In early April this year, when boro (summer) paddy covering a record 3.25 lakh hectares was just beginning to flower, Assam Agriculture Minister Pramila Rani Brahma was confident that the state would easily pull off the rice production target of 46.7 lakh metric tonnes during 2010-2011.
But three weeks later, when floods ravaged the standing crops in about 60,000 hectares, the government realised it had to redraw its strategy if it wanted to meet the all-time high target. It did just that.
“We drew up an eight-point strategy to make up for the losses caused by the floods, and the focus was immediately shifted to sali paddy, which will be ready for harvest this winter,” said Brahma.
The eight-point strategy included a systematic rice intensification (SRI) campaign, large-scale adoption of hybrid as well as high-yielding varieties, increasing availability of quality seeds, better soil health management, prophylactic plant protection measures, ensuring procurement by FCI, and release of KCC at a wider scale.
Now last month, over 18 lakh hectares of sali paddy plantation was completed across the state. While this will be ready
for harvest by October-end, the next round of summer paddy (boro) could be planted by November.
However, when the sali crop began gaining height, there came another bad news about 45,000 hectares of crop came under sporadic attack of pests. “We mainly detected four major pests, these being case worm, leaf folder, hispa and stem borer. But the department promptly provided Rs 4 lakh to each district in order to help the farmers control the pests by spraying pesticides. The situation is now under control,” said Pankajnabha Das, an official in the state agriculture department.
With the state government ensuring purchase of rice by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), farmers have also started getting an assured market for their excess produce. “Last year, the FCI purchased 12,300 metric tonnes of rice from Assam farmers. This has also helped them get better price,” said Brahma. Moreover, more and more farmers are also taking loans through Kisan Credit Cards in the past few years, she added.