Punjab, which is all set for highest paddy production this year in over a decade, has already contributed almost 51 per cent to the total procurement of rice target for the entire country for the year 2017-18. The state has procured 191.17 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) paddy (parmal rice) till December 2, while Centre had fixed 375 LMT procurement target for paddy across the country. Apart from the paddy rice procurement, Punjab has also procured 13 LMT basmati rice till date. The procurement of both paddy and basmati is still continuing in the state.

The record production is the result of expected average 65 quintal yield per hectare this year against 61.93 quintal per hectare last year. Though this year the area was less under the crop as compared to last year. In a meeting of State Food Secretaries held in Delhi on July 27 this year, the procurement target for paddy in terms of rice for Kharif Crop during Kharif Marketing Season (KMS) 2017-18 was finalised as 375 LMT against target of 330 LMT of last year. In that meeting, state wise paddy procurement targets were also fixed under which the target for the Punjab was fixed 115 LMT.

Going by this figure, Punjab has also exceeds its fixed share (115 LMT) by procuring 76 LMT more paddy. Officials and farmers both expressed happiness over this record procurement, but the experts said that state has been paying a huge price for the same by hitting its groundwater mercilessly. “We had provided good quality seed, timely sowing and timely inputs helped in increasing per hectare yield which further led to record paddy procurement in past over a decade in state,” said Director Punjab Agriculture Department, Dr JS Bains, adding that this year around 50,000 hectare less area under paddy.

Farmers got around Rs 1590 per quintal this season. Also around 95 per cent lifting has already been done. But at the same time the crop is hitting the ground water adversely. In Punjab out of 141 agricultural blocks around 112 are already under dark zone. “Further extraction of water from dark zone area would lead to severe water crisis in Punjab in coming decades,” said renowned economist Sardara Singh Johal, who had given diversification policy to Punjab in early 2000.

“Though Punjab had planned to bring paddy area to 16-17 lakh hectare, but still it would not be possible till the time poor marketing of the alternative crops like maize, basmati, sugarcane etc that can be the best alternative to paddy is not dealt with,” said Bains, adding that reducing area is not a big deal but we need assured market for alternative crops too. Farmer Satnam Singh from Jandhusingha village said,”I am happy that I got 26-27 quintals per acre paddy this time and earned good profit but at the same time I need to spend around 50,000 to one lakh every couple of years to get my tubewell more deep as water is getting down with every passing year.”