Ziraat Times Desk

Srinagar:  Raising alarm bell over unabated conversion of agriculture land in Kashmir, Director Agriculture Kashmir Syed Altaf Aijaz Andrabi said that there is a steady increase in the conversion of farmland for non-agriculture use over the past three decades, which needs to be checked by coordinated efforts with other departments and farming community.

Andrabi expressed these views during a Teleconference with the Chief Agriculture Officers of Kashmir Division.

“Unplanned constructions like raising of colonies, factories, brick kilns, shopping complexes and other commercial establishments is severely effecting agriculture sector of the State”, he said, added that the situation threatens to make Kashmir food deficit.

As per ZT analysis, Jammu and Kashmir is fast losing its ‘food independence’ as state’s dependence on imports has reached to its highest level of about 1 lakh metric tonnes in 2016-17.

The economic survey report 2017 reveals that in 2002-03, J&K imported 503 thousand metric tonnes of food grains, which rose to 952.55 thousand metric tonnes in 2016-17 due to shrinking farmlands.

Jammu and Kashmir has lost an estimated 10 lakh kanal agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes in the past 10 years primarily because of the failure of the state government to curb the practice.

As per official data, Jammu and Kashmir had 8.47 lakh hectare agriculture land in 2005-06 which has shrunken to 7.94 lakh hectare till 2015-16. This means, the loss in a decade is estimated 53,000 hectare farmland (equivalent to 10, 60,000 kanal) which has been converted for non-agricultural activities across the state.

The unabated conversion has become a major cause for spurt in food imports. In last three years, the import of food grains has witnessed considerable increase from 756.60 thousand metric tonnes in 2014-15 to 952.55 thousand metric tonnes in 2016-17.

In 1950-51, the food deficit was just 32 percent, which later fell to 23 percent in 1980-81 as a result of advancement in agriculture.

According to the official record, the area under paddy cultivation was 158,000 hectare in 2012, shrinking to 141,000 hectare in 2015-16.

Meanwhile Andrabi highlighted the role of Agriculture department as an important stakeholder and directed the Chief Agriculture Officers, officers of the Law Enforcement Agency and other senior officers of the department to play their role with utmost commitment to check the conversion of Agriculture land. He called upon the officers to ensure necessary steps to increase awareness among the farmers regarding the long-term impact of farmland conversion. He advised that for increasing production and productivity, need of the hour is to achieve high efficiency levels in the preservation, utilization of land and water resources, altogether prohibiting conversion of productive agriculture lands for non-agriculture purposes, and taking time bound measures to check conversion of agriculture land and degradation of water resources.

He deliberated upon the officers that during the farmer’s exposure visits/awareness camps organised under ATMA and other Schemes, the farmers should be given Training/Awareness about growing of area specific crops and High-Value crops having commercial value to increase their income.