The rice output in Odisha, the fifth largest producer in the country, contracted by 15 per cent to 5.12 million tonne due to devastating floods in the 2011-12 kharif season. In the previous comparable period, the rice output stood at 6 million tonnes.
The state agriculture department officials attribute the fall in rice output to back-to-back floods during the harvesting time of the crop in September and October last year, which washed away 289,115 hactares of paddy field and affected around four million people in the state. Last year, Odisha farmers planted paddy in 3.96 million hactares as against 3.93 million hactares sowed in the 2010-11 kharif.
Rice cultivation is key to Odisha farm output due to suitable climatic condition and food habit of the people of the state. It is the major crop in kharif planting season, constituting more than half of total cultivable area of 6.2 million hactares.
However, rice production has been sliding in the past couple of years in the state due to shrinking area. The rice output in 2010-11 was also lower at 6 million tonne, from 6.3 million tonne achieved in 2009-10 kharif season, statistical data showed.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report for the year ending March 31, 2011 showed that around 117,000 ha farm land has been diverted in the state since 2005 for non-farming use.
Of late, Odisha has been generously giving away farm and forest land for setting up industries aiming for higher revenue and more jobs, betting on large source of mineral resources it posses.
The agricultural department has recently taken some pro-active steps to increase rice production in the state, armed by Central financial assistance under the Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI) scheme, aimed at pushing rice output in seven states. Odisha has been allocated Rs 217 crore in 2012-13 for research and other areas to improve yield, up from Rs 63 crore granted in the previous fiscal.
But the funding will not help improving yields overnight and rather will take some years to produce desired result, said state agricultural directorate officials. In 2011-12, the BGREI money helped increasing output by 0.3 per cent and is expected to provide 0.9 per cent growth in 2012-13 as the area that comes under funding scheme is a small fraction of total area, they said.
The farm officials also attributed the rice output fall to crop switch as farmers preferred cash-rich crops. For example, in 2011-12 crop year, corn output rose to 627,000 tonne, up from 603,000 tonne produced during 2010-11.