Assured returns on wheat and the growing uncertainty on remuneration for other rabi crops have led farmers across Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh to boost corp yields. To hedge against the risks of rising production costs, they have also increased mechanisation.
India's average wheat productivity is 3.14 tonnes a hectare, against the global average of three tonnes a hectare. Productivity in France stands at seven tonnes a hectare, while in China it is 4.8 tonnes a hectare.
By upgrading the variety of seeds, adopting modern equipment such as laser land levellers and using micro nutrients to replenish the soil, traditional wheat-growing states have enhanced productivity. Farmers in Haryana said by using laser land levellers, they were able to cut the requirement of water by 30 per cent and raise yields five to six per cent.
Though other rabi crops such as sugarcane, maize, potatoes and oilseeds are lucrative, their prices are inconsistent. Last year, Jagtar Singh Mehma of Bhatinda in Punjab recorded a loss of about Rs 20 lakh, owing to a fall in potato prices. “This year is good for potato growers but we cannot predict what would happen next year,” he said.
Sugarcane, another low-cost crop in terms of labour and irrigation, is also failing to draw farmers due to the huge payments due from sugar mills every year. Ujjwal Singh, a farmer from Sangrur, said maize was a lucrative crop but its price was unregulated. For farmers growing oilseeds, middlemen take a chunk of the returns.