Rice production in the eastern region of India can touch 670 lakh tonnes by 2017-18 from 580 lakh tonnes now while that of West Bengal can reach 173 lakh tonnes by 2017-18 from 148 lakh tonnes now.

Apex industry body Assocham said that this could be achieved through increased usage of high-yielding varieties, improvement of soil drainage and efficient water management.

“Rice and fish production in this region needs to be scaled up as it plays a significant role in the socio-economic structure of the region, besides leading to growth in marketing infrastructure and job creation in post-harvest and other related spheres,” said Assocham secretary general D.S. Rawat.

He was talking on the basis of a recently completed Assocham study 'Towards Second Green Revolution in Eastern India: A Road Map'.

Eastern India contributes almost 55 per cent area under rice i.e. over 23 million hectares. Besides, this part of the country is also blessed with abundant natural resources, including land, water and bio-diversity. An integrated holistic approach coupled with a well-planned strategy is imperative to realise targeted average agricultural growth rate of about four per cent, according to the study.

The study said that West Bengal spearheads eastern India in paddy production followed by eastern U.P. (140 lakh tonnes), Odisha (70 lakh tonnes), Bihar (68 lakh tonnes), Chhattisgarh (63 lakh tonnes), Assam (47 lakh tonnes) and Jharkhand (34 lakh tonnes).

Identifying the major challenges faced by the region which is saddled with sluggish productivity, Mr. Rawat said that dependence on unpredictable monsoon which brings droughts and floods, low intensity cropping during kharif season, poor growth in spread of high-yielding varieties, injudicious use of fertilizers and other agri-inputs, low seed replacement rate coupled with weak extension machinery and poor credit facilities were major challenges. Assocham has suggested using hybrids, intercropping,

increased mechanisation, use of micro nutrients, extension support and demonstration centres as the keys to raise productivity.