Paddy production in West Bengal is likely to be lower by 10-15% this year due to crop damage on account of extended rainfall and floods. Consequently, paddy prices are at a record high level this year, higher than the minimum support price.
In 2012-13, the state produced 15.3 million tonnes (MT) of rice, an increase of 5.5% over the previous year.
Overall paddy production in the state is likely to be about 5-10% lower than last year’s production on account of crop damage, according to Pranab Chatterjee, professor at Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya.
“Last year the rainfall persisted till the flowering period, which has dragged down the average productivity,” said Rajoshri Kundu pf Mali Agrotech.
Against the normal productivity of nearly five to six tonne per hectare, this year paddy productivity has been no more than 4.6 tonne per hectare.
Paddy prices of the commonly sold paddy are ruling at nearly Rs 1400 per quintal, against the MSP of Rs 1310 per quintal. Prices of fine variety is ruling between Rs 1500-1900 per quintal, against the average price of Rs 1500 per quintal.
This year, the districts which were affected by floods included high rice-productivity districts of Bardhaman, Hooghly, Birbhum and Nadia. Burdwan, Birbhum, Nadia and Hooghly have the highest productivity and account for about 27% rice acreage and 32% production.
Rice production in West Bengal is spread across three seasons---aus, aman and boro. Of these, the kharif rise aus and aman) account for about 70% of the state’s production.
While Aman or summer crop was damaged on account rainfall, Boro or winter cultivation could be higher on account of high ground level water retention and ample supply of water from Damodar Vally Corporation.
“This year Boro rice could be grown over 15 lakh hectare, which against 9 lakh hectare due to good prices and weather condition,’” said Chatterjee.
While districts like Bankura, Bardhman and Birbhum are likely to benefit from water supply from Kangsabati and Mayurakshi, areas where lift irrigation is in vogue (Nadia), higher ground level would be beneficial for paddy cultivation, said Kundu.
However, high input prices have prompted many small growers to shift to alternative crops.
“While acreage for winter crop could be higher than last year, unprecedented rise in cost of electricity, fertilizer, labour and diesel, have prompted many small farmers to go for jute cultivation instead of paddy, said Ramprasad Biswas, Gotra Krishi Samavayi Samiti, Burdwan.
“Per unit price of electricity has gone up from 50 paise to Rs 5 per unit in the last four to five years. Similarly, fertilizer and diesel prices have gone up more than three times. On the other hand, rise in paddy prices have not risen proportionately, which paddy cultivation unviable,” said Biswas.
However, paddy production during the Boro season is about 4.5 million tonnes--minuscule compared to the peak production months.
West Bengal accounts for 14-16% of India’s rice production.