Punjab’s bid to revise cap to 190 lakh tonnes may not be enough, say experts

Around 32 per cent area of paddy in Punjab is under long duration varieties which give nearly 85 to 100 mann (34 to 40 quintals) yield per acre.

While Centre has capped paddy (non-basmati) procurement quantity from Punjab at 170 lakh tonnes on MSP rates, the state is pushing for a revised estimate of 190 lakh tonnes. Experts, however, claim that even this figure will not serve the purpose. They want the state to work out an estimate based on sown varieties and not loosely on the basis of few prevalent varieties.

Around 32 per cent area of paddy in Punjab is under long duration varieties which give nearly 85 to 100 mann (34 to 40 quintals) yield per acre.

Among these, PUSA-44, Peeli PUSA Dogar PUSA and PR-118 cover major area in over a half a dozen districts of the state, including Sangrur, Patiala, Barnala, Mansa, Ludhiana, Moga, Bathinda and Mukatsar.

PUSA-44 and Peeli PUSA are popular among long varieties, which mature in 158 days to 165 days, including 30 days of nursery growing period in which the seeds are grown into young plants which are transplanted into the main fields. The average yield of long varieties is 32.6 quintals per acre according to Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Ludhiana, surveys. However, a large number of farmers are getting 36 to 40 quintals per acre. In Sangrur and Patiala, around 60 per cent of the total paddy area is under long varieties.

Around 68 per cent area is under seven short duration varieties — PR-121, PR-126, PR-114, PR-112, PR -124 and PR-129, PR-127 — which take 123 days to 143 days including the nursery period.

Among the short varieties, PR-121 and PR-126 are the most popular ones and these cover 36 per cent area including 22 per cent under PR-121, the average yield of which is 30.6 per acre as per PAU surveys.
The yield of long varieties may be more but PAU does not recommend long varieties, which experts call non-descriptive varieties that are bad for the state like Punjab due to their long duration putting huge burden on the groundwater as they require 5-6 extra irrigation cycles.

“Several farmers are getting even 85 to 90 mann (34 to 36 quintals per acre) from the short varieties too due to better quality of seeds, quality of soil, irrigation method, usage of fertilizers etc.,” said Dr Buta Singh Dhillon, Agronomist (Rice), PAU, Ludhiana.

According to the Punjab Agriculture Department, 26.05 lakh hectares (LH) is under paddy this year and by this calculation Punjab has around 8.34 LH under long duration and 17.72 LH under short duration.

If the average yield of PAU’s surveys is considered, then average yield of long varieties and short varieties should be around 67.52 lakh tonnes and 132.85 lakh tonnes, respectively, and the total of which comes out to be 200.38 lakh tonnes which is around 10 lakh tonnes above the government’s revised target (190 lakh tonnes).

“Farmers’ have witnessed higher yield against PAU’s surveys which means that actual yield could be much beyond even 200 lakh tonnes as expected,” said an agriculture officer.

Farmer Darshan Singh of Mansa’s Budhlada block, who grows Peeli PUSA and PUSA -44, the longest duration varieties, on his 9-acre land said, “Last year, I got 100 mann (40 quintals) per acre and I am expecting the same this year too and if the government will cap per acre yield somewhere between 30 to 35 quintals per acre then where will I sell my remaining crop.”

Similarly, Avtar Singh of Bathinda’s Nathana block said that he too has been getting 36 to 40 quintals yield per acre from PUSA-44 depending upon the weather conditions and capping less than this would cause harassment to farmers growing long duration varieties.

Farmer Amarjit Singh of Bhogpur area in Jalandhar said that precise farming, which means to avoid overdoing anything including fertilisers, keep track on weather conditions, taking seed from the authorised places and irrigation, is giving more yield than expected and government should cap the procurement as per sown varieties and also 10 per cent extra margin must be given which should be revised as per annual productivity level.

Vice Chairman, Punjab Mandi Board (PMB), Vijay Kalra, said that their capping will create unrest among farmers. Every variety, he added, has its own potential yield and capping per acre yield will create lot of confusion.

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