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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

'Deficient' rains: Paddy area up; maize sowing hit in Punjab

PTI  Chandigarh, July 31, 2014
First Published: 19:10 IST(31/7/2014) | Last Updated: 19:24 IST(31/7/2014)

Despite "deficient" rains, paddyarea in Punjab has crossed the targeted acreage to 27.90 lakh hectares even as input cost of paddy growers is expected to go up considerably to save crop from weather-driven crisis. However, the "drought like conditions" has had an adverse impact on sowing of maize crop as area under it remained well short of targeted Rs. 2 lakh hectares.
   
 Maize is being promoted aggressively by the state government as part of its ambitious crop diversification plan in order to reduce area under "water guzzling" paddy.Punjab has witnessed about 55 per cent deficiency in rainfall so far in July, an official of Punjab Agriculture department said here.
    
"There is no problem with the paddy crop this season as acreage under paddy has gone above the targeted area. No matter what weather conditions prevail, paddy growers do not let their crop fail. They spend extra money like on diesel to run their tubewells," said an official.
 
According to a senior official of state agriculture department, Punjab paddy growers' cost is expected to increase by Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 7,000 per acre because of deficient rains.
 
So far, area under paddy has reached 27.90 lakh hectares as against 28 lakh hectares in corresponding period of last Kharif season.With Punjab laying thrust on crop diversification, the
state government had proposed to cut down area under paddy crop by 2 lakh hectares to 26.50 lakh hectares for the Kharif season 2014-15.
 
Last season, the area under paddy was 28.51 lakh hectares. On the other hand, acreage under remained 1.51 lakh hectares, much lower than the proposed area of 2 lakh hectares because of weak rains.
 
"Lesser rains this year has hit maize sowing as farmers were much concerned about paddy than maize crop. They were spending extra to save paddy and did not focus on increasing area under maize under weak monsoon conditions," an official said. Another reason of lesser area under maize was that it does not have assured market, which dissuades farmers from sowing it.
   
Notably, Punjab government had even demanded special central assistance of Rs. 2,330 crore from the Centre in order to combat "deficient" rain conditions.
    
In its contingency plan, the state had sought Rs. 1,500 crore for diverting electricity from other sectors to farm sector and buying additional power to ensure uninterrupted power supply to farmers and Rs. 700 crore for deepening of 85,000 tubewells in the state.

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