Why Punjab wants to push pulses cultivation

What is the total area under pulses in Punjab?

While Punjab is the highest contributor of wheat and paddy to the national pool, it lags behind in cultivation of pulses. In Punjab, mainly moong, mash and arhar pulses are grown. In 2019, there was 11,700 hectares (28,899 acres) area under pulses including moong, mash, and arhar in the state, out of around 39.69 lakh hectares under agricultural crops. This area is not even one percent (0.74 per cent) of the total agricultural area of Punjab.

What was the status of pulses cultivation in the past?

The data sourced from the Punjab Agriculture department revealed that there was 56,000 hectares (1,38,320 acres) under pulses in 1980-81 with a total production of 42,003 tonnes (4.20 lakh quintals), which went up to 74,470 hectares (1,83,940) with a production of 56,300 tonnes (5.63 lakh quintals). The area came down to 42,900 hectares in 2000-01 with 29,100 tonnes production, but a major decline was seen in the past two decades.

In 2010-11, 16,000 hectares, which was a decline of 63 per cent in a decade, was sown under pulses in with a production of 13,000 tonnes (1.30 lakh quintals) pulses, which was also a decrease of 55 per cent in production. In the latest decade from 2010-11 to 2019-20, Punjab saw further decline. In the current year, there was 11,700 hectares area under pulses — a further decrease of 27 per cent from the previous decade.

Why Punjab now wants to increase its area under pulses?

Farmers are already reeling under an agrarian crisis and this can boost their income. Director, Punjab Agriculture Department, Dr Sutantra Airy, said that Punjab is a leading state in wheat and paddy production but it is totally lagging behind in pulses and dependent on the other states. “Now, we want to increase our self-dependence in the pulses cultivation and to increase the income of farmers,” he said.

Sources in the Agriculture Department said that Punjab is not even growing 3 per cent of pulses against the total requirement of the state. According to the estimates of the Agriculture Department, Punjab needs nearly 6 lakh tonnes (0.6 million tonnes) pulses annually while its current production is around 10,000 tonnes only.

How pulses cultivation can help Punjab farmers?

Moong cultivation provides farmers with an opportunity to have a third crop in a year. Moreover, moong being a leguminous crop, it is beneficial for the soil as it helps in nitrogen fixation and contributes to improving the soil fertility.

In Punjab, the most suitable time for cultivating pulses is during spring/summer months from March to May. This is the same time when lakhs of hectares of land in Punjab remains vacant after wheat and potato harvesting for over two months. Farmers take advantage of this period.

The pulses can be sown immediately after the harvesting of potatoes and wheat as the fields remain empty for 65 to 80 days after potato and wheat harvesting, respectively, while the duration of moong/mash dal is only 65 days and is easily harvested before paddy sowing by the third week of June.

How much a farmer can earn from growing moong dal?

Chief Agriculture Officer, Jalandhar, Dr Nazar Singh said that farmers can get 5-6 quintals moong per acre (12-14 quintals per hectare) which translates to Rs 35,000 to Rs 42,000 per acre if he gets the MSP of moong decided by the Centre (Rs 7000 per quintal). While the input cost would be around Rs 8000-9000 per acre including seed, labour, and other expenditure.

Dr Singh said that this can maximize the profits of farmers even from small landholdings with one hectare (2.5 acres) which can earn Rs 55000 to 66,000 in two months after deducting input cost.

But farmers feel that the state government must make a system for local procurement, so that the produce can be consumed in Punjab.

What is government doing on the ground?

The government is distributing 4-kg kits to the farmers free-of-cost to multiply the seed and holding awareness and training camps for farmers to demonstrate the use of the latest techniques for sowing pulses. These kits will help farmers cover two-fifth of an acre and will give a yeild that can be used as seeds that can be sown in around 20 acres.