January 2017 News

Kashmir Losing Food Independence As Imports Rise

22 January 2017
Kashmir Reader
M A Parray

Srinagar: The J&K state is increasingly becoming dependent on imports for its food needs, the latest Economic Survey Report suggests. The ESR says that in 2002-03, J&K imported 503,000 metric tonnes of food grains, which rose to 755,850 metric tonnes in 2015-16. While imports registered a regular increasing trend since 2012-03, they hovered around 750,000-MT mark during the past few years. During the year 2013-14, the report says, the import of foodgrains was 756800 MTs, same as the previous year. In 2015-16, the import was recorded at 755.85 thousand MTs, the report says. 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. The highest deficit, as per the survey, was in 2011-12 with imports increasing to 908.22 thousand MTs-20% more than the previous year (2010-11). 'The local production of foodgrains in the state does not keep pace with the requirement, as the agriculture sector faces challenges on various fronts,' the report says. On the supply side, it says, the yield of principal crops-rice, maize, and wheat-has 'not significantly improved' over the years. 'More or less stagnant trend in the yield rates of these crops has been experienced. Moreover, the scope for increasing net area sown, is very limited and the land holding is shrinking due to continuous breakdown of joint family system, growing urbanization and population explosion,' it says. The deficit is met by imports for meeting commitments under Targeted Public Distribution System, other welfare schemes and emergency relief measures, it says. 'Import of food grains, thus helps in augmenting supplies, maintaining food security and buffer stock and ensuring price stability,' the report says. According to the official record, the area under paddy cultivation was 158,000 hectare in 2012, shrinking to 141,000 hectare in 2015-16. It also reveals that the arable land in the state has shrunk from 0.14 hectare per-person in 1981 to 0.08 hectare per-person in 2001 and further to 0.06 hectare per-person in 2012. The survey also highlights declining interest in agriculture as other major threat. Referring to survey by National Sample Survey Office (2005), 41% of farmers in India wanted to leave agriculture if any other option was available. 'Census 2011 reveals that J&K has 5.66 lakh cultivators for whom farming is their main occupation and this number has scaled down from 9.49 lakh in 2001,' it says. Concerned about the rising conversion of the farm land, the J&K High Court last year directed government to appoint two authorities-Divisional Commissioners-one each at Srinagar and Jammu, for implementation of local laws and Supreme Court directions regarding the protection of the agriculture land in the state. 'The authorities will, besides monitoring the implementation of the relevant laws, shall also evolve a mechanism for protection and preservation of the retrieved land,' the court had said. The Land Revenue and Agrarian Reforms Acts empowers the revenue authorities to stop the conversion of the land for other uses such as construction of houses, etc., and take action against the violators.