Punjab readies strategy to reduce area under paddy cultivation

Chandigarh, April 21 (IANS) Reiterating his government’s firm commitment to fast-tracking agriculture diversification, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal Sunday said it has chalked out a strategy to reduce a major area of state under paddy cultivation and shift to alternate crops.

Winding up two days of intensive discussions with a central team of agriculture experts and progressive farmers here Sunday, Badal said area under paddy cultivation would be reduced in a phased manner.

Badal said that the strategy for Punjab, the state that ushered the ‘Green Revolution’ in the 1960s to make India self-sufficient in food production, would be to shift from supply-driven to demand-driven agriculture.

Under the plan, nearly 27 lakh hectares of land under paddy cultivation will be shifted to growing of other crops. These include maize (5.5 lakh hectare), cotton (seven lakh hectare), sugarcane (2.6 lakh hectare), fodder (5.5 lakh hectare), agro-forestry (three lakh hectare) and other cash crops.

“The diversification plan would be instrumental in ensuring long term sustainability and improving farm incomes,” said Badal.

He said this will help to achieve the twin objective of restoring soil fertility and checking the depletion of water table on one hand and strengthening the agrarian economy on the other.

Expressing concern over exploitation of Punjab’s natural resources, micro-nutrients of soil and ground water, Badal admitted that this had sounded alarming bells for his government to push for the second ‘Green Revolution’. He said the central government should assure the minimum support price (MSP) for alternate crops for farmers to diversify.

“The state government would submit comprehensive proposals to the union ministry of agriculture positively by April 30,” Badal told the meeting.

He said steps were also being taken to ensure that agriculture produce gets good returns for farmers through effective marketing.

Punjab Agriculture Marketing Board chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal said crop diversification was a welcome step but the central government should instil confidence among farmers by announcing MSP on all the alternate crops well in advance to motivate them to shift to these crops.

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