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Gujarat agriculture fluctuates yet again: Oilseeds dip by 42.54 pc, wheat by 23.5 pc, cotton by 16.34 pc

By Rajiv Shah
Latest data obtained from sources in the Gujarat government have revealed that state agricultural production sharply dipped during the fiscal 2012-13 compared to 2011-12, such it would suggest that the state farm sector remains highly volatile, despite claims to the contrary by the state officialdom and a group of the economists. The figures show that the foodgrains production in Gujarat dipped by a whopping 22.87 per cent, cotton production by 16.34 per cent and oil seeds production by 42.54 per cent. The dip has come against the backdrop of claims by economists Prof Tushaar Shah and Prof Ravindra Dholakia, who have tried to prove in their respective studies that improved farm techniques and decentralized irrigation practices like checkdams and watershed projects have largely mitigated the impact of drought in Gujarat.
Foodgrains production in Gujarat during 2012-13, when large parts of the state were under a drought-like situation, went down from 92.95 lakh tonnes to 73.25 lakh tonnes, cotton production – which is main success due to the availability of new varieties – went down from 103.75 lakh bales to 86.25 lakh bales (each 100 bales is equal to 170 kg). As for oilseeds, which suffered the most, its production went down from 50.38 lakh tonnes to 28.93 lakh tonnes. A further breakup shows that groundnut suffered even more – its production went down from 27.17 lakh tonnes to a mere 7.58 lakh tonnes, a fall of 72.10 per cent, of wheat from 40.72 lakh tonnes to 31.35 lakh tonnes, a fall of 23.01 per cent, and of rice from 17.90 lakh tonnes to 15.90 lakh tonnes, a fall of 16.03 per cent.
Top agrarian economist Prof YK Alagh said, one of the major reasons why cotton, wheat and rice production rose in the recent years was because state government allowed farmers to lift Narmada waters from the still incomplete canal network. “The fall of production in these three crops would go to suggest that Narmada’s irrigation facilities were not easily available to the farmers last year, for whatever reasons”, he said, adding, “I presume this could be because of two reasons. While less amount of water was flowing down the main and branch canals which have been completed, the state government clamped down on farmers wanting to irrigate their fields by lifting waters straight from the existing incomplete canals by sinking diesel pumps.”
Another economist, Prof Indira Hirway, who has long disagreed with Prof Dholakia and Prof Shah that Gujarat agriculture has become considerably less volatile than the rest of India because of better irrigation and farm techniques, insists, “There could be three main reasons for this fall in agricultural production. First of all, the international market was not conducive for the rich farmers to export their produce abroad. Secondly, Narmada canals wherever they are available fail to benefit the marginal and small farmers; as a result they suffer the most in a drought-like situation. And finally, most important, large parts of the state remain rainfed. In fact, whenever there is scarcity of rainfall, the tendency of the rich farmers is to mine groundwater and deplete it to a new level.”
The figures made available from the Socio-Economic Review of the Gujarat State, published by the state government, suggest that the state agriculture has failed to come out of volatility in the second half of 2000s, when new farm techniques and decentralized irrigation facilities are claimed to have made maximum impact. Take for instance wheat. Its production was 23.19 lakh tonnes in 2005-06, reached 38.38 lakh tonnes in 2007-08, went down to 25.93 lakh tonnes in 2008-09, and further down to 23.51 lakh tonnes in the next year, 2009-10, and then rose to 50.13 lakh tonnes in 2010-11, when the Gujarat government went ga-ga over it and declared that things have begun looking up for foodgrains, one of the chief concerns in a state suffering from high malnutrition levels. However, things did not remain rosy for the next two years – it dipped to 40.72 lakh tonnes in 2011-12, and further to 31.35 lakh tonnes in 2012-13.
Cotton, which is the main success story thanks mainly to the great successes of the MNC-inspired Bt seeds from Monsanto, is also not without volatility, either. It was 40.27 lakh bales in 2003-04, rose to double as much to 82.76 lakh bales in 2007-08, and then dipped to 70.14 lakh bales in 2008-09, went up again to 103.75 lakh tonnes in 2011-12, and went into the negative in 2012-13, reaching 86.80 lakh bales. Most volatile have been oilseeds, especially groundnut, the main crop in the arid zone of Saurashtra region, where the checkdam successes are said to be rampant. The groundnut production in 2012-13 is the worst ever – a mere 7.58 lakh tonnes. It reached highest in 2010-11, to 35.75 lakh tonnes. High volatility is also seen in two other drought crops – jowar and bajra. Jowar production in 2012-13 was 1.16 lakh tonnes, vut 2.08 lakh tonnes in 2008-09, and Bajra was 10.71 lakh tonnes in 2012-13 and 16.12 lakh tonnes in 2011-12.


Area (000 hectares)
Production (000 tonnes)
         Area
Production

11-12
12-13
11-12
12-13
    (% change)
Rice
836
703
1790
1503
-15.9
-16.03
Wheat
1351
1050
4072
3135
-22.28
-23.01
Jowar
124
88
140
116
-29.03
-17.14
Bajra
866
619
1612
1071
-28.52
-33.56
Foodgrains 
4735
3681
9257
7325
-22.26
-20.87
Cotton*
3003
2515
10375
8680
-16.25
-16.34
Groundnut
1686
1294
2717
758
23.25
-72.1
Oil seeds
3130
2540
5035
2893
-18.84
-42.54












* In bales (000)

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