A year after recording the highest ever area under water-guzzling paddy crop, Punjab has managed to bring it down by over two lakh hectares (lh) in the ongoing ‘kharif season’ (April to October). This is great news for Punjab, which is among the top among states blamed for over-exploitation of groundwater.
While the area under paddy has gone down, cultivation of basmati rice, one of the best available alternatives to paddy under the diversification scheme, has seen a rise of 26.6 per cent after a gap three years. While the sowing of basmati is still underway, paddy has seen a record 9.3 per cent decrease in acreage this year.
Data sourced from the Punjab Agriculture Department revealed that till July 29, total 29.16 lh area was sown under rice crop, which included 23.63 lh under paddy and 5.53 lh under basmati rice. Last year, paddy was grown on 26.05 lh, while basmati area was 4.37 lh of the total 30.42 lh.
According to this figure, Punjab has managed to bring down area under paddy by 2.42 lh, while there is an increase of 1.16 lh in area under basmati. Basmati, cotton and maize have emerged the most bankable alternatives to paddy in the state.
“It is a good news for the state as we were determined to bring down area under paddy this year and was focusing to enhance area under basmati, cotton and maize crops, which are the best alternatives for paddy. We have been successful to a great extent by enhancing area under basmati cotton and maize by 1.16 lh, 1.37 lh and 43,000 hectares, respectively, till date,” said Kahan Singh Pannu, Secretary, Punjab Agriculture Department, adding that this year basmati will be “pesticide free” due to restricted chemical use to push exports.
According to the available data, there was 25.19 lh area was under paddy in 2017-18, 25.05 lh in 2016-17. While basmati area was 5.46 lh in 2017-18 and 5.10 lh in 2016-17. In 2018-19, the area under basmati in the state was at 4.37 lh. This year, Amritsar district tops the chart by recording 1.39 lh under basmati. Last year, basmati’s acreage in Amritsar was 1 lh.
Fazilka district also recorded increase in Basmati as 66,000 hectares is dedicated under it this year against 45,000 hectares last year. Tarn Taran has given 64,000 hectares against 55,000 hectares last year. Gurdaspur, Sangrur and Ludhiana have also sown Basmati on 50,000, 45,000 and 25,000 hectares, respectively against 5,000, 43,000 and 15,000 hectares last year.
In case of paddy, out of 22 district only 10 districts have sown less than one lakh hectares area under it and remaining all have recorded between one to over two lakh hectares under the crop with Sangrur at the top where 2.37 lh is under paddy. This is followed by Ludhiana and Patiala with 2.32 lh and 2.22 lh, respectively this year. Moga has also dedicated 177.5 lh under paddy out of total 1.81 lh area under rice in the district.
Director, Department of Agriculture Punjab, Dr Sutantra Kumar Airy, said that basmati needs much less water compared to paddy because it is sown after July 10 when the Monsoon has hit and therefore requires less groundwater. A farmer Gurdeep Singh from Jalandhar said: “If government give us basmati MSP we will not go to paddy.”
Capt asks planning board to devise crop diversification model
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Tuesday asked the state planning board to come up with a model to encourage farmers to shift from traditional wheat and paddy to less water consuming crops.
In a review meeting of various schemes of the Agriculture Department, the CM expressed concern over the fast depleting groundwater table and underlined the need to prioritise less water consuming crops, beginning with maize, cotton and sugarcane.