GUWAHATI, Aug 23 - The share of the agriculture and allied sector in GSDP (gross state domestic product) and its annual growth rate have declined considerably during the last 10 years. In 2011-12, the sector contributed 19.89 per cent to GSDP at constant (2011-12) prices. The share has declined to 15.16 per cent in 2019-20 as per advanced estimate. The period has also seen the rate of growth of the sector plummet drastically from 16 per cent in 2012-13 to 2.90 per cent in 2019-20 at constant prices (as per new series).
Revealing this in its report, the Advisory Committee for Revitalization of the State�s Economy in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic situation cited lack of growth and lack of value addition as striking features of the State�s agriculture and allied sector.
�Enhancing value addition and improving agricultural growth along with productivity, therefore, emerge as two main focus areas for policy intervention. In order to revitalize the State�s economy post-COVID, strategies and work plans are so needed that the annual growth of this sector is increased to at least 6 per cent from the current 2.90 per cent, opening up thereby employment absorption scope along the food value chain,� it said.
Noting that the State has almost achieved self-sufficiency in rice production, the report said that �it was very badly failing to produce the required amount of wheat, maize and pulses, and hence depends heavily on the import from the other parts of the country. On the whole, the State is still to go a long way to achieve self-sufficiency in food grain production.�
Recommending farm mechanization as a critical input to facilitate timely agricultural operation and as a key to achieving higher level of production, the panel called for enhancing farm power availability in the State to close to the national average of 2.25 HP per hectare with mechanical power level to 0.75 to 1.00 HP per hectare.
In another crucial recommendation, the panel said that the State land use policy should be revisited, particularly for agricultural purposes.
�Further, many farmers farming in leased or borrowed lands find it extremely difficult to access the benefit of government assistance, including loan, as they are not in a position to submit land document. For the purpose of accessing loan and other benefits, certificate from panchayat or the DAO/DVO/DFO that one is a farmer and shall remain a farmer for the period of loan/receiving the benefit of farm implements, etc., needs to be considered, if necessary with due concurrence from the land owners,� it said.
Terming low availability of farm power as one of the major hindrances to increase cropping intensity, it also suggested a plant protection strategy in the overall crop production programme for sustainable agriculture.
For enhancing production, the panel suggested coverage by high-yielding varieties of at least 50 per cent area under rice cultivation. It recommended the use of combine harvester wherever boro paddy had been cultivated.
�Plant protection efforts to minimize crop losses from the ravages of pest and diseases give optimum results through integrated pest management. Production of bio-pesticides, including beneficial insects, should be encouraged. The concept of integrated pest management should be revitalized to include innovative components to suit local agro-climatic situations. Regular and frequent testing of pesticides to ensure quality is essential,� it added.
Suggesting short-term and mid-term measures for balancing the loss during the pandemic situation, the panel called for providing farmer/society kharif inputs either free or on a highly subsidized rate for the current year. It recommended immediate arrangement of quality seeds (rice, jute, etc.,) at last year�s approved rate, if this year�s rate had not been finalized; advanced release of RKVY fund; and fertilizer procurement including that of organic fertilizer from across the State.
For flood-prone areas, the committee called for planting flood-tolerant rice varieties at the rate fixed or recommended by Assam Agricultural University without any tendering. It added that upland areas must be utilized for growing pulse, oilseed and vegetable crops. As mid-term measures, the panel gave inputs on healthy soil, unpolluted water, and seed and fertilizers.