India Queen basmati riceIn order to bring crop diversification in Punjab, state government, agriculture department, farm scientists and farmers have to face challenges to bring the crop diversification in Punjab and to reduce the paddy acreage.

Challenges before the state government, agriculture department and farm scientist is to bring new plans, ideate them and to implement the policies while the challenges before the farmers are to understand the new policies and to execute them for tangible effect on ground.

Tasks for farm officials is to bring the farmer’s interest to other crops like maize, sugarcane, cotton in Kharif season 2015 and to reduce the area under water-intensive paddy crop.

The work for the same has been already started by the Punjab agriculture department but they are facing a lot of obstacles as the farmers are not ready to switch to other crops as paddy provides them good margins and sure business by state procuring agencies like Marked, FCI which purchases rice/paddy from Punjab farmers for the central food grain buffer stock.

However Central government has been telling the Punjab government to switch their farmers interest to other crops so that crop diversification can be bring in Punjab also as in other states which had lower output of rice earlier, have started achieving higher production.

In states especially in eastern India which earlier had a small proportion of rice production and now has go substantially up and hence the dependency on rice producing states like Punjab and Haryana have been decreased. Both the states are both are biggest contributors to the central rice kitty.

With the scanty monsoon in 2014 with rainfall at 243.9mm which was 50% lower than the normal of 491.9mm, the farmers have to use their own money to protect and their paddy fields. Despite of weaker monsoon, the total area under paddy, including basmati, was 28.20 lakh hectares (ha), which was 6.41% higher than the target of 26.50 lakh ha. Other major kharif crops like cotton and maize had a dip of -15.09% and -18.5% respectively of the targeted area.

Higher areas under paddy have led to depletion of the Punjab’s groundwater level but farmers are more concerned about their benefits rather than the precious natural source water. “Farmers look at higher returns from paddy rather than negative impact of the crop on water table and soil health, that’s why area under maize and cotton hasn’t gone up to the targeted levels. I think the state government has to play a proactive role in motivating farmers to adopt other crops to reduce the rice acreage. Moreover, there should be better focus on marketing of crops to help farmers switch from paddy,” said noted economist P S Rangi, marketing consultant, Punjab State Farmers Commission.