January 23, 2020 2:10:43 am
In a record in recent years, farmers of Gujarat have sown Rabi crops in almost 40 lakh hectares, after receiving better-than-average monsoon rainfall in 2019. Moreover, farmers have sown cumin seeds in around five lakh hectare, the highest in the past six years, with Devbhumi Dwarka sowing the crop in a record one lakh hectare.
Kutch has also registered record sowing of cumin seeds in 62,100 hectares out of the total 1.46 lakh hectare sown this Rabi season. “Soil in Rapar and Bhachau talukas of Kutch district are suitable for cumin seed cultivation. It rained well this monsoon and irrigation water is also available in these two talukas, thanks to canals of Narmada dam project. There-fore, farmers have sown the crop in large areas,” said Nayna Patel, agriculture (extension) officer of Kutch district. Both Devbhumi Dwarka and Kutch were drought-hit in 2018-19.
As per the data available with the state agriculture department, farmers have sown Rabi crops in 39.66 lakh hectare (lh). It is 27.14 per cent higher than the past three year’s average sowing of 31.19 lh. Of that, cumin (jeera) accounts for more than 12 per cent. Farmers have sown jeera in 4.87 lakh hectare (lh). This represents 45.05 per cent increase over the past three year’s average of 3.36 lh. This acreage is the largest for any cash crop this season and is lower than only to wheat (13.90 lh) and fodder (5.75 lh). Even in terms of percentage increase, it trails only to gram (3.77 lh, 77 per cent increase) and wheat (13.90 lh, 45.85 per cent increase).
Officials of the state agriculture department ascribe the phenomenon to good monsoon. “This year, the monsoon was very good and it rained till the end of the rainy season. Thanks to rains towards the end of monsoon, there is sufficient storage of irrigation water for Rabi crops and soil moisture is also there. This has helped increase the acreage of Rabi crops,” PS Rabari, joint director agriculture (statistics) in the directorate of agriculture, told The Indian Express.
This is the highest cumin acreage in the state in the past six years. Its acreage was 3.47 lh in 2019, 3.82 lh in 2018, 2.95 lh in 2017, 2.78 in 2016 and 2.66 in 2015, data shows.
The maximum surge in cumin sowing this year is in Devbhumi Dwarka, a district known more for coriander, gram and mustard, while the traditional cumin belt of Surendranagar has witnessed a dip in the acreage. Farmers in Dwarka have sown jeera in one lakh hectare. In fact, the seed spice crop accounts for around two-thirds of the total 1.55 lakh hectares Rabi sowing in that district this season.
Pal Ambaliya, convener of farmers’ cell of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee and a farmer from Devbhumi Dwarka, said that farmers of the district have taken a risk this season. “Around 10 years ago, farmers in our district did not know that they can also cultivate jeera. Mostly they used to grow coriander, gram (chana) and mustard. But a few years ago, they started experimenting with jeera as it promises better returns. The experiments were successful and as it rained well during the monsoon, farmers have opted for jeera big time this year,” said Ambaliya.
Jeera is an extremely weather-sensitive crop. It is grown in soil with low moisture-retaining capacity in areas where weather remains dry and cold. Gujarat accounts for around 60 per cent of cumin seeds production in India with the balance coming largely from Rajasthan. Syria and Turkey are other major cumin-growing countries.
The average price of jeera at present ranges between Rs 12,500 to Rs 16,000 per quintal in agriculture produce market committee (APMC) in Unjha in Mehsana district in north Gujarat. Unjha APMC is the largest mandi of jeera in Gujarat. While jeera yields average around 10 quintals per hectare in north Gujarat, it remains around eight quintals in Saurasthra.
Ambaliya said that as compared to north Gujarat, cultivation cost of jeera remains high in Devbhumi Dwarka, one of the 11 districts of Saurashtra region. “Being a coastal district, dew bothers farmers. High humidity levels can destroy jeera altogether. But farmers of our district have realised that the land here is good for cumin seeds and that they can negate effects of dew by spraying pesticides and fungicides. This increases cultivation cost as compared to north Gujarat. But despite that, if weather remains favourable during the season, sowing jeera can prove a profitable bargain,” added Ambaliya.
Devbhumi Dwarka experienced drought in 2018 after a failed monsoon. However, the 2019 monsoon brought 168 per cent rainfall. “Devbhumi Dwarka is a water-scarce area but thanks to good monsoon, there is enough irrigation water in dams and wells this winter. With irrigation water being assured, farmers have opted for jeera, a high-risk yet highly-rewarding crop,” said Dharm-endra Jadeja, district development officer of Devhbumi Dwarka.
Farmers of Devbhumi Dwarka say jeera allows them time to sow a summer crop also. “I depend on my three open wells for irrigating crops in my 11-hectare land. But water remains available in the wells only if it rains till end of the monsoon. This year, the monsoon was very good and there is enough irrigation water. Jeera can be harvested in 90 days, the shortest period for any Rabi crop, whereas coriander and gram can take upto 120 days. Therefore, I have sown jeera in around three hectares while reducing the acreage of coriander and gram to around two hectares each. I plan to sow sesame seed in the summer after harvesting jeera,” says Hemant Ahir, a farmer of Hanjdapar village in Khambliya taluka of Devbhumi Dwarka.
With 14,900 hectare under it, wheat is the second biggest crop in Devbhumi Dwarka this Rabi season while gram has been sown in only 10,300 hectares.
Usually, Surendranagar records the highest acreage of jeera, with farmers in that district sowing the spice crop in the range of 75,000 hectares to around 90,000 hectares. Its highest jeera acreage of 95,700 hectares was recorded last winter. Banaskantha and Patan in north Gujarat usually record the second and third highest acreages of jeera respectively with farmers sowing the seed spice in average 70,000 hectares and 60,000 hectares respectively. Kutch, the semi-arid border district recorded the fourth-highest acreage in five of the past six years.
But this year, Surendranagar has been relegated to third position with farmers in that district sowing jeera in only 69,300 ha even as Banaskantha has retained its second position with 85,100 hectares. Agriculture officers say unseasonal rain has forced farmers to opt for other crops. “It rained very well during monsoon. But there were also spells of unseasonal rain towards the end of October and in the first half of November. Therefore, soil moisture levels are high in the district. Such levels of moisture can lead to fungal diseases in jeera crop. So farmers have turned to wheat and gram,” says Hasmukh Vadi, district agricultural officer of Surendranagar.
The wheat and gram acreages in Surendranagar stood at 65,900 hectares and 21,600 hectares respectively as of January 20.
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