. Half the state has been hit by a back-to-back drought. There is no other CM that we know of who has sent 164 IAS, IPS and IFS officers to the field to talk to farmers, understand their problems and suggest solutions. This information was systematically distilled and plans based on it were vetted by experts and then announced for implementation by the CM. This raises hopes that farmers are not being left in the lurch during this crisis.
Would the prime minister take a leaf from Chouhan’s book and implement some of these lessons at an all-India level? Farmers are looking towards the national leadership with hope but, in the last 18 months, nothing tangible has resulted. Rural distress is deepening every day. This is a wake-up call.