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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Area under water-guzzling rice dips by 83,000 hectares in Punjab

Still has over 3 million hectares under the crop, as opposed to ideal area of under 2 million hectares needed to improve groundwater table.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
August 29, 2021 4:20:57 am
Punjab had set a target to bring 5.35 lakh hectares under Basmati this year, which is also an alternative for Paddy because it needs less water than paddy due to its short duration. (File)

PUNJAB, WHICH is a major rice producing state of the country, has seen a decline of 83,000 hectares this year under this water-guzzling crop, as per a survey report of the state agriculture department. However, this is the sixth year in a row that the state has had over 3 million (over 30 lakh) hectares area under rice (Basmati and non-Basmati) against the need to curtail it to just 2 million hectares.

The Punjab agriculture department and director, Punjab land records, under the revenue department, conduct their own surveys to record the actual area under any crop during both Kharif and Rabi seasons in the state. Agricultural department surveys happen earlier.

According to the agricultural department survey, a total of 30.66 lakh hectares was brought under rice including paddy and Basmati this year, against 31.49 lakh hectares (27.43 lakh hectares paddy and 4.06 lakh hectares Basmati) last year, though Basmati area is yet to be segregated from the total rice area by the department.

Punjab had set a target to bring 5.35 lakh hectares under Basmati this year, which is also an alternative for Paddy because it needs less water than paddy due to its short duration.

Overall, rice area has witnessed a fall of 83,000 hectares, which is good for the state where the water table has come under the dark zone in 85 per cent agricultural blocks. However, this is still way off the target Punjab needs to achieve as the state needs to bring down rice area from 3 million hectares to around 2 million hectares including Basmati to stop over exploitation of its ground water.

Director, Punjab Agriculture department, Dr Sukhdev Singh Sidhu said that the decreased area under rice has been diverted under cotton, maize and other crops. “We have increased 52,000 hectares under cotton (kapas) this year and 18,000 hectares under maize and remaining around 13,000 hectares under other Kharif crops,” he said, adding, “Most of this area has been reduced under paddy only but still we are waiting for the exact area under Basmati which will reveal the actual picture about area under paddy this year.”

Last year, 2.52 lakh hectares were under cotton and 1.08 lakh hectares under maize. This year, the area under cotton was recorded 3.04 lakh hectares and 1.26 lakh hectares was under maize.

Experts said that in Punjab, the area under rice should not go beyond 2 million hectares out of which paddy (non-basmati) area should be around 1.2 to 1.3 million hectares and remaining under Basmati.

But Punjab’ rice area is going above 3 million hectares since 2016, when it had touched 30.46 lakh hectares and went to 30.65 lakh hectares in 2017. Then, it recorded 31.03 lakh hectares in 2018, 31.42 lakh hectares in 2019 and 31.49 lakh hectares in 2020. It has crossed 30 lakh hectares again this year.

As per records, from early 2000 to 2015, area under rice remained between 2.5-2.8 million hectares including Basmati, but then a huge jump was seen where there was a need to decrease area under it. “Poor price of other crops and assured MSP of paddy is responsible for this hike. If farmers will get MSP for all crops this would never happen. This is what we have been demanding from the government for the past over one year by sitting on roads,” said farmer leader Jagmohan Singh, general secretary, BKU (Dakaunda).

 

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