Jammu & Kashmir’s agricultural economy offers immense opportunities and challenges as well.

The state’s food imports – including food grains, meat and poultry are constantly rising. The net sown area is dwindling due to rapid urbanisation and lax implementation of laws. Despite drastic land use change, we are still dithering on introducing Floor Space Index (FSI) for new constructions. Climate change has begun to manifest in dwindled productivity and extinction of certain biological species. The agrarian economy is unable to provide decent job opportunities to our educated young people. We are barely paying attention to the looming climate crisis. As irrigation water becomes scarcer, transition to non-traditional and non-habitat crops has begun.

While significant research happens in developing better-yielding and climate-resistant crops, farmers are mostly clueless about new and improved seed varieties. Input costs in the agriculture sector are becoming exorbitant. The returns, at least in agriculture, are becoming paltry.

Per kanal productivity is not impressive at all. The demand-side situation is not good either. Thanks to World Trade Organisation (WTO) commitments, stiff global competition in agricultural and horticultural products has put J&K’s agricultural products on a tricky wicket. Prices in certain commodities, like saffron, almonds, pecan nuts and berries in India have gone down due to greater imports. This situation has hit the state’s farmers’ profits badly.

All this requires a radically new policy thinking and a bold approach. And that is where the Budget 2018-19 has to make a beginning.

In 2015-16, the primary sector of agriculture yielded Rs 13893 crore, which is 15.89% of the state’s GSDP. However, budgetary allocation to the sector hovers around 1 %. The sector not only requires greater budgetary allocation, it also requires a comprehensive review of the state and centrally-sponsored schemes to asses their value for money and effectiveness.

The net area sown of J&K State is only 7% of its total area. Astonishingly, the state’s total irrigated land area is 4.37 lakh hectares, out of which 1.90 lakh hectares fall in Kashmir and 2.47 lakh hectares fall in the Jammu region. As of 2016, the total unirrigated area in the state was 4.68 lakh hectares, out of which Jammu region’s area constituted 3.47 lakh hectares while Kashmir region’s area constituted 1.21 lakh hectares.

The state needs a major action plan for enhancing traditional and non-traditional irrigation systems for greater productivity and climate resistance. The 2018-19 Budget will have to make a bold beginning on that.

Seed quality and management is known to be highly critical in better productivity. For enhancing agricultural productivity on sustainable basis, improving Seed Replacement Rate (SRR) is known to be important. Agriculture has registered a mere 38% SRR of rice in Kashmir valley and 27.09% in Jammu Division. This percentage has to be drastically improved. And the Budget 2018-19 will have to design interventions in supporting that.

As what reflects from the views of experts who spoke exclusively to Ziraat Times on the budget, centrally-sponsored schemes require focused attention as well. Schemes like the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), National Mission on Saffron, Vegetable initiative for Urban Clusters (VIUC) and National Mission on Protein Supplements (NMPS) are faced with significant underspends. During 2015-16, there was an unspent balance of Rs 464.60 crore against an expenditure of Rs 425.42 crore.

While the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS), rolled out on a pilot basis for Sopore, Shopain and Dachnipora areas through government procurement of certain types of apples, the scheme needs a proper review and replication in other potential areas as well.

As the Budget 2018-19 discussions roll out, Ziraat Times will continue to engage with farmers and other allied interest groups throughout the state in understanding their issues and responses to the budget recommendations. We aim to provide all concerned voices an effective avenue to articulate their views for ensuring that those views are heard in policy making circles.

Understandably, recent budgets have sought to focus on twin objectives of fiscal consolidation and systemic reform. What is equally important is to have our basics right. And reshifting the focus to the agricultural economy is the key to that.

Arjimand Hussain Talib


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