DNA Explainer: Why Centre wants crop diversification in Punjab

The government proposed agricultural diversification into pulses, cotton and maize in Punjab.

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Recently, the Centre presented a proposal for crop diversification in Punjab to the protesting farmers. The proposal was presented during the fourth round of talks between the Centre and protesting farmers. The farmers, however, rejected the proposal, demanding a legally guaranteed MSP for all crops across the country.

The proposal aimed to address the issue of over-reliance on rice and wheat cultivation in the state. The government proposed agricultural diversification into pulses, cotton, and maize in Punjab. Government-promoted cooperatives would offer five-year contracts to procure five crops -- tur (arhar), urad dal, masur (lentil), maize, and cotton -- at minimum support prices (MSP). However, Punjab accounts for only 5 per cent of total cotton procurement by Cotton Corporation of India (CCI). 

Punjab has more than 80 per cent of its geographical area under rice and wheat. It also faces widespread desertification. The primary objective is to reduce the area under paddy by promoting improved production technologies of alternate crops like maize, cotton, pulses etc. To grow 1 kg of paddy, it requires at least 2,500 litres of water, which has led to the massive depletion of groundwater in Punjab. The state's heavy reliance on rice cultivation, despite massive depletion of groundwater, underscores the urgency for diversification efforts. 

The crops in the Centre’s proposal had very small shares of alternative crops -- 2.48 lakh hectares for cotton, 1.14 lakh hectares for maize, and 33,000 hectares for pulses (both kharif and rabi) in 2019-20, as quoted in an Indian Express report. 

Presently, India imports pulses to meet the requirements of the country. The central government plans to make India self-sufficient in pulses by 2027. For this, it is promoting production through higher MSP and procurement through Price Support Scheme (PSS).

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