Chandigarh, Sep 21 (IANS) The Punjab government will reduce the area under paddy (rice) cultivation in the state, and use it for cultivation of other crops like maize, sugarcane, and cotton, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said here Friday.
Badal, who attended a marathon six hour meeting with various progressive farmers' associations here, said that the state government would soon initiate steps to reduce the current area under paddy cultivation from 28 lakh hectares to nearly 15 lakh hectares.
The move to reduce area under paddy cultivation follows a decision of the central government to have a policy to fix state-wise quota of paddy procurement.
Badal said that the need of the hour was to encourage farmers to resort to agriculture allied activities like dairy farming, bee-keeping, piggery, fishery and poultry farming to enhance their income "as the constant hike in the agricultural inputs has rendered farming a non- profitable venture".
A Green Revolution state, Punjab contributes nearly 70 percent of foodgrains to the central pool despite having only 1.54 percent of the country's geographical area.
Badal said that the new quota policy on paddy procurement could spell doom for Punjab farmers who were already reeling under debt as agriculture had become non-profitable.
"Shifting towards crop diversification was the utmost requirement in the current scenario as due to decline in income, the distressed peasantry of the state was on the crossroads," he said.
Badal gave a nod for constituting an advisory committee for every allied agriculture activity for encouraging farmers for diversification of crops in the state.
He suggested that instead of growing coarse rice, farmers could opt for basmati rice as it could bring better returns through exports.