Steepest decline in agriculture activities last fiscal: report

Srinagar: Agricultural activities, the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy, posted the steepest decline last fiscal year compared to the past few years, the latest economic survey report says.
Agriculture and allied activities posted a negative growth of -5.06% in 2014-15. It had declined by -0.47% in 2009-10 and -1.445 in 2012-13 at constant prices.
The decline is worrying because the contribution of agriculture sector to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) has fallen to 17.66% in 2014-15 from 56.64% in 1970-71.
“Slow agriculture growth is a cause of concern for the policy makers,” reads the report tabled in the ongoing Budget session of the Assembly recently.
More than 70% of the population is directly or indirectly linked to agriculture and allied activities.
One contributing factor to the decline, or an outcome of it, is the “fast rate” at which arable land has shrunk. As per 2012 data, the report says, it has squeezed to 0.6 hectare per person from 0.14 hectare per person in 1981.
“Such small holdings create problems in farm mechanization operations and make farming non-remunerative,” it says.
Apart from population growth, urbanisation has also led to the shrinkage in per capita arable land, it adds.
In fact, the survey has termed the shrinkage in arable land as one of the major threats along with declining interest in agriculture.
“One of the important weaknesses of J&K’s agriculture lies in having more or less stagnant yields that are much lower than the neighboring states,” the report said.
Yield rate of food grains for 2012-13 was 1614 kg per hectare as compared to 4258 kg/ha for Punjab, 3698 kg/ha for Haryana and 2125 Kg/Ha at all India level. As a result of low yield rate, the farmers are not remunerated adequately.
Census 2011 also revealed that the state has 5.66 lakh cultivators, for whom farming is their main occupation, and it was 9.49 lakh in 2001.
“Youths are not interested in agriculture mainly because it is not economically rewarding and intellectually stimulating.”
As per Directorate of Agriculture Jammu estimate, the state faces deficiency of 4.35 lakh metric tonnes of food grains per annum. The last year’s flood mounted the shortage to 7.58 lakh MT.
Another major constraint to the development of agriculture, report says, is that only 50% of the ultimate irrigation potential of the state has been harnessed.
“Irrigation facility revolves between only 42% – 43% of the net area sown. As per average of the past five years irrigation facility is available to only 43.4% of the net area sown and the remaining 56.6% is a rain fed area,” it added.
With the growing population and lack of off-farm employment opportunities, the farmers are compelled to sub-divide their ancestral land properties for their livelihood, it says.
“This results in uneconomical size of land holdings unsuitable for making efficient use of water for irrigation and advanced technologies for optimizing the production”.
Lack of planning and management is another reason behind low profitability in agriculture, the survey said.