Food crisis looming in J&K as agriculture shows disturbing signs

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JAMMU:  Jammu and Kashmir is perilously inching towards food crisis that will be imminent in few years as discouraging signs are coming to the fore in agriculture production, and in order to feed state’s 1.25 crore population its dependency is increasing on imports of food grains, a government survey reveals.
The Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) share has significantly decreased in last four decades. The GSDP was very high at 56.64 per cent in 1970-71 when the state’s population was around six million. The share has decreased to 36.68 per cent in last four decades, and scaled down further to 19.96 per cent in 2013-14 even as the population of the state has increased by 100 per cent and reached to 1.25 crore.
These figures have revealed by the government in its annual Economic Survey Report for 2013-2014 which was tabled during the ongoing Budget Session of the legislature.
The report paints grim picture of the state’s agriculture, revealing that the area under cultivation of food cultivation has shown no increase and the agro economy remains “woefully very low.”
The share of agriculture and its allied sectors, the report says, is “continuously decreasing” in the state and the agro-based economy “still remains less than two per cent which is woefully very low.”
“…average growth rate of last seven years is only 2.38 per cent, therefore is not encouraging,” the report says, adding that the growth rate of the sector for 2013-2014 is 1.44 per cent at 2004-05 prices.
The report has dashed any hope about increase or expansion in the  agriculture land, saying any expectation in arable area cannot be possible as it would mean reduction in forest coverage which is already in great stress because of limited area.
“Any increase in arable area cannot be expected as it would mean reduction in forest coverage which is already less (19.95 per cent) than desirable percentage of 20 per cent in plains and 60 per cent in hilly areas as required environmentally,” the report says.
Agriculture sector suffers from some problems of permanent nature, it points out. For instance, “arable land can’t horizontally be increased as a result land-man ration is continuously decreasing.”
“J&K is also deficient in rainfall, development of irrigational potential in the state becomes necessary for reducing dependence on import of food grains and other agriculture products,” the report says.
Listing the reasons for the poor performance of agriculture sector, the report says the area under food grains over the years has remained stagnant; hence the productivity of land as compared to its potential is less.
The state is lagging behind from different Indian states in agriculture yields of food grains and is comparably lower. “Last three year’s average measures yield rate of food grains around 15 ½ quintals per hectare as compared to more than 19 quintals at national level,” it says.
One of the main reasons for less agriculture production, according to the survey report, is unavailability of irrigation facilities. Presently the irrigation facility is available to only 43.22 per cent of the net sown area and the remaining 56.78 per cent is a rain fed area.
“A major constraint to the development of agriculture in J&K is the fact that only 50 per cent of the ultimate irrigation potential of the state has been harnessed,” it says.
J&K is also deficient in rainfall; development of irrigational potential in the state becomes necessary for reducing dependence on import of food grains and other agriculture products.
Apart from inadequate infrastructure, the reports elaborates, diverse regional topographies, difficult terrain, marginally, fragility and vulnerability to natural events cultivable area miserably low constitutes only 8 per cent of the geographical area and around 35 per cent of the reporting area as against the corresponding figure of 52.51 per cent and 54.40 per cent in India respectively.
More importantly, net area constitutes only 7.36 per cent of the geographical area and 30.88 per cent of the reported area. These indicators for different states of India are 44.22 per cent and 45.82 per cent respectively, the report says.
“Basic infrastructure like roads and communication regarded as very crucial for sustaining growth of agriculture sector are woefully poor. Besides marketing facilities are also inadequate resulting in low productivity not benefitting the efforts of the farmers properly,” it says.
Quoting the World Bank Study conducted in 1997 which estimated that 15 per cent of the agriculture produce is lost between farm gate and the consumer because of poor roads and inappropriate storage facilities alone, the report says: “Post harvest losses are one of the major reasons for low productivity. Due to low processing levels in the state there is a considerable amount of wastage of agriculture produce.”
Access of modern technology, crop loss due to weeds, insects and diseases are inter alia the basis reasons on account of low productivity. “Above all the seed replacement ration is very low,” the report adds.