In times of drought, when the yield in rice-producing states comes down, Punjab acts differently from the rest of the country. It does not let the yield fall as farmers don’t mind spending from their pocket and adding up to the debt.
Also, about a lakh tubewells go defunct and the state power corporation spends an extra Rs. 1,000 crore on providing power to run 11.5 lakh tubewells during drought.
As the country is worried about paddy production, agriculture experts in Punjab expect a yield of 110 lakh tonne of paddy in the current kharif season.
During the severe droughts of 1976-77, 1979-80, 1982-83, 200203 and lately in 2009-10, as the entire country drastically suffered on yield, especially paddy, Punjab’s yield improved from the previous season’s.
During these years, Punjab’s yields were 17.79 lakh tonne, 30.52 lakh tonne, 41.56 lakh tonne, 88.8 lakh tonne and 112.36 lakh tonne, respectively, which witnessed considerable increase over previous seasons that had normal rainfall.
While nationally, during these drought years, the food grain (paddy and wheat) dipped by 10 million tonne, 22 million tonne, 4 million tonne, 38 million tonne and 16 million tonne, respectively.
“Assured and regulated water supply from tubewells saves the crop, and the dilemma is that it adds to debt on farmers,” said Punjab State Farmers’ Commission consultant PS Rangi. For many more years of drought, Punjab would not suffer on yield, but it was exhausting groundwater, which is a big worry, he added.
As compared to the monsoon, in the dry spell, attack of pests is negligible and under a clear sky photosynthesis is faster, which helps the plant to grow faster, and timely irrigation leads to a better yield, said Rangi, who is keeping a tab on the trend for the past 40 years.
As one kilogram of rice requires 2,200 litres of water, the total water consumption during the kharif crop estimated by the experts touches 16,000 crore gallons.
During drought, the entire water for irrigation is dug up from the subsoil using power and diesel to run tubewells at an additional cost of Rs. 8,000 per acre.