The district agriculture department has claimed that lesser area will be brought under paddy this year and around 8,000 hectares will be shifted from paddy to some other crops.
This is owing to the marketing factors as well as compulsion of the farmers. So far, farmers have not got any viable options for diversification. The most popular crops among the farmers -- cotton and basmati -- have uncertain procurement prices.
Last year, Faridkot had 99,426 hectares under paddy and a only 2,885 hectares under basmati while 15,110 hectares under cotton.
The low rates of basmati in 2011 had led to a decrease in the area under basmati to nearly half last year. But owing to the lack of rain and the worst draught in Faridkot district in the past 10 years, some farmers who wanted to grow paddy had to shift to basmati out of sheer compulsion of the non-availability of water, adding a few acreage to the basmati.
For the past few years, some of the farmers also shifted to growing paddy on more areas, which had comparatively sandy and light soils and unfit subsoil water, owing to the minimum support price of paddy and guaranteed purchase.
"Diversification will be possible only if there is a minimum support price for most of the crops other than paddy and wheat. If the farmers opt for other crops, there is no minimum support price and guaranteed purchase," says Rupinder Singh, a farmer from Bargari village.
"Basmati and cotton are a good option to reduce area under paddy, but there should be incentives for such farmers. The seeds of the BT cotton should be provided on highly subsidised rates. Besides, the government should compensate the farmers if the rates of the cotton fall below average. Basmati should also be procured at the minimum support price," says Sukhjinder Singh, a farmer from Niamiwala village.
"We have plans to reduce about 8,000 hectares of area under paddy this year. We will increase 4,000 hectares under basmati, 2,000 under cotton and 2,000 under other crops such as guar, maize and pulses," says Sukhwant Singh Sran, chief agriculture officer. "We hope to get good response from farmers as the rates of cotton and basmati remained satisfactory last year and this would be a decisive factor in bringing area under basmati and cotton," he adds.
"If we want to diversify from the water-guzzling paddy, the main factor to encourage the farmers to adopt other crops is comparatively higher income from other crops. New varieties of crops such as maize, which has a potential to give higher yield, can be an attraction for the farmers but the procurement would have to be made guaranteed on the MSP," says Kaur Singh Dhillon, district training officer.
"Though the government plans of diversification are a dream so far, as far as bringing 8,000 hectares under other crops is concerned, it seems possible due to the draught-like situation last year. Some farmers had to spend a lot but got lesser yield from paddy due to water shortage. The prices of cotton or basmati were also satisfactory and these factors would certainly lead to a decrease in the area under paddy," says an agriculture expert.
The agriculture department has confined itself only to demonstration plants. "We are having demonstration plants of cotton and direct sowing of paddy in the district," says Amandeep Keshav, project director, ATMA, Faridkot.
But the picture will become clear only in October after the report of the girdawri carried out by the revenue department.