With only wheat in the fields during the rabi season, there is little crop diversification in the district, compared to the kharif season when paddy, basmati and cotton are grown as major crops.
During the rabi season, almost the entire cultivable land is covered with wheat. In Muktsar, wheat is expected to be sown on about 2, 06,000 hectares, leaving only 10,000 hectares for other crops.
Faridkot has about 1, 15,000 hectares under wheat while only 1,600 hectares for pulses, barley and oil seed crops.
The agriculture department of Muktsar now wants to promote sugarcane on limited area, a small step to strengthen the farm economy and usher in diversification.
"We want to bring about 10,000 to 20,000 hectares in the district under sugarcane and encourage farmers to grow the crop which can be sold for extraction of juice in the local market. By installing crushers, farmers can produce jaggery (gur) and shakkar," said Beant Singh, chief agriculture officer, Muktsar.
However, Singh admitted that only a small area could be brought under sugarcane as there may be a glut in the local market if the crop is grown on a large scale.
"We want farmers to grow sugarcane as they used to, on patches for their own consumption too. We have also sent our proposal to the government to help install sugarcane crushers in clusters," he said.
The only impediment is that Muktsar has no sugar mills or crushers so far. With the only cooperative sugar mill in Faridkot closed for years now, the district seems to have lost the opportunity to bring area under the sugarcane crop.
"The district had potential to bring about 8,000 to 10,000 hectares under sugarcane but as the only sugar mill in the area has been closed, there is little scope. Also, since cereal crops ensure income, farmers are not inclined to grow other crops," said Atma Singh Sidhu, chief agriculture officer, Faridkot.
"My cousin and I had grown sugarcane on two acres of land two years ago to sell it to the local juice extractors. But as sugarcane takes a year to mature and buyers want it during summer when the demand for juice increases, I lost three crops," said Jaswinder Singh, a farmer from Bir Sikhan Wala village.