|• Farming families: 42 lakh
• Farmers: 1.5 crore
• Net cropped area: 54 lakh hectares
Rice: 60 lakh hectares (in three seasons)
Vegetables: 8-10 lakh hect
Jute: 6 lakh hectare
Oilseeds: 6 lakh hectares
Potato: 3.5 lakh hectares
Pulses: 4 lakh hectares
Remaining used for sugarcane, maize, other small millets, fruits and horticulture
Calcutta, Jan. 16: It is time for the Left Front government to carry out a reality check on whether farmers in the state are as happy as it would like others to believe.
The British development aid agency, Department for International Development (DFID), will study the condition of farmers in the state and whether a policy change is required to improve their lot.
The agency has finalised the parameters of the study with the government.
'The DFID study will begin soon,' said agricultural marketing secretary Bimal Pande. The idea is to find out whether farmers here get the right price for their produce or if most of it is lost in the hands of middlemen.
It will include analyses of the agricultural marketing structure and suggestions on if changes are necessary to maximise price realisation for farmers.
'The terms of reference ' what the study will be on, its objectives and so on ' has just been finalised after discussions with the state government. We are going to engage a consultant for the study soon,' a DFID official said today.
The exercise, to be funded by the DFID, will take about six to seven months. The official said: 'The government will provide the consultants information and data available with it and help facilitate the study wherever required. It might also offer figures from its own earlier observations.'
Earlier, several studies had been conducted on land-holding patterns, but not much in terms of the price realisation of poor farmers, a senior government official said. 'This is one of the most important reasons why this study needs to be undertaken. After all, the government should know how the farmers in Bengal are, especially when they constitute a large part of the Left vote bank,' he added.
However, the DFID and the government are not ready to see a political motive behind the exercise. 'The study is essential and it forms part of the DFID's overall vision of poverty alleviation in Bengal,' an official of the UK agency said, adding that the DFID and the government had jointly decided on it. Three departments ' agriculture, agricultural marketing and food processing ' will be involved.
A detailed study of the market structure in rural Bengal, comprising haats, bazaars and mandis, will be a key aspect of the study as well as how many hands the produce passes through to finally reach the market. At the end of the exercise, the consultants will point out the lacunae in the system, offer suggestions on how to do away with the lapses and suggest policy changes, if required.
The consultants are likely to speak to the farmers about their experience, living conditions and market prices. Prices of rice, vegetables and potatoes would be compared with other states. A DFID official said: 'A comparative study is essential for a feel of how the farmers here are placed in terms of the price realisation of their produce with respect to cultivators elsewhere.'