With the West Bengal government eyeing 8% growth in agriculture, an ambitious target given that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself set a 4% growth target for the country, panic over a delayed monsoon seems to be a distant memory for the state government.
“Nearly 70% of the state’s population lives in rural areas and almost two-third of our population is dependant on agriculture. We need to move at a faster pace and achieve a much higher growth rate than what the country has set. A growth rate of 8% in agriculture is desirable for West Bengal,” said P.K. Majumdar, advisor (agriculture) to the chief minister Mamata Banerjee at the 2nd India Crop Summit 2012, organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce. The two-day summit, theme ‘Enhancing productivity through best practices and farm mechanisation’ kicked off in Kolkata on Monday.
The present growth rate in the agricultural sector in West Bengal is less than 3%. According to Majumdar, other states such as Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have already achieved much higher growth rates of 10% and 18% respectively.
“Earlier, production was our main concern in order to attain food security. But now we need to lean towards crop production, keeping the market prices in mind. We have to produce crops that have better market position in greater quantities so that our farmers can sell them at profitable prices,” Majumdar added. However, he also said that overnight mechanisation in a bid to achieve the desired growth rate was not advisable, as this would displace many unskilled labourers.
“So far, we have been stressing on the crop. We need to harness the potential of a crop’s byproducts and resort to diversification. For example paddy has nearly 154 by-products like generating power from rice husk,” said the state finance minister Amit Mitra. Revealing the sorry state of the state’s coffers Mitra also said that this year we had to pay an interest of R25,000 crore. In the next financial year this would go up to R31,000 crore.