Upswing in agriculture

Published : Jan 12, 2007 00:00 IST

Tripura under the Left Front government is on the way to achieving surplus production in agriculture.

THE small, hilly State of Tripura is situated in one of the remotest parts of the northeastern region. This landlocked State shares its boundary with Assam and Mizoram in the east and is bounded by Bangladesh on all the other sides. The geographical area of the State is 10, 491.69 sq km, of which around 60 per cent is highland. Agriculture is the mainstay of the State's economy, with more than 70 per cent of the population dependent on this sector for its livelihood. While 90 per cent of its total farming community comprises small and marginal farmers, only about 24.3 per cent of the landmass is available for cultivation, the main crops being paddy, wheat, sugarcane, potato, coconut, jute and oilseeds.

Although in the past few decades production of foodgrains has increased substantially, this should be seen against the background of increase in population and limited irrigation facilities. As a result, Tripura still remains a food-deficit State, with the government spending a good amount every year to buy foodgrains.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front government has been keen to adopt judicious and scientific methods of agriculture in order to achieve self-sufficiency in foodgrains and for the all-round development of the economy. In 2000, the government formulated a Perspective Plan to enable Tripura to be self-sufficient in foodgrains by 2010, by which year the State hopes to achieve a surplus production of 18,000 tonnes. The plan was evolved after a careful study of all the relevant data available on land, water, population, seeds, fertilizers and credit extension organisations. Areas of development were identified and the strategies to be adopted were chalked out. They included increasing irrigation potential to the maximum possible extent; seed replacement; varietal replacement; enhancing consumption of plant nutrient; incorporation of bio-fertilizers in conjunction with inorganic fertilizers; integrated pest management; research support; adequate farm power; adequate credit; and efficient extension support.

The State government expects complete cooperation and active participation from the people, particularly the representatives of the three-tier panchayati raj bodies and the Autonomous District Council and officials of the government departments concerned, to achieve this objective. The Departments of Agriculture, Irrigation, Power, Rural Development and Tribal Welfare and financial institutions have been instructed to implement the work-plan, in which the Department of Agriculture plays a pivotal role.

The implementation of the Perspective Plan has already yielded dividends. From 1999-2000 to 2004-05, the production of foodgrains increased by 99,000 tonnes. In the given period, a number of other developments also took place. The last five years have seen the establishment of a Seed Certification Agency, a Bio-Fertilizers Laboratory, a Bio-control Laboratory, a Pesticides Testing Laboratory, and three Mobile Soil Testing Vans; the modernisation of the State Seed Testing Laboratory; and the construction of a de-humidified godown for the storage of seeds. New technology has also been introduced in the field of agriculture, such as System of Rice Intensification (SRI), Integrated Crop Management Technique (ICMT), and technology to enhance the production of hill rice (jhum). A training programme for farmers is under way. An International Rice Seminar was organised by the Department of Agriculture recently. Some basic changes have been brought about in the distribution of agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. Private participation has been allowed in the distribution of farm inputs and as a result private dealers handle 75 per cent of the fertilizers. Further, agricultural machinery are being distributed by way of subsidy to farmers.

Tripura has certain inherent advantages: it has fertile soil, abundant moisture and a sub-tropical climate, which provide scope for the production of a wide variety of tropical and sub-tropical fruits and vegetables.

Despite the State's potential to produce and market horticultural products on a large-scale, the method of production remained outdated. Hence the need arose to exploit the potential of horticulture in a scientific and systematic way, within a given time frame, in order to generate sustained levels of income and employment opportunities. A draft Perspective Plan for Development of Horticulture for 2002-12, which was prepared by the Directorate of Horticulture and Soil Conservation, was approved by the Council of Ministers on July 3, 2001.

As per the plan, horticultural fruits and crops such as orange, pineapple, mango, banana, litchi, jackfruit, papaya, cashew nut, arecanut, coconut, black pepper, ginger, capsicum, betel vine, summer cabbage and summer cauliflower have been identified for immediate development.

The plan also proposes the promotion of orchids, anthurium, vanilla and mushroom cultivation. An area of 12,750 hectares (net) and 18,965 hectares (gross) will be brought under the cultivation of the horticultural crops during the plan period.

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