From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Issues with paddy cultivation
Mains level : Paper 3- Pathway to switch from paddy to maize cultivation
As per the latest Situation Assessment Survey (SAS) of agricultural households conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO), an average Indian farmer earned Rs 10,218 per month in 2018-19 (July-June).
SAS analysis: Variation across the states and cause of concern for Punjab
- Across states, the highest income was received by a farming household in Meghalaya (Rs 29,348) followed by Punjab (Rs 26,701), Haryana (Rs 22,841), Arunachal Pradesh (19,225) and Jammu and Kashmir (Rs 18,918).
- While the lowest income levels were in West Bengal (Rs 6,762), Odisha (Rs 5,112) and Jharkhand (Rs 4,895).
- But this is not a fair comparison as holding sizes vary widely across states.
- After normalising these incomes of agri-households by their holding sizes, as in the SAS, Punjab’s ranking on per hectare income falls from 2nd to 11th and Haryana goes down from 3rd to 15th (see figure).
- The states that would do well on this score are Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh.
- In these states, people earn their income from cultivating fruits and vegetables, spices, and livestock.
- These are high value in nature, not linked to MSPs, and market and demand-driven.
- As per the SAS, the average operated area per holding for Punjab is 1.44 ha (we have used that in the figure), but the Census gives a much higher value of 3.62 ha of average operational holding.
- If we normalise incomes of agri-households using Census values of average holding sizes, Punjab’s rank would go further down to 21st (household monthly income Rs 7,376) out of 28 states.
How can farmers in Punjab and Haryana augment their incomes with more sustainable agriculture?
1) Swith from paddy to maize
- Punjab’s former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had approached the Centre with an idea to create a fund of around Rs 25,000 crore to help farmers switch from paddy to maize.
- The Centre should give this idea a serious thought with the following modifications:
- One, the fund should be under a five-year plan to shift at least a million hectares of paddy area (out of a total of 3.1 million hectares of paddy area in Punjab) to maize.
- Two, the corpus should have equal contributions from the Centre and state.
- Three, since Punjab wants that farmers be given MSP for maize, an agency, the Maize Corporation of Punjab (MCP), should be created to buy maize from farmers at MSP.
- Four, this agency should enter into contracts with ethanol companies, and much of this maize can be used to produce ethanol as the poultry and starch industries will not be able to absorb this surplus in maize once a million hectares of paddy area shifts to maize.
- Fifth, maize productivity must be as competitive as that of paddy in Punjab and the best seeds should be used for that purpose.
- This is to ensure that ethanol from maize is produced in a globally competitive manner.
- The GoI’s policy for 20 per cent blending of ethanol in petrol should come in handy for this purpose.
- Other parts of the diversification strategy have to be along the lines of increasing the area under fruits and vegetables, and a more focused policy to build efficient value chains in not just fruits and vegetables but also livestock and fisheries.
- They are more nutritious and the SAS data shows that their profitability is much higher in these enterprises than in crop cultivation, especially cereals.
- The sector needs to be backed by proper processing, grading and packaging infrastructure to tap its full potential.
Benefits of switching to maize from paddy
- Punjab will arrest its depleting water table as maize needs less than one-fifth the water that paddy does for irrigation.
- Also, Punjab will save much on the power subsidy to agriculture, which was budgeted at Rs 8,275 crore in the FY2020-21 budget, as paddy irrigation consumes much of the power subsidy.
- This saving subsidy resulting from the switch from paddy to maize can be used to fund a part of the state’s contribution to the Maize Corporation of Punjab.
- This could result in a win-win situation for all — farmers, the Government of Punjab and the country — as there will be lesser methane emissions and less stubble burning.
- Moreover, ethanol will also reduce GHG emissions in vehicular pollution.
Consider the question “Switching from paddy cultivation to maize can help the Punjab farmers deal with the several issues. In light of this, explain the issues with paddy cultivation and suggest the way forward.”
Their income on a per hectare basis needs to increase more sustainably, protecting the state’s land, water and air from further degradation, and producing more nutritious food. Punjab can then shine again on the nutritional security front with sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture.