The state has set out to restore its area under maize to the 1970s' figure of 5.5-lakh hectares.
It has given itself five years to get to this figure from around 1.2-lakh hectares now. The target was set on Tuesday in a meeting here at Punjab Agricultural University between officials from the PAU and directorate of maize research (DMR), New Delhi.
"In the 1970s, our area under maize was 5.5-lakh hectares, which dropped to 1.2-lakh hectares because of takeover by paddy," GS Kalkat, chairman of Punjab Farmers Commission, stated after the meeting. "Our aim is to bring the figure on a par with the area in the 1970s, if not more."
OP Yadav, director of the DMR, also attended the meeting in which it came up that a few years ago, the minimum support price of paddy was less than the MSP of wheat, a trend that has reversed. Wheat and paddy growers consume 70% of the free electricity to farmers.
There is no assured procurement of maize, which disappoints farmers, Kalkat said the state wanted maize to be a major crop in the diversification process among sugarcane, cotton, agro-forestry, vegetables and fruits. "Maize has the potential to be used in the production of cornflakes, corn flour, cereals, snacks and eatables," he said, "but the government needs to bring in private companies to buy it from farmers and ensure procurement."
BS Dhillon, vice-chancellor of the PAU, was asked about the current status of the process of shifting the DMR from New Delhi to Ladowal, a proposal that Sharad Pawar, union minister of agriculture, had confirmed on Aug 29. "The expenditure finance committee will take at least 6 months to get memo cleared from the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) and minimum of one year for completing the building," he said. "We have requested them to be here by May 2013 to begin the work in next sowing season."
Initially, the scientists will do research at Ladowal and stay on the PAU campus. The arrangement will be until the infrastructure at Ladowal is complete.