Mumbai Local

‘More crop per drop’

The state’s allocation for agriculture in the budget it presented on Friday appears in tune with the four key words that describe Maharashtra’s political economy: sugarcane, cotton, water and electricity.

In the current fiscal, Maharashtra’s agriculture production has gone down by 2.7 per cent, when the overall State Domestic Product, which comprises industry, services and agriculture, went up by 6 per cent. Cotton production, in particular, went down by 60 per cent and oil seeds by 52.8 per cent, as documented in the state’s economic survey.

Two consecutive years of drought and acute water and agricultural distress in Marathwada have taken a toll on the state. The production of food grain in the state declined by 25 per cent, cereals by 19 per cent, and pulses production went down by 47 per cent. The state’s output of fruits and vegetables went down by 15 per cent. Drought and irrigation problems, farmer suicides in Vidarbha and Marathwada added to the state’s agricultural woes. The Gross State Value Added of agriculture was down by 16 per cent in the 2014-15 financial year.

Significantly, however, for a water-scarce state, sugarcane production went up by 19 per cent in Maharashtra. Ironically, while Maharashtra reported a drop in its cotton production, barely 300 to 400 km from the state’s farms, there is a bumper cotton crop in Gujarat. This could be because of better irrigation.

That being the background, the allocation made in the state budget for agriculture is a welcome thrust, like it was in the Union budget. But there are other areas of concern that need to be tackled, progressively. If this is a drought-prone state, why are we hung up on the production of sugarcane? Its farming is limited to 3 per cent of the state’s farmlands, but it uses up 60 per cent of the available water. This is clearly tied up with the political economy.

There is a need to change cropping pattern and ensure crop diversification. An appropriate crop mix is what is needed in the state. Maharashtra has to work on the slogan of ‘more crop per drop’.

Maharashtra is one of the most urbanised states in the country, and its agriculture share is shrinking. It cannot afford to ignore the plight of farmers and agriculture.

Ajit Ranade is an economist. He spoke to Roli Srivastava

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 8:35:20 PM |

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