By Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, July 11 (IANS) Though the agriculture sector provides employment and sustenance to more than 60 percent of Odisha’s total workforce, its share in the gross state domestic product (GSDP) continues to decline, say official reports.
Besides, large tracts of agricultural land have remained uncultivated for the past several years despite the claim of the Odisha government that it is committed to the growth of the sector, which is the mainstay of the statea¿s economy.
While the contribution of agriculture sector to the GSDP was 56.10 per cent during 1950-51, it has decreased to 15.4 percent in 2014-15. It was 16.3 percent in 2013-14, said a report submitted by the state government to the NITI Aayog.
The report said while per capita availability of land, water and other resources in the state continue to decline, the occurrence of various biotic (insect and diseases) and abiotic stresses (flood, drought, cyclone, etc.) are on the rise.
Odisha has a cultivated area of 61.80 lakh hectares.
The decline in the GDSP was despite launching of a number of social security schemes, the introduction of farm mechanisation and provision for a separate agriculture budget by the state government since 2013-14.
“About 2/3rd of the gross cropped area of the state is rain-fed and depends on monsoon. Frequent occurrences of natural calamities like flood, drought, cyclone, etc. with erratic climatic conditions are likely to have an adverse impact on the crop production system. Besides, 70 per cent of the soils are acidic in nature resulting in less crop productivity, especially in legumes,” said the report.
It said nearly 4 lakh hectares of cultivable land is exposed to saline inundation, 3.54 lakh to floods and 0.75 lakh hectares in the delta areas to water-logging.
Per capita availability of cultivated land is 0.15 hectare, and the average size of operational holdings is 1.04 hectare which is too less for profitable agriculture. Out of the 46.67 lakh operational holdings, the marginal and smallholdings account for 91.8 per cent, medium holdings for 8 per cent and large holdings only for 0.2 per cent in the state (2010-11 statistics).
“Prevalence of poor economic condition among farmers stands as a stumbling block in the way of modern crop husbandry. That too, exodus of the work force from agriculture to non-agriculture activities and the problem of absentee landlordism along with sub-optimal use of land for cultivation purposes hinders the process of agriculture development,” said the report.
Of the total cultivable land of the state, irrigation potential has been developed for 29.62 lakh hectare in Kharif and 14.77 lakh hectare in Rabi season.
However, the state government said it was taking measures in this regard.
“We are taking a number of steps to increase production in the agriculture sector. While irrigation facilities are being addressed, we are providing cheap loans and subsidies for farm mechanisation,” Agriculture Minister Pradeep Maharathy told IANS.
He said the state government has decided to bring a new land leasing bill this monsoon session to safeguard the interest of sharecroppers.
The government is also taking steps to increase production in allied sectors even though paddy cultivation continues to be the main focus.
Notably, paddy remains the highest cultivated crop while cultivation of economy crops like oilseed, pulses, sugarcane, vegetable and fiber crops is not encouraging.
The present gross cropped area under horticulture is 13.61 lakh hectares, which is about 20 percent of the net shown area.
(Chinmaya Dehury can be contacted at email@example.com)