In a meeting on last Sunday, the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Ludhiana, decided to strengthen the most important alternative — maize crop — by narrowing down the gap in economic returns between maize and rice. The university said that diversification from rice is urgently required for water conservation. But can this move help in increasing area under maize in the state? Anju Agnihotri Chaba explains:
What is the total area under Maize cultivation in Punjab?
Around 42 lakh hectares area is under cultivation of various crops in Punjab out of which maize was cultivated on 1.60 lakh hectares this year which is around 3.82 per cent of the total cultivable area. Since 2000 onwards, the area under maize has remained between 1.09 lakh hectares to 1.63 lakh hectares only.
Also Punjab’s maize area is 1.62 per cent of the total area of maize in India, which is around 98 lakh hectares. Nearly 46 per cent maize area in India comes in the peninsular states like Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and also states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra also contribute.
To diversify from paddy, how much area should Punjab bring under maize?
Experts say that at least 12 lakh hectares area must be reduced under paddy (non-basmati), which is currently grown on 23 to 26 lakh hectares, and this 12 lakh hectares must be diversified mainly under maize, basmati and cotton crops apart from increasing area under agro-forestry and vegetables. Further, at least 5.50 lakh hectares should be diversified under maize out of which nearly 1.60 lakh is under it and 4 lakh hectares more is needed to be diversified in maize. Also under the ‘new diversification policy’ launched in 2013 for Kharif season, the then SAD-BJP Punjab government had envisioned to bring around 5.50 lakh hectares under it (maize) by 2017-18 across state, but data sourced from Punjab Agriculture Department showed that Punjab was nowhere close to this figure because of fluctuate prices of maize crop every year. Rather the area under maize either remained static or went down in all these years. It was 1.30 lakh hectares in 2012 before launching the new diversification policy, which came down to 1.09 lakh hectares in 2018 and now this year after huge efforts it was increased to 1.60 lakh hectares.
Before Green revolution in Punjab in 1960s, the area under maize was around 5 lakh hectares. It was 5.77 lakh hectares in 1970s. In 1980s, the area came down to around 4 lakh hectares and in 1990s it further went down to 3 to 2.5 lakh hectares. Year 2000 onwards, it never touched even 1.70 lakh hectares.
When is maize grown in Punjab?
It can be grown in three seasons including spring (March to June), Rabi (December to April) and Kharif (June to October). In Punjab, Kharif season is counted as the main maize season. And there is need to increase area under Kharif maize only when paddy is sown in Punjab. In spring season also around 25,000 hectares comes under maize, but it is not promoted due to its long duration which consumes water during hot summer days.
Would strengthening of maize programme by PAU help?
Already, 16 PAU recommended high yield varieties are being sown in Punjab, which includes PAU developed varsities (both long and short duration) like PMH-1, PMH -2, PMH 11, Parkash-1. Long duration varieties takes 95 to 100 days and short duration varieties 80 to 85 days. Similarly Punjab farmers are growing several hybrid varieties of private companies like Pioneer, Monsanto, Adventa, Sygenta.
“All these varieties give high yield of around 25 quintals per acre during Kharif season, but better yield varsities cannot guarantee increase in area under maize unless government policy does not support the marketing of the crop,” said a senior scientist with the PAU. He added that higher yield won’t help till there is good assured price for the crop.
Scientists at Indian Institute of Maize Research, Ludhiana, said that farmers are unable to get out of vicious wheat-paddy cycle because of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) led by government procurement of both crops, while other crops are not the government’s responsibility for procurement despite the fact that government fixes MSP of 24 crops every year.
“The crop diversification will practically happen on the ground only if there is a similar incentive for forwards looking farmers who venture into maize cultivation as part of crop diversification,” he said.
What should be the government policy to promote maize cultivation?
Scientists are of the opinion that along with developing more high yield and good varieties, of maize, free power for paddy must be stopped and there should be a policy under which out of total MSP budget available with the state government for paddy, a portion of paddy MSP funds should be shifted for diversification in maize from paddy, so as to compensate maize growers from that fund in case maize is sold below the price fixed by the Centre.
“Making such policy is not big deal for government,” said scientists, adding that the total budget will remain same only shifting of some portion budget is needed as per the proportion of diversification to other crops like Maize.
How maize is consumed in India?
Out of around 28 million tonnes of maize production in India, only 13 per cent is consumed for food, 7 per cent is used in processed food, 47 per cent is used in poultry feed, 13 per cent for other live stock feed , 14 per cent is used as starch in food textile, pharmaceutical and paper industry and 6 per cent is exported to South Asian countries including 33 per cent export to Indonesia.