Mukherjee: New initiative
New Delhi, July 9: The government is looking at increasing agricultural productivity in eastern India through another green revolution.
Central government ministers will meet the chief ministers of six eastern states tomorrow to discuss the issue. The meet is likely to give a push to the cultivation of paddy and pulses in the region.
The meeting, to be chaired by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and attended by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, will be held in Calcutta.
The chief ministers attending the meet are from Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa.
Issues to be discussed include the resources that the states have at their disposal to improve productivity and soil condition.
The Centre has allocated Rs 700 crore in the Union budget for increasing agricultural output Rs 400 crore for the green revolution and Rs 300 crore for soil enhancement measures in rain-fed areas.
The first green revolution introduced high-yielding wheat varieties that need a lot of irrigation, fertiliser and pesticide. The focus of the second green revolution will be on the adoption of new seed varieties, farm machines, nutrients and knowledge-based intervention across climatic zones.
In the eastern states, the average yields of rice and pulses have been below the all-India figures.
According to government data, compared to the all-India average yield of 2,178 kg of rice per hectare in 2008-09, the output was a mere 1,599 kg per hectare in Bihar, 1,176 kg in Chhattisgarh, 2,031 kg in Jharkhand, and 1,529 kg in Orissa.
Bengal fared marginally better with an average rice yield of 2,533 kg per hectare. Production of rice per hectare in Punjab during 2008-09 was 4,022 kg, while in Haryana, it was 2,726 kg.
Production of pulses in the east is below the all-India average.
However, agriculture scientists and experts see great potential to enhance the production levels.
The meeting will discuss ways to encourage the use of hybrid varieties of rice seeds and increase the availability of power and water.
The need to come out with state-specific solutions will be on agenda.
For Bengal, the meet will consider strategies for areas with arsenic problem and those plagued by salinity and inundation problems.
Propagation of salt-tolerant varieties, especially for small landholdings, will be examined.
In the flood-prone Bihar, promotion of hybrid rice and submergence-tolerant rice varieties, reclamation of problematic soils and zero tillage technology for timely sowing of wheat in low-level areas are some of the strategies under consideration.
Meanwhile, Pawar today expressed optimism that India is likely to have bumper foodgrain production in the 2010-11 crop year on the back of a good monsoon and a rise in area under cultivation.
Foodgrain production dropped by seven per cent in the 2009-10 crop year (July-June) to 218.19 million tonnes from a record 234.47 million tonnes in the previous year because of a severe drought that hit almost half of the country.
The way sowing operation is undergoing and reports of good monsoon from the states, we are likely to have a bumper crop (production) this year, Pawar said.
He said the governments role in fixing sugar sales quota on industry could be ended if there is good production in cane crop starting October. However, the government would continue to fix the support price of sugarcane for farmers.
The government controls the sugar sector right from fixing the support price of cane to allocating the monthly quota of sugar that mills sell in the open market.
He said the government will have an estimate of sugarcane planting and sugar output of 2010-11 by September first week. Sugar year runs from October to September. Based on the assessment, we will take a final decision (on decontrolling sugar sector) and recommend to the Cabinet. Till then, we will not recommend, he said.