Isn’t it ironic that our agrarian economic region is a food deficit one with about 80% of its population engaged in agriculture and allied sectors. However, It feels like that the contributor of primary economy has disappeared from the J&K’s economic radar screen and that has put at the region in a competing condition, exporting fruits to other regions. But the food grain production distress has put whole sector in a bad shape and has squeezed it. Looking at numbers, J&K imports about 7 lakh MTs of food grains every year. In the year 2013-14, the food grain production was 9.9 lakh MTs; still the region was deficit by the percentile of 21.7 ( about 2.65 lakh MTs).
Initially, the things were different the state was self-sustaining and the balance was maintained between the rate of production and consumption of food grains. The point is that J & K should be concerned about it because staple diet of state falls among field crops.
There are many factors that add to this distress and among them the major two factors that add gravitas to this are the administration’s policies and the insulation of research institutions. The administration’s policies determine the food system that we have. It determines what food products get support and which one’s don’t. Policy makers do need to keep the focused watch on different interdependent parameters of food production equation. For example, take the case of the “ High density apple plantation scheme”. In J&K, farmers are getting 50% subsidy to plant new apple trees through this scheme. The main aim of this policy or scheme is the replantation of apple orchards but it has put farmers into a rat race which is one without an end and has switched on use of agricultural land for horticultural purposes and resonated the current scheme with the phenomenon of the cobra effect.
The cobra effect refers to a phenomenon that happened in India during colonial rule. There was a problem of cobra menace. The snake population was rising at an alarming rate and the British decided to give bounty for every killed snake. Now it was a very benign and a good intention that people would be trying to kill more cobras obviously when they are going to get bounty (award). The British assumed things would go in the right way and there would be a sharp decline in population of cobras but to their surprise the cobra population was rising and that too at a huge pace. The rise wasn’t natural; it smacked of some kind of external interference. Surely taste buds never lie; it was the greed of bounty that had filled the people and the greed incubated idea of breeding of cobras. So instead of seeing reduction, the cobra population increased exponentially.
The same thing is happening here; instead of balancing food grain production, everyone is switching to horticultural world, thereby letting other states to hijack its staple foods and be dependent on them for the supply.
Institutional backwardness and research dissemination failure also account for the issue. SKUAST-Kashmir, the institution guarding the state’s food production machinery seems like trying to grapple with the problems by researching in different fields. But, to me it just appears like the black hole as nothing is coming out of this institution. I don’t want to portray it as a useless institution because research is going on, but all I am questioning is the disseminatory component of the institution, that is, the lab to land component is missing.
I hope the institution recognizes its objectives and on what structural basis it stands on and i do know the SKUAST-K has right genes to lead J & K’ food production machinery.
So, through these two factors we can adjust and put them into proper trajectory to provide a safety net to our food security.
We need to think about the longer term prospects and what we do to put agriculture back on the track. It should not be a sector that depends on the absorption of subsidies but as a powerful one, its own right, which should produce sustainable food and create jobs.
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]