Punjab's water-guzzling paddy season starts in a fortnight amid forecast of a deficit monsoon, but the worry is not a fall in production.
Drought fears of top agricultural scientists have cast a cloud over the coming kharif season and put the government machinery into contingency-planning mode even when 98% of the state's 28.5 lakh hectare paddy area is irrigated by tubewells (72%) and canals (26%), and only 2% in the kandi (sub-mountainous) belt is rain-fed. Clearly, the possibility of damage to crop is remote. "The worry is not a fall in production but an increase in the input cost," said state agriculture minister Tota Singh, "There is no mechanism to compensate the farmers for input cost, as they aren't paid more than the minimum support price (MSP), which is going to be `1,360 per quintal for the coming paddy season."
When representatives from the agriculture departments of paddy-growing northern states (Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh) met the Union agriculture ministry officials on April 2, Punjab said it didn't want compensation for extra diesel burnt to run tubewells, if the rainfall is deficient. "Our government is ready to purchase surplus power worth `2,000 crore for exigency. We don't want farmers to waste fuel," said the minister, promising farmers at least 8 hours of uninterrupted power supply to tubewells each day in this kharif season.
"A 20%-deficient monsoon is expected. The last monsoon was 35% deficient, when the state had sought a compensation of `2,330 crore from the Centre but received a meagre `78 crore," said agriculture director Mangal Singh Sandhu, adding: "In spite of the drought last season, our total paddy production was 169.43 lakh tonnes; and this year will be just as good, although with higher cost."
Compensation Punjab wants
`100 for each quintal lost, in case of rainfall deficit of more than 20%
`200 per quintal, if monsoon is more than 40% deficient
`500 per quintal for maize and cotton, if rainfall deficit is more than 20%
50% of the amount in advance
Note: The formula was proposed in the April 2 meeting with the Union agriculture ministry officials
Expected crop areas
Paddy 28.5 lakh hectares
Cotton 5.2 lakh hectares
Maize 2 lakh hectares
Transplanting starts on June 15
How Punjab is irrigated
72% by tubewells
26% by canals
12.74 lakh tubewells in state
Area that will be most affected by deficient monsoon: Kandi (sub-mountainous) belt