Experts Fear Famine-like Situation In Kashmir

25 December 2009
Rising Kashmir
Rashid Paul

Srinagar: The stagnant agricultural production in Jammu and Kashmir over the years has increased its dependency on the Indian mainland, with foodgrain imports reaching an all-time high of Rs 1700 crore. The production of foodgrains in the state in 1985 was 14.03 lakh metric tonne (MT), that reached 15.7 lakh MT in 2007-2008: an increase of mere 1.67 lakh MT in 23 years. The requirement, however, is 23 lakh MT and, in order to meet this deficiency, the state loses an annual flight of capital to the tune of Rs 1700 crore. The overall growth in the agriculture sector is dismal when compared with the Indian mainland. The foodgrain production in India has increased from 50 million MT in 1950 to 227.3 million MT in 2008. On the contrary, the available official data shows an increase of mere six lakh MT from 1964 to 2008 in the state. The growth in rice production, the main crop in Kashmir, is dismal. It increased from 4.3 lakh MT in 1964 to 5.6 lakh MT in 2008, an abysmal increase of 1.3 lakh MT in 44 years. In comparison, India witnessed a rice production growth of 257 percent from 1950 to 2008, with the production reaching 125 million MT during the period from 20.5 million MT. 'A zero-level of research and development in agriculture sector is primarily responsible for our under-performance,' said Nisar Ali, an economist. 'Farmers continue to grow varieties that existed in the Sixties. Our research institutions like SKUAST have failed in developing varieties that could ripen in short time and give high yield.' Moreover, the net area for foodgrains is declining because of its conversion to non-agricultural purposes, like housing, despite there being a law against it. Nisar Ali said the investment in our irrigation increases by 100 percent annually but the land increases under irrigation by an ugly 1.3 percent. 'In Kashmir, the absolute grain production is on decline,' he said. Conceding the under-performance in this primary sector, the state's Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather had in his Budget speech said that three main areas of concern were low seed replacement rate, inadequate double cropping and sub-optimal use of other inputs. The state’s research institutions, however, blame stagnancy on the part of executing agencies like agriculture department for the fiasco. Shafiq A Wani, associate director research at SKUAST, said 'we have developed many high-yield and disease-tolerant varieties, but these have not been extended to the growers'. He said they released Ranbir basmati, Shalimar rice 1, maize c15, wheat singchen and the like. It is the job of agriculture department to multiply these seeds and offer them to the farmers with other modern practices, he said. Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir attributes the stagnancy to increase in population and diversification of agricultural activities towards horticulture. 'Our population has reached 1.05 crore. Besides we have to feed 24 lakh troopers, paratroopers, tourists and non-state labour. This spurs our dependency on imports,' he said. Mir said the imbalance in investment in irrigation and the net area brought under cultivation is because of non-coordination between the Agriculture and Irrigation department.