In drought-hit Maharashtra, where 24,000 villages are reeling under water scarcity, the production of sugarcane, a water-intensive crop, has increased by 10 per cent in 2018-19 compared to 2017-18. In the same period, the area under sugarcane crop has also increased by 22 per cent.
According to the state government’s annual report for rabi and kharif crops for 2018-19, “area under sugarcane plantation has increased from 9.02 lakh hectares (2017-18) to 11.63 lakh hectares (2018-19). Sugarcane production has increased from 83,138 lakh metric tonnes (2017-18) to 91,704 lakh metric tonnes (2018-19).
According to the report, however, there has been a decline in production of other crops in both kharif and rabi season in the same period. Kharif crops were sown on 151.03 lakh hectares, a marginal increase of 0.05 per cent compared to 150.96 lakh hectares in 2017-18. Consequently, foodgrain production has declined by 12 per cent and cereals by 35 per cent. Production of oilseeds, however, has gone up by 16 per cent.
Rabi crops appear to have caused huge damage to farmers. Foodgrain from rabi crops is set to decline by 63 per cent, cereals by 68 per cent, pulses by 51 per cent and oilseeds by 70 per cent. Production of wheat is set to decline by 61 per cent. The drought had maximum impact on rabi crops as only 50 per cent of the total area were cultivated.
Paddy-growing farmers are likely to heave a sigh of relief in Eastern Vidarbha and Konkan as rice production is set to increase by 28 per cent, according to the report. Cotton production is likely to increase by 17 per cent.
At the annual meeting on Friday to take stock of the situation ahead of the coming kharif season, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis emphasised on shifting water-intensive crops from flood irrigation to drip irrigation.
He also urged agriculture universities and water management experts to evolve innovative plans to maximise agriculture production with less water.
While expressing concern over the crop loss, Fadnavis exuded confidence that overall food production for year 2018-19 would be 115.7 lakh metric tonnes. “In 2018-19, with 73 per cent deficient rainfall, we have still maintained overall good foodgrain production at 115 lakh metric tonnes. In 2017-18, the production was 118.58 lakh metric tonnes,” he said. At present, only three lakh hectares of sugarcane crops are covered by drip irrigation. The government has set a target to bring the entire sugarcane growing areas under drip irrigation in the next two years.
Water management expert Prof Rajendra Singh believes water management should be accorded highest priority in the agriculture sector in states like Maharashtra, where drought is a recurring phenomenon. “The government should take drastic measures to disallow sugarcane cultivation in drought-prone talukas of Maharashtra. There cannot be any other method to tackle the water crisis,” he said.
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