Follow Us:
Saturday, January 29, 2022

Punjab Wheat-paddy alternatives on hand, MSP guarantee can push aggressive switch

The government has declared its MSP Rs 5,050 per quintal which means if a farmer gets this MSP then he would be able to sell Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 crop from one acre.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
December 1, 2021 6:33:37 am
Punjab farmers, Punjab potato farmers, Punjab potato farms, Punjab crops, India news, Indian ExpressAs alternatives to paddy, farmers in the state have maize, cotton, basmati, pulses including moong, arhar and black mash (udad), and oilseeds including sesame and groundnut. (Representational)

While MSP guarantee remains a crucial missing link to pushing much-needed diversification in Punjab, the state does not have a shortage of crops it can opt for to switch away from the wheat-paddy cycle.

At a time when the demand of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all crops is getting intense, Punjab state has a big opportunity to shun monoculture — wheat and paddy cycle — in cropping pattern as the state has several alternatives for these crops available to it’s farmers and also these alternatives has a huge market in the state and outside.

During Kharif season, Punjab farmers grow rice, including paddy (non-basmati) and basmati (aromatic fine quality rice), on around 80 per cent (30-31 lakh hectares) of state’s total agricultural area. In Rabi season (October to April), Punjab farmers grow wheat on around 90 per cent (35 lakh hectares) of the state total agricultural area (42 lakh hectares).

As alternatives to paddy, farmers in the state have maize, cotton, basmati, pulses including moong, arhar and black mash (udad), and oilseeds including sesame and groundnut.

In Rabi season, winter pulses like grams and red lentil (masoor dal), oilseeds including rapeseed & mustard are the main alternatives.

Punjab grows around 71,000 tonnes of oilseeds and 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes of pulses, which consume much less water, fertilisers compared to paddy.

Tapping into oilseeds
The per capita consumption of oil in Punjab is 23 to 24 kg per capita per annum which is higher than the national average of 18 kg oil per capita per annum consumption. Punjab’s population is now roughly close to 3 crore (it was 2.77 crores according to 2011 census) and with this calculation the state needs around 6,90,000 tonnes to 7,20,000 tonnes of oil for its own consumption.

Punjab is growing 71,000 tonnes of oilseeds and state gets 24,000 tonnes of oil is extracted out of this.

With this production, Punjab is meeting 3.3 per cent demand of its total consumption, while for its 96 per cent need of edible oil the state is dependent on other states or the imports of oil by the Centre. Even India is dependent on other countries to meet over 60 per cent of the country’s demand.

“When state requires around 7 lakh tonnes of edible oil annually then huge area under can be diverted towards oilseeds mainly ‘canola sarson’, which is the safest oil to consume,” said Virender Sardana, principal agronomist and in-charge, oilseeds section, department of plant breeding and genetics, Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), adding that even to meet its own demand the state needs to bring around 14 to 15 lakh hectares under oil seeds against 48,000 hectares currently because the yield from one hectare is between 10-14 quintals.

At the time of Green Revolution in Punjab in 1967-68, there was 4 lakh hectares area under oilseeds in the state.

The PAU has developed and released three varieties — GSC 5 (2004), GSC 6 (2007) and GSC 7 (2014) and one hybrid PGSH 1707 (2020) — of canola quality (double low) gobhi sarson for commercial cultivation. PAU has also released one canola variety RLC 3 (2015) and one hybrid RCH 1 (2019) of canola raya. Besides these, one hybrid of canola gobhi sarson (Hyola PAC 401) developed by a multinational private sector company has also been recommended for cultivation in the state.

“Canola rapeseed-mustard oil contains higher levels (up to 67 per cent) of Omega 9 than conventional rapeseed-mustard which is even better than olive oil. Canola rapeseed-mustard oil is now preferred cooking oil and is the most sought after across the world. Nutrition studies have shown that the unique fatty acid profile of canola helps mitigate factors associated with coronary heart disease including high blood cholesterol and thrombosis, said Prof Sardana, adding that it is even giving high returns to the farmers.

The government has declared its MSP Rs 5,050 per quintal which means if a farmer gets this MSP then he would be able to sell Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 crop from one acre. And if we compare this with wheat, which is around 22 to 25 quintal per acre and at a MSP rate of Rs 2,015, the farmers would be able to sell only wheat of Rs 44,000 to 50,000 per acre.

Sesame and groundnut too has a great demand in Europe and East Asian countries. India has exported sesame oil worth Rs 3,500 crore and groundnut oil worth Rs 4,000 crore and if India had more such oil that would have also been exported, said Prof Sardana.

Pulses push
Coming to pulses Punjab is meets 85 per cent of its pulses demand from other states. Even if the state grows to meet its need the area under it can be brought up to 5 lakh hectares against 50,000 hectares currently as the state needs around 5 lakh tonnes of pulses which can be grown in paddy and wheat season.

Principal Pulse Breeder, PAU, Dr Saravjeet Singh, said that growing the same crops every year on the same land increases vulnerability to pest and disease attacks while pulses and legumes, take the nitrogen from the atmosphere and fix it for the next crop cycle too. Kharif pulses duration is 80 to 135 days and these require very less water compared to paddy.

“Punjab has potential to increase the area under cotton, maize and basmati, which are being grown as major paddy alternative crops in the state currently from 2-3 lakh hectares under each of these crops.

Currently in the state, maize, basmati and cotton have 1.26 lakh hectares, 4.61 lakh hectares and 3.11 lakh hectares, respectively, under these crops. In the past, Punjab had 5.77 lakh hectares (1975-76) under Maize, 7 lakh hectares (1988-89) under cotton and 8.62 lakh hectares under basmati (2014-15). And the state needs to revisit its past only which is not difficult if MSP of all the crops is implemented,” said a senior officer in the Punjab Agriculture department, adding that in Kharif season 5 lakh hectares can be given under Kharif pulses, sesame and groundnut and 7-9 lakh hectares under maize, cotton and basmati which can curtail 11 to 15 lakh hectares from paddy and this is what the state is required to decrease under this water guzzling crop.

In 1961-62, Punjab had 9.17 lakh hectares (22.65 lakh acres) area under pulses (both Kharif and Rabi), which was the maximum in the history of the state.

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest Jalandhar News, download Indian Express App.

  • Newsguard
  • The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.
  • Newsguard