Govt. plans to discourage paddy, promote horticuture, ID crops

A file photo of women engaged in paddy harvesting in a field on the outskirts of Machilipatnam in Krishna district.   | Photo Credit: BYARRANGEMENT

The State government is chalking out plans to discourage paddy starting from kharif this year. Instead, it is contemplating promoting horticulture and irrigated dry (ID) crops such as maize and jowar. The government plans have twin advantages — the farmers get remunerative prices for their produce if they switch over to horticulture/ID crops, and the gross value added (GVA) would improve significantly. Also, “over-dependence” on borewells and tanks, which is the case with paddy cultivation, is expected to come down.

“To start with, the ID crops and horticulture would be promoted in about 1.5 lakh hectare, which is under paddy cultivation,” said a senior official from the Agriculture department, who did not want to be quoted.

The government noticed that the farmers prefer to cultivate the paddy even under limited water resources resulting in low net returns. As a result, the paddy prices are not encouraging. Sometimes, it is becoming difficult to ensure remunerative prices though varieties such as BPT 5204 (popularly known as samba masuri) are being exported.

The minimum support price (MSP) is ₹1,590 per quintal. As the MSP announced by the Central government was not encouraging, the State government paid 200 more per quintal to see that the farmers would not feel the pinch of falling prices, sources say.

In addition, the groundwater usage is very high. Farmers are dependent on borewells and tanks to cultivate paddy in more than 1.5 lakh hectare in the State. Also, water is not available to farmers under the Nagarjunasgar right canal for the last three years for about two lakh hectares.

The approximate area used for paddy cultivation is 17.5 lakh hectare and 7.5 lakh hectare during khariff and rabi respectively. However, the cultivation during kharif is around 15.5 lakh hectare and the rest is left vacant for want of water and other reasons. The government proposes to bring down paddy cultivation from about 22 lakh hectare (both kharif and rabi) to 18 lakh hectare in a phased manner.

The government, in view of these facts, is contemplating introducing agro climatic crop zone method as part of its strategies — water management, crop management and internet of things (IoT) in agriculture, to increase the farmers’ income. Under this method, crops suitable for the geographic region are suggested in a scientific manner. The government would encourage cultivation of fruits and vegetables, pulses and millets like jowar instead of paddy. The plans are likely to be implemented from kharif season this year.

These plans, however, would not be implemented in rice bowl districts such as East and West Godavari (Godavari delta), Krishna (Krishna delta) and Nellore (Penna) and a few parts of north coastal Andhra, where farmers’ dependence on tanks and borewells is less. As much as 45.6 lakh hectare is used for agriculture in the State. In addition to that over 13.8 lakh hectare is under horticulture and 1.4 lakh hectare is under aquaculture. Out of 80 lakh hectare cultivable area, only 60.7 lakh hectare is being cultivated. The government feels that 11.8 lakh hectare can be brought under cultivation by following right agro climatic practices and efficient water management practices.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 7:31:19 AM |

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