Though spring maize (March to June) hasn’t fetched good prices for farmers in the ongoing harvesting season, farmers in Punjab are still diversifying from paddy to maize (June to October) in the ongoing kharif season.
Acreage under maize has already increased by 4 per cent as compared to the last kharif season while sowing is still underway and will continue till the end of this month.
Acres under maize in Punjab this year are among the highest in the last two decades. Kharif season maize is always encouraged because it is one of the best alternatives to water guzzling paddy. The state government has set a target of 3 lakh hectares (LH) to be brought under maize.
Last year, 1.59 LH area was under maize and this year till June 30, the total area touched over 1.65 LH — which is 6,000 hectares (14,820 acres) more than last year.
In the past two decades since 2000-01, the state could touch 1.65 LH thrice in the year 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2014-15, but this year it has already gone a little above 1.65 LH, while sowing will continue all of July.
“We have already sown maize over 1.65 LH, which is great news for the state which has been trying hard to curtail area under paddy and diverting it to maize, cotton and Basmati crops,” said Director of the state department of agriculture Dr Sutantra Kumar Airi, adding that they are hoping to inch close to their target of bringing 3 LH under maize.
If the Centre supports farmers in getting the announced MSP of maize, the area under the crop will automatically increase, he added.
In the ongoing spring maize harvesting season, farmers are getting Rs 700 to Rs 1,100 per quintal for their maize crop against the MSP announced by the Centre at the rate of Rs 1,850 per quintal.
Hoshiarpur leads the way
Currently, Hoshiarpur district is leading with 51,000 hectares under maize following by Ropar district with 23,000 hectares. Nawanshahr, Moga, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Mohali, Bathinda, Mukatsar and Pathankot have already sown 12,000 hectares, 9,000 hectares, 8,000 hectares, 7,500 hectares, 7,400 hectares, 7,200 hectares, 6,500 hectares and 5,200 hectares respectively. The remaining 12 districts have also completed sowing between 1,600-3,000 hectares each.
Kharif maize yield is almost half of the spring maize because spring maize mostly belongs to hybrid varieties, the yield of which is very high (even upto 40-50 quintals per acre). But kharif maize, which is sown during the monsoon season along with paddy, does not yield more than 25-26 quintals per acre.
Farmers demand higher MSP
“If the government wants us to divert from paddy to maize crop then its MSP must be higher than paddy because paddy MSP and yield both are on the higher side as compared to maize. The maize MSP is Rs 1,850 per quintal this year and the yield of maize is 25-26 quintals per acr, which is 5-7 quintals less than the paddy yield,” said farmer Jugraj Singh of Madaran village, who cultivates both paddy and maize on around 100 acres.
Punjab Agriculture Secretary Kahan Singh Pannu said it would be a great achievement of the department if it hits the target of area under maize or even comes close to it because more area under maize means less area under paddy. Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR) is another achievement of the department under which highest-ever area was dedicated this year, added Pannu.
Going by the data sourced from the Punjab Agriculture department, barring the above mentioned five years, in the remaining 15 years since 2000-01 to date, the area under maize was recorded at 1.52 LH in 2003, 1.54 LH (2004), 1.54 LH (2005), 1.51 LH (2006), 1.54 LH (2007), 1.54 LH (2008), 1.52 LH (2009), 1.40 LH (2010), 1.34 LH (2012), 1.34 LH (2013), 1.29 LH (2014), 1.30 LH (2015), 1.16 LH (2016), 1.23 LH (2017) and 1.09 LH (2018).
Under the ‘new diversification policy’ which was launched in 2013 for kharif season, the then SAD-BJP Punjab government had envisioned to bring around 5.50 LH under maize by 2017 across the state by decreasing paddy area from 30 LH to 25-26 LH including Basmati on around 7-8 LH. However, the maximum area under crop could be witnessed after this policy only in 2014-15, when 1.65 LH was brought under it otherwise there was continuously declined till 2019 when maize acreage was recorded 1.59 LH.
“Farmers go for paddy just because of its assured market and if the same happens with maize crop, farmers will automatically adopt it as no one wants to play with groundwater,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Dakuanda, adding that one can see the fate of spring maize which is being sold at a throwaway price.
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