Dry spell wilts state farm output, Marathwada shadow lengthens

By Times Of India on 09 Mar 2018 | read
MUMBAI: A year after achieving double-digit growth, the state’s acutely distressed agriculture sector is set to record negative growth. The economic survey 2017-18 tabled in the legislature on Thursday pegs the growth rate of agriculture and allied sectors at -8.3% as against the 12.5% recorded last year and -4.6% in 2015, a drought year. In the four economic surveys that the BJP-led state government has tabled so far, three—barring 2016—have recorded a negative growth rate for the farm sector due to drought.
The area under pulses, cereals, oilseeds and cotton too has shown a dip in production this year.


Officials said the reason for the dip is insufficient (84.3%) rainfall in 2017. Of the 355 talukas in the state, 147 received deficient rain. In 2016, the state had received 124.6% of the average rainfall. This year in contrast, several parts, especially Marathwada and Vidarbha, recorded a long dry spell of 45 days. Production of cereals, pulses, oilseeds and cotton in the kharif season is expected to decrease by 4%, 46%, 15% and 44% respectively. The total production of cereals in the state was 32 lakh metric tonnes as against 53 lakh metric tonnes in 2016. Similarly, the total production of foodgrains was 51lakh metric tonnes as against 73 lakh metric tonnes the previous year.

Despite the monsoon playing truant thrice in four years, the water-guzzling sugarcane crop has seen an increase in area under cultivation by 45% and in production by 25%.

The rabi season, mainly dependent on the monsoon, especially when it is withdrawing, has seen a dip in area under cultivation by 31%. The area of cereals, pulses and oilseeds has decreased by 42%, 6% and 60% respectively, and production is estimated to dip by 39%, 4% and 73% respectively.

Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the biggest challenge for the state is to stop any further reduction in agriculture landholdings. “The average area of per person landholding in Maharashtra has been reducing gradually, which has also led to the dip in per hectare production,” he said. Even area under horticulture crops has shrunk: it is 15.2 lakh hectares with production of 207.5 metric tonnes as against 16.7 lakh hectares last year and production of 219.9 metric tonnes.

“The state has big plans of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. If negative growth in the sector continues, how are they going to achieve the proposed growth?” asked Dhananjay Munde, leader of opposition in the legislative council.