EDITORIAL Changing agriculture scenario in Assam — Dr Moromi Gogoi Kakaty
Agriculture is the main stay of life for the majority of population in Assam where about 87 per cent of the total population living in rural areas depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Since independence, significant strides have been made in agricultural production in the State. The production of food grains has almost doubled from 1826.40 thousand tonnes in 1969-70 to 3059.00 thousand tonnes in 2006-07. Similarly, production of fruits and vegetables has also increased manifold during the same period. Assam is richly endowed with natural resources, favourable soil and climatic condition and suitable to grow various field crops, horticultural crops, spices and varieties of vegetables etc .Similarly, production of fruits and vegetables has also increased manifold during the same period. The index of agricultural production for the Sate stands at 142 in 2006-07 against 153 in 2005 -06.
Being bestowed with the blessings of agro-climatic condition, the State has become the natural abode of horticultural produce which includes cultivation of wide range of horticultural crops like fruits, vegetables, spices, plantation crops, nuts and tuber crops. The most important horticultural crops of Assam are banana and orange which cover nearly 60 per cent of production of food crops. The State produced 14.38 lakh MT fruits, 38.87 lakh MT vegetables, 21.36 lakh MT spices and 54,56 lakh MT tuber crops during 2006-07. Further it also revealed that production of almost all the fruits and spices has accelerated to the extent of 2 to 35 per cent and 21 to 20 per cent during the last two years respectively.
During the period of last 28 years, the State achieved highest production of food grains of 41.67 lakh tonnes in 2000-01 mainly due to governments initiatives of installation of Shallow Tube Wells (STWs) for assured water supply to the farmers field with the financial aid from National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agriculture Service Project (ARIASP). However it shows that the status of food grain production in Assam remained low as compared to All-India level. The Compound Growth Rate (CGR) of productivity of food grains in Assam is estimated at 0.18 per cent 0.62 per cent, maize 0.86 per cent, jute and mesta 0.88 per cent, rape and mustard 0.02 per cent, potato (-)2.16 per cent, pineapple 0.55 per cent and orange 0.14 per cent during the period of 1995-96 to 2007-08, the respective figures for all-India is found at 1.90 per cent, 0.88 per cent 2.99 per cent, 1.55 per cent, 0.74 per cent, (-) 0.99 per cent for rice, wheat, maize, jute and mesta, rape & mustard and potato.
About 70 per cent of cultivable areas of Assam are covered under rice and more than 90 per cent of the total area under food grains. Yet the State has been chronically suffering in food deficit. It is mainly because of the fact that agriculture in Assam remains sluggish due to low productivity of food crops primarily due to lack of assured water supply, adoption of traditional farm technology, recurring floods in some parts of the region, shortage of infrastructural and institutional support and also for high growth of population. With the gradual increase in the size of population, the increase in the production has failed to keep pace which leads to a fall in per capita availability of food. The State maintained near self sufficiency level in food production until 1960s. There after the State started to face the problem of food deficit continuously and the quantum of deficit has reached to the level of 30 per cent of the self sufficiency level.
In order to make agriculture more productive and profitable some policy implications like diversification of cropping pattern, changes of cropping pattern in the flood prone areas, development of processing industries, development of post harvest technologies, assured supply of irrigation facility, strengthening of agricultural research for breeding of cold resistant rice varieties and short duration HYV rice varieties etc should be adopted most urgently. At the same time proper implementation, execution and monitoring of different Centrally sponsored and State government schemes for uplift of State agriculture is very necessary so that the State can compete with the agriculturally advanced States like Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh etc.