Even as the Odisha government talks about its commitment to the agriculture sector, it is witnessing a surprising trend in which large tracts of agricultural land have remained uncultivated for the past several years, a state government report says.
The sorry state of affairs in the agriculture sector is forcing farmers to either quit farming or commit suicide due to an unbearable loan burden.
Here are some of the reasons why agriculture has failed in Odisha.
Climatic Conditions and Profit Margins
According to Lalit Mohan Garnaik, Dean, OUAT, climatic conditions are one of the major reasons for the decreasing rate of cultivation activities in Odisha. While the profit margin in agricultural produce is comparatively low, there are no adequate marketing facilities in the state. Moreover, the high cost of labor is another major problem. To top it all off, youths look down upon pursuing agriculture as a career.
Populist Schemes in Odisha Impede Agriculture Growth
Farmers are no longer showing any interest in cultivating their land due to the state government’s apathetic attitude towards agriculture. Moreover, populist measures such as the cheap rice scheme introduced by central and state governments are systematically discouraging many farmers from pursuing agriculture, leading to a consistent decline in the agricultural productivity in Odisha.
For the record, the state government is offering 25 kg of rice at Re.1-a-kg every month to six million families.
As per an agriculture census conducted during 2005-06 and 2010-11, the number of small, medium and large scale farmers has dropped by 460,000 during the period, showing that the farmers are gradually shying away from their traditional occupation due to several constraints, including lack of irrigation, non-availability of workforce, low market value and inadequate government support.
However, the number of marginal farmers has significantly increased by 771,000 to 3,368,296 from 2,597,164. As per the census, the number of small farmers fell by 237,000, medium farmers by 211,000 and large farmers by 5,834 between 2005-06 and 2010-11. The report said the state now has 1,299,170 small, medium and large farmers.
Plummeting Share of Agriculture Resources in GSDP
According to agriculture Minister, Pradip Maharathy, the contribution of agriculture and animal resources to GSDP is gradually falling in the state.
While it was 15.14% in 2012-13, it fell to 13.7% in 2013-14 and 12.33% in 2014-15. During the 1999-2000 fiscal, the agriculture sector had contributed 21.67% to GSDP.
A total of 6.18 million hectares of agricultural land is available for cultivation in Odisha. The contribution of this sector to the GSDP has also decreased to 12.33% in 2014-15 fiscal while agriculture contributes 15.77% towards national GDP.
Odisha has Poor Irrigation Facilities
While the agriculture minister claims that irrigation was provided to 3.35 million hectares in the kharif season and to 1.65 million hectares in the rabi season in 2013-14, an audit of water resources department for the year ending March 31, 2013, by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has found that the state government has failed to meet the target of providing 35 percent irrigation facilities to the agriculture sector.
As per the reports, out of the 6.165 million hectares of cultivable land in 314 blocks, the state’s agriculture department could achieve the goal in only 60 blocks till June, 2013.
The audit report revealed that 67 out of the 95 blocks in western Odisha had not received the minimum 35 percent irrigation facilities.
In fact, the state government has also admitted that states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have better irrigation facilities than Odisha.
3,602 Farmers Committed Suicide between 1999-2013
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 3,602 people employed in the farming and agriculture sectors committed suicide between 1999 and 2013.
The agriculture minister, however, claimed that none of the suicides was due to farm-related problems or crop losses. Ironically, the state government has been presenting a separate agriculture budget since 2013-14. This has been pegged at Rs.10,903.62 crore for 2015-16.