Despite setting a target to bring down by over one lakh hectares (lh) area under rice cultivation this year, Punjab has failed and acreage under the crop has already reached up to 29.57 lh and is likely touch 30 lh again. Last year, 30.07 lh area was cultivated under rice and this year department had proposed to bring it between 28-29 lh by diverting its area to cotton and monsoon maize crops.
But lack of canal water during cotton sowing, increased MSP of assured paddy and poor rate of recently harvested ‘spring maize’ are the contributing factors to increase in area under rice. Till July 23, 2018, the area under rice (the cultivation of which was started on June 20), had reached to 29.57 lh out of which over 23 lh was dedicated under paddy rice (parmal rice) and remaining under basmati rice.
“We are expecting around 30 lh area under paddy, which is huge, cultivation this year too including over 5 lh under Basmati,” said a senior officer in the agriculture department. “We had fixed cotton area target as 4 lh, but cotton could be cultivated on only 2.83 lh as remaining targeted area went under paddy. As during cotton sowing in Punjab’s 8 cotton districts, which are mostly dependent on the canal water for irrigation, the drainage and canal department started cleaning of the canals and water could not be released in canals by the end April month which delayed the sowing for two-three weeks in majority parts of the cotton districts,” said Director Punjab Agriculture Department, Dr Jasbir Singh Bains, adding that low cotton prices in last season also discouraged farmers.
Similarly under maize, 1.50 lh was targeted but till date maize is cultivated on only 1.23 and sowing is almost over. Last year there was 1.29 lh under maize in Punjab. “When farmers will not get water for crops on time how farmers will cultivate as it happened with us in cotton season this year,” said farmer Bahadur Singh, adding that I waited for canal water in entire April month but when I didn’t get it, I decided to go for paddy.
Chief Agricultural officer Mansa district added: “In our district we wanted to dedicate 88,000 hectares under cotton but we could cultivate it on 39,000 hectares due to non release of canal water.” Farmer Harjit Singh of Kapur village, said that he aws not going for monsoon maize (July to October) but for paddy as it had more MSP (Rs 1700 per quintal) and assured government purchase.
In Punjab farmers of Kandi Belt-Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Nawashahr, Pathankot and Mohali show interest in maize due to their land compulsion where the paddy could not be sown. “We have been trying to increase the area under monsoon maize because as it will help diverting paddy area and even provided 50 per cent subsidy on maize seed too but farmers prefer assured paddy crop,” said Director, Punjab Agriculture Department, Dr Jasbir Singh Bains.
In 2012-13 under its new diversification policy, Punjab had plans to increase maize area from traditional 1.25 to 1.40 lh to nearly 5.50 lh under it till 2017-18, but result is abysmal.