If you thought agriculture is in decline in Punjab, it's only getting worse. In yet another marker of the situation, the state's contribution to the national rice stock has touched a new low of 22.1%.
The contribution for 2011-12, down from 35% in 2000-01, 32% in 2005-06, and a shade over 25% last year, is still enough to keep Punjab on the leaders' board, but other states are rising fast. Andhra Pradesh, which contributed 21.5% in 2011-12, had even managed to trump Punjab from the top position in 2010-11 when the southern state contributed over 28% as compared to Punjab's 25.2%.
And if you thought the rice contribution was declining because of farmers going in for diversification -- away from water-guzzling kharif crop paddy (from which rice is milled) towards cash crops -- the production of oilseeds has actually declined from mere 0.73 lakh metric tonnes (MT) in 2010-11 to just 0.68 lakh MT in 2011-12, as revealed by the Punjab Economic Survey 2012-13. The share of other foodgrain crops - maize, barley, grams and pulses -- is just 1.95% in 2011-12. Worse, even cotton production declined by 11% -- from 18.22 lakh bales in 2010-11 to 16.21 lakh bales in 2011-12 - which is an indication that farmers in the famed Cotton Belt in the Malwa region are also switching to paddy.
Ironically, even the ever-increasing high production of paddy in Punjab has not been any match for the states that have seen a higher yield. What is further ironic is that the production has been rising despite much talk of diversification.
Alarming decline in groundwater has resulted in 110 of the total 138 blocks of the state being declared 'dark zones', primarily due to paddy's needs and the fact that tubewells remain the main source of irrigation in 73% of Punjab. The Central Groundwater Board has banned new tubewell connections in 18 of these dark zones, according to the economic survey.
Grants worth crores to Punjab Agricultural University for diversification research have not shown any immediate results. Many believe that shots at diversification would remain hollow as long as there are no set markets for crops like sunflower, maize and pulses.
National rice pool: Who put in how much (%)
State 2010-11 2011-12
Punjab 25.25 22.1
Andhra Pradesh 28.09 21.52
Chhattisgarh 11 11.7
Uttar Pradesh 7 9.58
Odisha 7.2 8.18
Haryana 7.2 5.72