Bhubaneswar, August 12 (LocalWire): Increasing pressure on land has led to the fragmentation of landholding size and consequent fall in the number of cultivators in Odisha, according to the findings of the state’s Agricultural Draft Policy, 2019.
The state’s agricultural labour force increased from 92 lakhs to 1.08 crores between 2001 and 2011census.
While the number of cultivators (the people who own land) fell from 42 lakhs to 41 lakhs, the number of labourers or landless people increased from 50 lakhs to 67 lakhs. From 46 per cent, the share of cultivators in the state’s total agricultural workforce fell to 38 per cent.
Shrinking landholding size and low level of income also adversely affected the investment capability of a farmer.
The farm labour force plays a dominant role in the cultivation process of most crops.
Subsidising the purchase of farm machines and equipment has not resulted in their sales picking up momentum. This high dependence on labour has shrunk the farmer profits as farm wages are on the rise.
The additional impact of natural calamities has expanded the state’s fallow lands. In 2015-16, about 17 lakh hectares of land was classified as fallow of which 7 lakh hectares are permanently fallow.
The draft policy, which was tabled in the state Assembly recently, found glaring inter-district disparities among farmers’ incomes.
Incidentally, the draft policy found a seven-fold growth rate of farmers’ monthly income in a span of 13 years.
The officials claimed that the monthly average income of an Odisha farmer has increased from Rs 1,062 to Rs 7,731 indicating a growth of 16.5 per cent against the national growth of 11.7 per cent.
Of the 30 districts, farmers in 17 districts earned lower incomes than the state’s average. For example, a Jharsuguda farmer earned five times more than a Keonjhar farmer.
There is also a gap between irrigation coverage and level of cropping intensities (proportion of area taking more than one crop) reported in the state.
Higher irrigation coverage is expected to result in higher cropping intensities. But despite high levels of irrigation coverage (as a percentage of gross cropped area), cropping intensities in districts like Bargarh, Malkangiri, Koraput, Sambalpur and Bhadrak are low.
Ironically in Nayagarh, Angul, Deogarh, and Kalahandi, where despite low levels of irrigation coverage, the cropping intensities are high.
While Odisha’s productivity in major crops like paddy, groundnut, gram, lentils have improved over time, it continues to remain below those of some of the agro producer states of the country.
There is also large a yield gap between the state’s different districts, indicating a gap in resources, diffusion of technology and sharing of knowledge.
During the last five years, variability in production (mainly of paddy) points to the need for more effective climate-resilient strategies. While the importance of paddy for farmers cannot be overlooked, the productivity of large areas under paddy cultivation is low, resulting in very low returns to farmers.
Some districts cultivate paddy during the Rabi season as well depending on the availability of irrigation, but productivity is low, implying sub-optimal benefits from irrigation.