Intensive agriculture gets a boost

By Savvy Soumya Misra
Published: Monday 15 September 2008

Planning Commission designs Rs 27,000 crore package for Bihar

bihar can become the next agriculture hub if the Planning Commission has its way. A special cell for Bihar set up in the Planning Commission is considering extending Rs 27,000 crore to boost the state's agriculture sector and develop it as India's granary.

The Planning Commission is working on a proposal detailing strategies to increase the state's agriculture production to at least 4 tonnes per hectare of grain, says Satish C Jha, who heads the special cell for Bihar. The state at present produces about 1.5 tonne per hectare of grain on an average. "The land and water available with the state holds a huge potential to feed the nation," said Jha. The proposal suggests a mix of green revolution and organic farming. The commission is discussing the matter with a group of organic farmers who will train the farmers in Bihar.

With plenty of land available in the state, the proposal envisages projects for promoting intensive agriculture. But experts in sustainable agriculture sound warning. "In a few decades, intensive agriculture will take Bihar on a path of destruction as happened in Punjab," says Kavitha Kuruganti of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Secunderabad. Intensive agriculture implies intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides, which eventually pushes farmers into a debt trap. Besides, excessive use of fertilizer and pesticide would completely destroy the soil, says Kuruganti.

Jha, however, assures judicious use of fertilizers to maintain the required level of soil nutrients.

Apart from rice and wheat, the proposal has plans for pulses, fruits and vegetables. The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority recently urged the Planning Commission to promote fruits and vegetables like mangoes, litchi, honey, okra and parval that have a huge market in the uk, West Asia and Mauritius. It also recommended boosting fishery and dairy sectors. While the Centre's contribution in the project and a timeline are yet to be worked out, the state government and the Planning Commission are in talks with the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank to fund part of the package.

In its agricultural makeover bid for Bihar, the Planning Commission also intends to propose the government to declare the Rajendra Agriculture University at Pusa, Samastipur, a Central Agriculture University.

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