Agricultural Scenerio in Himachal Pradesh – A Macro View

With 91 per cent population living in the rural areas of the State and about 70 per cent of the total work force depending upon agriculture, farm economy of the State assumes a great significance in the context of raising the overall rate of growth of the economy on the one hand, and raising the incomes of the vast multitude of farmers, on the other. The farm sector also faces serious constraints on productivity front in the State in the sense that nearly four-fifth of the farm holdings belong to the small and marginal category, the irrigated area constitutes about one-fifth of the total area under plough and the technology innovations are not possible in relation to the economies of scale due to topography and climatic conditions.

Much has been said about the horticultural revolution in the State and lately, one has heard about the emergence of vegetable cultivation as a high return activity. These need to be gone into to understand whether any such achievements really exist and if yes, what is their magnitude and sustainability in the State.

This paper attempts at taking an overview on the farm sector in the State vis-à-vis the all-India scenario. In proceeding in that direction, it is necessary that some basic statistics are presented and then productivity comparisons are made with a view to identifying the niche areas or areas of distinct comparative advantage. Table 1 below presents the distribution of farm holdings and the area commanded for the State of Himachal Pradesh and all-India.

Table 1: Distribution of holdings, area and the average size of holdings according to 1995-96 Agricultural Census

Holding type HP number (‘000) HP area (‘000 ha.) Average size HP

(Hect.)

India number

(‘000)

India area (‘000 ha.) Average size India (Hect.)
Marginal 556 230 0.41 71179 28121 0.40
Small 173 241 1.39 21643 30722 1.42
Semi- medium 95 256 2.69 14261 38953 2.73
Medium 34 194 5.71 7092 41398 5.84
Large 5 78 15.60 1404 24163 17.21
Total 863 1000 1.16 115580 163357 1.41

It is interesting to note that the marginal and small holdings account for 84.5 per cent of the total holdings in Himachal Pradesh whereas the all-India situation indicates the number of holdings in these categories at 80.3 per cent of the total. As for the area commanded, the position in Himachal Pradesh is better than the all-India scenario. These holdings command 47.1 per cent of the total area in Himachal Pradesh as against the all-India figure of only 36.0 per cent. One important inference is that the generally advanced argument that the marginal and small holdings abound in Himachal Pradesh and therefore, act as a constraint in efforts to raise productivity, therefore, does not hold enough water. In fact, the situation at the all-India level is a bit worse due to much lower command over the area by these categories of holdings. The topographical and climatic variations in Himachal Pradesh do offer a greater scope for excellence than the all-India scenario. Coming to the overall holding size for these categories put together, it is 0.65 hectares for Himachal Pradesh against the all- India average of 0.63 hectares. One can also infer that the technology constraints operate almost identically in both the situations and lower holding size and preponderance of marginal and small holdings should not act as a damper on the larger question of productivity.

Apart from the distributional aspect of the farm holdings, the other body of data needing a look at on the supply side of productivity is the land use of the available area. The data in this behalf is presented in table 2 below:

Table 2: Aspects of land use data constituting the supply side of farm productivity (‘000 hectares)

Land use HP

1992-93

HP

1999-2000

All-India

1992-93

All-India

1999-2000

Net sown area 573 551 142509 141231
Gross cropped area 973 953 185487 189740
Net Irrigated area 100 102 50296 57238
Gross irrigated area 175 179 66761 76336
Area under foodgrains 843 823 123148 123104
Area under non-

Foodgrain crops

129 134 62339 66636
Fertilizer consumption in Kgs./hect. 29.35 39.02 66.34 95.23

The above data will now be analysed to understand the overall structure of the farm economy for the State of Himachal Pradesh as compared to the all-India picture on the one hand, and also for analyzing the changes that have taken place in the two over time, i.e. from 1992-93 to 1999-2000.

The percentage of net irrigated area to the net sown area in Himachal Pradesh has increased marginally from 13.4 per cent in 1992-93 to 13.7 per cent for 1999-2000. The comparative figures for all-India are 35.29 per cent and 40.53 per cent, respectively. The ratio of the net irrigated area to net sown area at the all India level for 1999-2000 is three times as compared to Himachal Pradesh. Clearly, this fact emerges as a possible constraint on the productivity potential for the State of Himachal Pradesh. The other indicator of performance of the farm economy is the cropping intensity. The cropping intensity in Himachal Pradesh increased from 169.8 per cent in 1992-93 to 173.0 per cent in 1999-2000. The corresponding figures for all-India are 130.1 per cent and 134.3 per cent, respectively. A higher cropping intensity in Himachal Pradesh is indicative of a much intensive use of the area under the plough as also the available irrigation potential created. This should generally auger well for a better productivity picture for Himachal Pradesh as compared to the country average.

Another attribute of productivity is the fertilizer use. The data in Table 2 above indicates that per hectare fertilizer use in Himachal Pradesh is at one-third the level of the all-India average. This appears to be a factor responsible for comparatively lower productivity in Himachal Pradesh. However, it would be a bit out of place to accept it as such despite the fact that firm data on the overall availability of manure from the animal wealth in the State is not available. It is, however, important to mention that the livestock population of the State is about 55 lakh and could be contributing significantly to the availability of manure for the farm operations.

Another attribute which can be considered as an important indicator of farm diversification and better productivity in the context of Himachal Pradesh is the shift from foodgrains to non-foodgrain crops. The data presented above in Table 2 indicates that there has not been any significant change in the area under non-foodgrain crops over the period under study from 1992-93 to 1999-2000. However, there has been a perceptible increase in the area commanded by the non-foodgrain crops at the all-India level from 33.6 per cent of the gross cropped area to 35.1 per cent during the same period. An important inference that can be drawn here is that the much hyped farm diversification story of Himachal Pradesh is not all that true. This inference again needs to be taken with greater care because the data available for area under fruits and vegetables in Himachal Pradesh appears to be not getting correctly reflected in the annual season and crop reports, the only authentic source of such data.

With this preliminary analysis on the supply side of the productivity, it would be interesting to go into the productivity data for various crops for which the comparative data for all-India and Himachal Pradesh is available.

Since wheat, maize and rice account for a majority of the area under foodgrains, it will be appropriate to compare the productivity scenario for these crops over time. The productivity data for these crops over time for Himachal Pradesh and all-India has been analysed and presented in the following text. The data for rice crop is contained in the following table:-

Table 3 : Productivity data of rice : HP and all-India over time

Year HP area

‘000 ha.

HP production

“000 Tonnes

HP Yield per ha. (Kgs) All India area

lakh ha.

All India production

Lakh tones

Yield all India

(Kgs.)

1973-74 96.8 117.5 1214 382.85 440.51 1151
1983-84 92.8 111.5 1202 412.44 600.97 1457
1993-94 82.3 101.9 1238 425.39 803.00 1888
2001-02 80.6 137.4 1700 446.22 930.48 2090
Per cent increase (-)16.7 16.9 40.0 16.6 111.3 81.6

The data presented in the above table indicates an interesting picture. For Himachal Pradesh, the area under rice has declined by 16.7 per cent over the period under study whereas the production has increased by about 16.9 per cent. The result is that productivity per hectare has increased over the study period by about 40 per cent. Coming to the all-India picture, we see that the area has shown an increase of about 16.6 per cent, the production has increased by about 111.3 per cent and the productivity per hectare has gone up by 81.6 per cent. These two parameters present a distinct picture for Himachal Pradesh vis-a-vis the all-India scenario. There has been a decline in the area under rice in Himachal Pradesh despite a 40 per cent increase in the productivity. What could be the reasons for such an area loss need to be studied separately? However, it would not be far-fetched to make a conjecture that the green revolution may have made a small impact in the State as far as rice crop is concerned. The bottom-line is that the productivity increase in Himachal Pradesh has been below 50 per cent of the national average and cultivation of rice does not appear to be presenting a situation of distinct advantage in the farm scenario for Himachal Pradesh. This is indicative of the trend in the decline in the area under rice cultivation in the State.

We now turn to another Kharif crop, i.e. Maize. As is generally understood, maize has a higher level of productivity in Himachal Pradesh as compared to the all-India average. Let us see how the actual data exhibits this popularly understood situation. The data in this behalf is presented in table 4 below:-

Table 4: Productivity data for maize: HP and all-India comparison of area, production and productivity over time

Year HP area

‘000 ha.

HP production

“000 Tonnes

HP Yield per ha. (Kgs) All India area

lakh ha.

All India production

Lakh tones

Yield all India

(Kgs.)

1973-74 247.8 435.5 1758 60.15 58.03 965
1983-84 295.3 588.6 1993 58.59 79.22 1352
1993-94 314.6 669.8 2129 59.95 96.01 1602
2001-02 301.3 768.2 2550 65.93 133.02 2020
Per cent increase 21.6 76.4 45.1 9.6 129.5 109.3

It is revealed from the above data that area under maize has grown at a much faster rate in Himachal Pradesh as compared to the all-India scene. The growth in area in Himachal Pradesh over the study period was 21.6 per cent against the all India figure of 9.6 per cent only. If the expansion in area is discounted from the increase in production, the increase in productivity for Himachal Pradesh at 45.1 per cent as against the all India figure of 109.3 per cent is indicative of the fact that the productivity increase in Himachal Pradesh has not kept pace with the all India situation. Let us compare the pace at which the gap in productivity has closed. The all India productivity of 965 kilograms per hectare in 1973-74 was at 55 per cent of the Himachal Pradesh figure of 1758 kilograms per hectare. The gap has considerably closed in the sense that the per hectare productivity for 2001-02 for all India at 2020 kilograms stands at 79.2 per cent. It clearly emerges that productivity increase in Himachal Pradesh has accelerated at a slower rate than the all India situation. This is more due to the fact the base figure for all-India was abysmally low. The analysis does not capture the data for post 2001-02 period when there has been a marked increase in the area under command of the high yielding hybrids of maize in Himachal Pradesh. In fact, incremental output of maize in Himachal Pradesh is perceived as an important component of the strategy for accelerating the growth in the contribution of farm sector in the net State Domestic Product in Himachal Pradesh. Having seen the comparison for the two major Kharif crops, we now turn to wheat, the single major crop for the Rabi season. The data in this behalf is presented in the following table:-

Table 5: Productivity data for wheat: HP and all-India comparison of area, production and productivity over time

Year HP area

‘000 ha.

HP production

“000 Tonnes

HP Yield per ha. (Kgs) All India area

lakh ha.

All India production

Lakh tones

Yield all India

(Kgs.)

1973-74 302.7 287.0 948 185.83 217.77 1172
1983-84 357.1 288.1 807 246.72 454.76 1843
1993-94 373.1 412.6 1104 251.47 598.40 2380
2001-02 375.4 604.2 1610 259.23 718.14 2700
Percent increase 24.0 110.5 69.8 39.5 229.8 136.3

The data in the above table clearly reveals that the expansion in area, increase in production and the productivity per hectare for wheat in Himachal Pradesh has lagged far behind the all-India picture. One major reason for this is the low proportion of irrigated area in the State, as has been indicted in an earlier section of this paper.

With this analysis of the cereal crops, it can be safely inferred that except for maize, the other crops do not hold out any promise in Himachal Pradesh towards raising the incomes of the farmers and impacting the growth rate of economy.

A lot has been said about the horticultural revolution in Himachal Pradesh. It would be of interest to analyse the comparative performance in the State and the country at the macro level. The data for all fruits and nuts is presented in the following table:-

Table 6: Productivity data for fruits and nuts: HP and all-India comparison of area, production and productivity over time

Year HP area

‘000 ha.

HP production

“000 Tonnes

HP Yield per ha. (Kgs) All India area

lakh ha.

All India production

Lakh tones

Yield all India

(Kgs.)

1991-92 157.2 339.9 2162 28.74 286.32 9961
1994-95 189.7 325.5 1716 43.09 386.03 8957
1998-99 207.1 448.0 2163 37.27 440.42 11818
2000-01 213.0 438.3 2058 38.87 453.70 11673
Percent increase 35.5 28.9 (-)4.2 35.2 58.5 17.2

It is brought out from the above data that the area expansion under various fruit and nuts in Himachal Pradesh between 1991-92 and 2000-01 has been of an almost identical order, i.e. about 35 per cent. But it is important to underline the fact that the productivity picture for the country and Himachal Pradesh is distinctly different from each other. The productivity in Himachal Pradesh has more or less remained static, and in fact, the point to point data shows a decline of the order of 4.2 per cent. On the other hand, the productivity at the all India level has increased by a little over 17 per cent for the same period. Another important fact which needs to be realized is that the per hectare output in Himachal Pradesh is at a level of around one-fifth of the all India level. Also, it was at 21.7 per cent in 1991-92 and has consistently declined over time and stands at 17.6 per cent for 2000-01. At an overall level, it is clear that the productivity level of fruits and nuts taken together in Himachal Pradesh is far below the all India average and therefore, cannot be competitive. In this perspective, the need to look at the productivity of apples which constitute over 85 per cent of the total fruit output in the State and is said to have ushered in a revolution in fruit production gets more pronounced to examine if Himachal Pradesh has a distinct advantage for this fruit crop. The data in this regard is presented in Table 7 below:-

Table 7: Productivity data for apples: H.P. and all-India comparison of area, production and productivity over time

Year HP area

‘000 ha.

HP production

“000 Tonnes

HP Yield per ha. (Kgs) All India area

lakh ha.

All India production

Lakh tones

Yield all India

(Kgs.)

1991-92 66.8 301.7 4519 1.946 11.477 5899
1994-95 75.5 294.7 3905 2.107 11.831 5614
1998-99 85.6 393.7 4597 2.314 13.804 5965
2000-01 88.7 376.7 4247 2.398 12.266 5115
Percent increase 32.8 24.8 (-)5.9 23.2 6.9 (-)11.9

The data presented in the above table will be viewed from two angles. Firstly, whether productivity of apples in Himachal Pradesh has a distinct edge over the all-India picture and secondly, how does the State contribute to the apple output for the country.

The area expansion has occurred at a higher level for Himachal Pradesh and so has the production increased. The productivity shows a disturbing declining trend in both the cases. However, it is important to see that per hectare production of apples in Himachal Pradesh has consistently been lower than the all-India average. Therefore, the State does not have a distinct advantage even in the case of apple cultivation.

Now coming to the share of Himachal Pradesh in the overall area and production of apples in India, we see that the area under apples in Himachal Pradesh accounts for about one third of the area in the country and the production accounts for a proportion of about 26 per cent to 30 per cent. If we look at the average production per hectare for the four points in time, the average for Himachal Pradesh at 4317 kilograms against the all India average of 5648 kilograms is at a level of about 75 per cent. This also at an overall level does not constitute a position of distinct advantage.

These pointers indicate to a serious problem and it may be necessary to do a detailed analysis of how the apple industry has helped the economy of the State, the revenues of the State Government and the economy of the individual farmers. The protection provided by the successive State Governments to cultivation of apples also needs to be analysed. These are necessary in view of the WTO regime becoming fully operational in the very near future.

Having said this about apple cultivation in Himachal Pradesh, one may look at the situation of other fruits and nuts as well. The requisite data is contained in table 8 below:

Table 8: Productivity data for fruits and nuts other than apple: HP and all-India comparison of area, production and productivity over time

Year HP area

‘000 ha.

HP production

“000 Tonnes

HP Yield per ha. (Kgs) All India area

lakh ha.

All India production

Lakh tones

Yield all India

(Kgs.)

1991-92 90.4 38.2 442 26.80 274.84 10256
1994-95 114.2 30.8 270 40.99 374.20 9129
1998-99 121.5 54.3 447 34.95 426.62 12205
2000-01 124.3 61.6 495 36.47 441.43 12104
Percent increase 37.5 61.2 12.0 36.1 60.6 18.4

The data presented in the above table reveals, without an iota of doubt, that the productivity levels for other fruits and nuts in Himachal Pradesh are abysmally low as compared to the all India level. Also, the productivity increase in this case for Himachal Pradesh has lagged behind the all India averages consistently.

It transpires from the above analysis that the horticulture sector in Himachal Pradesh does not constitute a position of distinct advantage even in the country context, what to mention of global competitiveness. A similar analysis for the vegetable production could not be included in this paper for want of appropriate data and would be attempted subsequently.

In terms of the policy prescriptions, the recent emphasis on bringing more area under the maize crop by planting high performance hybrids, promoting vegetable cultivation and accelerating the root stock and clonal changes alongside the replant programme under horticulture appear to be the steps in the right direction. It is extremely important to underline that farming at a larger level appears to be a subsidiary occupation despite that fact that it accommodates nearly 70 per cent of the work force according to the census data. Another critical area is reducing the massive gap between the irrigation potential created and actual utilization. The true depiction of the area data for the farm sector is another area of concern because the Annual Season and Crop Reports do not capture the area under fruits and vegetables correctly. The data on irrigation also suffers from the infirmity of the Annual Season and Crop Reports not getting updated as the newer areas are brought under assured irrigation. The farm productivity improvements in Himachal Pradesh will have to follow a district by district project based approach so that for each district, a lead crop or group of crops is brought into focus to utilize the distinct advantages available. Post harvest handling and marketing continue to pose a serious threat to the vulnerable farmers and State intervention may not be the correct way to address it. The policy formulators in the State also need to factor in the changes and challenges that are emerging from the WTO prescriptions despite the fact that the Government of India is attempting to ensure as safe and protective regime for the Indian farmers as the trans-country agreements would admit.

DK Sharma, an economist, retired as Principal secretary planning government of Himachal.

Image Credit.

Devinder Kumar Sharma, a former Principal Adviser and Secretary Planning, Government of Himachal Pradesh, is a visiting professor and an economist. He lives in Shimla.

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2 Comments

  1. That’s a very detailed analysis done about what ails the farm sector in Himachal.

    It has been interesting to note that despite Himachal being considered to have distinctive advantages for growing fruit crops, yields obtained in apples crops even have actually deteriorated.

    While drawing inferences from a point to point comparison may not be reflecting the right picture but the trend does become obvious.

    The scenario for wheat and rice is not too got either. Interestingly, while acreage under rice has decreased but the production has gone up. However, Yields are much lower when compared at all India levels.

    Maize, the yields are better than all India levels and of late there is a lot of demand for this commodity as US and other countries divert Maize supplies for manufacture of bio-fuels.

    Could this crop fetch better revenues for farmers under changed conditions needs to worked upon. Besides there is hardly any food processing unit to turn the crops into value added products that could translate into better returns.

    The study does show the problems Himachal agriculture faces but factors like global warming and changing climatic patterns needed to compared alongside to understand how much of an impact that has had on mountain crops.

  2. says: Dr. U K KOHLI

    It does show that the tall claims made by Horticulture sector in HP are more for publick digestion. We are no where in reckoning at least in global trade of apples. Asking for subsidy and protectionism for marketing of apple concentrate agaist China does not have any merit. We should be serious to tackle woefully low productivity in the first place to be competitive at home .

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