Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Sep 24, 2004
Agri-Biz & Commodities
`Poor irrigation facilities affecting farm sector'
Mumbai , Sept. 23
SEVERAL major flaws in Maharashtra's policy and practices have acted as a drag on Maharashtra's agricultural growth, which is below several States and also the national average, according to a study by the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics' Agro-Research Centre.
The issues raised have serious implications to the State's economy, the study has said. The shortcomings pointed out include inadequate investment - it dropped from 30.87 per cent in the third Plan (1961-66) to 4.98 per cent in the ninth Plan ending in 2000 - and the low surface irrigation facilities and over-exploitation of groundwater with simultaneous neglect of the watershed programme, which could have helped pump in more water into the aquifers.
Low irrigation, at 17 per cent of the gross cropped area is the crux of the problem. That has led to dependence on rainfed cultivation, low productivity and predominant preference for low value crops. This in turn reduces the incomes of farmers; they in turn impact on the incomes of rural communities, especially the landless farm labour, the study said.
The study's authors Mr A. Narayanamoorthy and Mr S. S. Kalamkar argue that this is compounded by the single-minded focus on mono-cropping of sugarcane despite its declining productivity. Though only 2.60 per cent of the gross cropped area, it uses up two-thirds of available irrigation waters.
Among crops, it has the lowest net return per unit of water.
The `undesirable' mono-cropping of sugarcane in contiguous stretches for over four decades has deteriorated the soil and lowered productivity.
They suggest the crop be "discouraged in areas where output per hectare has declined or is declining ."
It may be noted however, that setting up a co-operative sugar factory is the main passion of most politicians. It stressed the need to divert sugarcane areas to horticultural production. The resultant "surplus water can be transferred to other crops and other regions as well."
While it was important to divert them to non-traditional areas, growth of some horticultural crops such as grapes, bananas and most of the vegetable crops declined or decelerated during the 90s compared to the 80s. Horticulture needs post-harvest support, both in infrastructure and marketing. Despite serious water scarcity, area under sugarcane grew by 2.62 per cent per annum between 1992-93 and 2001-02 and "recent data show that major share of additional irrigated area created is still used for" sugarcane crop. This "predominant use of water for this crop" limits the intensive cultivation of foodgrains and other crops.
"Though over-exploitation of groundwater is another important issue," it has led to failure of wells but the watershed development has lagged behind. Since 1983 when it was initiated as a policy, the average area treated annually was only 0.166 million hectares.
The potential for this 20.36 mHa. "With this current rate of growth," the study said, "it may take more than100 years to treated all the remaining potential area. Neither, it said, was low rainfall area being preferred for urgent work. For instance, Amravati district, of which 94 per cent is rainfed, only 12 per cent has been treated. This may be seen in the backdrop of the extent of irrigation."
Of the 29 districts where agriculture is possible - Mumbai and Mumbai suburban, the other two are 100 per cent urban - 14 have less than 15 per cent irrigation facility.
Therefore, the future of agricultural performance would "depend heavily" on the extent of coverage of watershed development programme because of Maharashtra's limited irrigation facility.
Stories in this Section
The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | Sportstar | Frontline | The Hindu eBooks | The Hindu Images | Home |
Copyright © 2004, The
Hindu Business Line. Republication or redissemination of the contents of
this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of
The Hindu Business Line