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Scientists in Punjab feel that the central government’s ambitious goal of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022 could be ‘difficult’ to achieve in the state because of the high productivity levels of wheat and rice and an extremely high cropping intensity, almost 204 per cent, that makes diversification to other crops challenging. Moreover, the gross state domestic product (GSDP) of Punjab at constant prices has risen by just 11.6 per cent in the six years to 2015-16, while to double farmers’ incomes, the GSDP from agriculture (crops and livestock) needs to rise from an estimated Rs 87,532 crore in 2015-16 to over Rs 175,064 crore in 2022.
The GSDP in the crop sector rose by 2.9 per cent in Punjab, while for livestock it increased by 32.3 per cent in the last six years.Making a presentation during a seminar on Doubling Farmers’ Incomes by 2022 last week, scientists from Punjab Agricultural University, the Indian Council of Agriculture Research’s (ICAR’s) Central Institute for Post-Harvest Engineering and Technology, and Guru Angad Dev Animal and Veterinary Sciences University said managing the declining water table and overcoming the adverse impact of climate variability were some of the major challenges in the state. Punjab with 4.2 million hectares of net sown area, of which 99 per cent is irrigated, is among the foremost agricultural states in the country. In 2016-17, rice and wheat was grown in almost 82 per cent of the state’s net sown area. Punjab’s annual productivity in paddy is a high 61.9 quintals per hectare, while in wheat it is 50.5 quintals per hectare. The presentation showed that encouraging cultivation of high-value crops like vegetables, fruits and agro-forestry, which yield better returns; promoting integrated farming systems in small and marginal farms; rationalising the use of chemical fertilisers; and raising yields of important crops through technological innovation were some of the measures through which farmers’ incomes could be doubled in the state by 2022. It also noted that reducing the use of pesticides, raising capital expenditure on farm machinery, promoting precision agriculture technologies and encouraging adoption of subsidiary occupations were some of the other ways in which incomes could be doubled. The scientists also listed yields of various crops by agro-climatic zones that could potentially be raised by 2022 to enhance farmers’ incomes across the state. The Centre has embarked on an ambitious target of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022. A draft strategy paper released by the ministry of agriculture a few months ago estimated the average income of agriculture households in 2015-16 at Rs 96,703 at current prices, while at 2011-12 prices it was estimated at Rs 74,108. Incomes are planned to increased with the help of additional public and private investment. The first four volumes of the 14-part draft report also showed that the targeted increase in incomes would lead to increasing the share of farm income in total farmer household income from 60.2 per cent in 2015-16 (the base year) to 69.22 in 2022-23 across all states.