Four years ago, 35-year old Subhas Das, a farmer of Bankimnagar gram panchayat under Jirania block in West Tripura district, was producing only 14 quintals of paddy on his five bigha (two kani in local parlance in Tripura) plot of land. After he was motivated by the Tripura government to adopt the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method, the production went up to 24 quintals. Today, across Tripura thousands of farmers like Mr. Das are proud participants of Tripura's growth story in agriculture and allied sectors.
In 2000-01, Tripura launched a 10-year perspective plan to achieve self-sufficiency in foodgrains. The plan period was extended for another two years, up to 2012. Following the implementation of the plan, the total foodgrain production in Tripura increased from 5.13 lakh tonnes in 1999-2000 to 7.30 lakh tonnes in 2011-12, which was all-time high.
The cold storage capacity in the State increased from 3,000 tonnes in 1998 to 50,500 tonnes in 2012. In 1998 there was only one government cold storage with a capacity of 1,000 tonnes. Now there are four such cold storages with total capacity of 14,000 tonnes. Similarly in 1998, there was only one private cold storage with 2,000-tonne capacity. The number has increased to 11 with a total capacity of 36,500 tonnes. Four additional cold storages with a total capacity of 6,000 tonnes are under construction.
Irrigation is a success story for Tripura and is one of the major factors behind significant increases attained in foodgrain production. Out of a total of 1,17,000 hectares of irrigable land, about 1,10,524 ha has been brought under assured irrigation. This is a sharp increase from 40,383 ha under irrigation in 1998. The irrigable land is out of 2,55,485 ha of cultivable land. The State government plans to increase irrigation coverage to about 60 to 65 per cent of total cultivable land.
Other contributing factors behind the increase in agricultural production include expansion of areas under the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method, promotion of high-yielding varieties (HYV) of seeds and achieving the targeted 33 per cent replacement rate of HYV seeds, use of hybrid rice varieties, increasing the use of both chemical fertilizers and bio-fertilizers, and arranging credit for farmers through the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) system.
Tripura is now more than self-sufficient in the production of quality seeds. In 1998 it produced 28 tonnes of HYV certified seeds. This has now gone up to 4,500 tonnes. The use of fertilizer has increased from 29 kg/ha at the beginning of the perspective plan to 55 kg/ha. More than 90,000 acres of land has been brought under SRI to boost production. There was no hybrid paddy cultivation in the State in 1998. Now it has brought 9,612 ha under such cultivation. Production of bio-fertilizer increased from a meagre 1.4 tonnes in 1998 to 1,500 tonnes. There was no KCC holder in the State in 1998. Now there are 2,99,829 KCC holders. Rice production has increased from 2,079 kg/ha in 1998 to 2,700 kg/ha in 2012, and foodgrain production has grown from 2,015 kg/ha to 2,620 kg/ha.
The horticulture sector witnessed robust growth following the implementation of a 10-year perspective plan for its development was launched in 2002. The targets set under the plan were surpassed in 2011-12, with a total production of 12.65 lakh tonnes of fruits, plantation crops, spices and vegetables. During 2011-12, a total of 6.46 lakh tonnes fruits, 5.51 lakh tonnes of vegetables, 0.39 lakh tonnes of plantation crops and 0.29 lakh tonnes of spices was produced. The achievement in the horticulture sector could be visualised from the targets set under the perpsective plan. Under the plan, the target was to increase production of fruits from three lakh tonnes to 6.05 lakh tonnes, vegetables from 3.25 lakh tonnes to 4.38 lakh tonnes, plantation crops from 0.09 lakh tonnes to 0.22 lakh tones, and spices from 0.17 lakh tonnes to 0.20 lakh tonnes. Over the past 10 years, floriculture has emerged as an attractive sector for unemployed youth who have found employment avenues through commercial production of flowers such as anthurium, orchid and garbera under protected conditions, and marigold, tube rose, gladiolus and rose under open field conditions. The State now has 250 ha under floriculture, and the total production in 2011-12 was 1,250 tonnes. Until 1998 the State had no commercial flower production stream.
The rural economy has been buoyed by increasing production of milk, eggs and meat. It has helped marginal and small farmers to earn additional income and supported them nutritionally. Unemployed youth have found the livestock sector an attractive avenue for self-employment. The production of eggs during 2011-12 was 16.50 crore; per capita availability of eggs is 43 eggs a year against the national average of 53. The State now does not have to depend on supplies from outside to meet the requirement of meat. During 2011-12, the total production of meat was 25,000 tonnes. However, in milk production the State is still lagging behind: though the total production in 2011-12 was 1,10,300 tonnes, per capita availability is 79 gram a day as against the national average of 281 gm (2010-11). This indicates the State’s potential to generate more livelihood opportunities.
For unemployed rural youth, the livestock sector holds out promise. The government provides services in the sector through 15 hospitals, 59 dispensaries, 11 artificial insemination centres and 426 sub-centres. In fisheries, the State set a target of 13 kg of fish per capita per annum by 2011-12, but the level was achieved in 2010-11 itself, with production reaching 14.12 kg per capita per annum. However, to meet the growing requirements, Tripura imports fish from Bangladesh and neighbouring States. The State plans to increase fish production to 19 kg per capita per annum by the end of the Twelfth Five Year Plan.
Tripura is the second largest producer of natural rubber after Kerala, and so far about 50,000 families, a majority of them tribals — a large section of them are shifting cultivators -- have been economically rehabilitated through rubber plantations. Rubber has brought about a sea change in rural Tripura, particularly in the Tripura Tribal Area Autonomous District Council (TTADC) areas, as the income of the rubber growers has gone up several-fold. This will make the State an attractive destination for rubber-based industries over the next four to five years.
The growth in agriculture and allied sectors and in rubber and bamboo production has led to a steady growth in industry and commerce. The industrial infrastructure developed at Bodhjungnagar with an Industrial Growth Centre, a Rubber Park set up with technical support from the Rubber Board, a Food Park, an Export Promotion Industrial Park and a Bamboo Park being developed, bear testimony to this growth.
The State is poised to become power-surplus. The industrial climate is conducive, and more and more investors are coming in. Apart from power projects, there are two large-scale units — a steel cold-rolling mill that produces galvanised corrugated iron sheets, and a rubber thread unit. The medium-scale units include cold storages, a TMT/bars/rods/flats unit, a cement plant, and tea processing factories. The total number of registered Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises was 2,288 as in March 2012. The total investment in the industrial sector is about Rs. 700 crore, which has generated 20,000 jobs.
Tripura shares an 856-km border with Bangladesh and is developing trade and industry linkages with that country through seven land customs stations. Trade with Bangladesh grew to about Rs. 330 crore in 2011-12. National Highway 44 linking Agartala with Guwahati has been extended to Sabroom, from where the Chittagong port is 75 km away. A bridge is coming up on the river Feni connecting Sabroom with Chittagong. Once that happens, a window of opportunity will open not just for Tripura but for the entire region.
— By Special Arrangement