Farmers are responding to the idea of crop diversification but have doubts about the marketing techniques and the prices of recommended crop.
They want these questions answered before they exit the traditional circle of sowing wheat and paddy. Doubt are understandable because the earlier experiments of crop diversification and rotation had failed, ruining farmers who tried it in the past. Concerned over the depleting water table because of the excessive cultivation of paddy, the state agriculture department had instructed its team in all districts to bring at least 15% of the total cultivated area under diversification in another five years.
In the draft agriculture policy, the Punjab state farmers' commission (PSFC) chairman, GS Kalkat, has proposed that the government should promote crop diversification and encourage farmers to grow maize, vegetables, cereals and pulses, offering them better marketing facilities, skill training, and minimum support price (MSP).
The districtls chief agriculture officer (CAO) Rajinder Singh Sohi claimed to have feedback from different villages that farmers were keen to adopt crop rotation but their first doubt was about the remunerative price of the alternative crop. “Crop diversification will take time to be popular, as farmers are reluctant to grow basmati rice, even though it consumes less water and fetches them better price,” said Sohi.
"Before promoting crop diversification, the government should assure farmers about appropriate marketing facilities," said Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary of the Bhari Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan). “Earlier, farmers grew sugarcane, potato, sunflower, and vegetables on a large scale but when it came to marketing and good MSP, the government failed to satisfy them and share their economic loss,” he added.
“It was the government that insisted that farmers grew more paddy. Now why would farmers sow another crop when there was no hope of better money, no assurance of purchase, and no assistance in case of damage” said the agricultural trade union leader. Like in wheat and paddy cultivation, the farmers wants girdwari (speacial revenue survey) and financial assistance to farmers in case of damage to maize, sugarcane, and cereals.
Last year, 2.73-lakh hectares was under paddy cultivation. This year, the target is to increase the area under cotton by 2,000 hectares from 11,000 hectares last year. To the 1,000 hectares each under sugarcane and maize from last year, the agriculture department wants to add 500 hectares each. Sambhar moong (cereal) will be sown in 3,000 hectares.