| Tough times
Patna, Aug. 30: Insufficient monsoon rain and lack of irrigation facilities have dealt double blow to paddy cultivation in Bhagalpur and Banka districts, once known as the state’s rice bowl for record production.
Rainfall still remains the major source of water necessary for irrigating the paddy fields in this region.
The south-eastern part of Bhagalpur and the entire northern zone of Banka is known for Katarni, a variety of rice that commands a wide demand in different markets across the country. The changing pattern of the climate as well as the state government’s apathy in creating irrigation facilities for Katarni paddy fields in this region have hit the production.
“Bhagalpur and Banka, considered a big rice producers even five to seven years back, now depend on Bengal for fulfilling the requirements of local residents,” said Lallan Roy, a farmer at Bhagalpur. All trains from Bengal passing through Bhagalpur transport rice to this region, he added.
Speaking about the rates, Rajnath Dubey, a rice merchant at Bhagalpur, said: “Market rates of rice have gradually risen in the past six months by Rs 6-10. Sonam Arwa, for example, is being sold for Rs 37 a kg, which was available at Rs 30 a kg a month ago and at Rs 26 around six months ago. But the best variety of Katarni, presently sold for Rs 68-70 a kg, was available for Rs 58-60 six months back.”
Rice merchants in this region blame low rice production for the steady climb in prices. According to sources in the local agriculture department, the production of rice saw a sharp fall over the past three years. In 2011, Bhagalpur district produced nearly 3 lakh tonnes of rice from paddy cultivated on 52,329 hectares of land. In 2012, the production dipped to 1.11 lakh tonnes and cultivated area to 24,795 hectares.
Anandi Das, a Katarni farmer in Banka, said: “This time, 52,000 hectares was targeted for paddy cultivation but there is little hope of success because of poor monsoon. We still have to adopt traditional measures for cultivation, so have to depend on monsoon rain. We do not have any alternative irrigation facility.”
Echoing him, R.N. Sharma, chairman, plant genetic and breeding-cum-dean, agriculture, Bihar Agriculture University (BAU), Sabour, said: “Scientists at BAU have been busy in researching varieties of rice that need lesser water but give high yield.”