Mumbai: Maharashtra’s farm sector contracted 8.3% in 2017-18 due to a weak monsoon, the state’s economic survey said, underlining the severe agrarian distress in India’s largest state economy.
The decline in “agriculture and allied activities” consequently pulled down the state’s economic growth to 7.3% during 2017-18. In contrast, the previous fiscal had seen an overall growth of 10%, against an advance estimate of 9.4%. That growth was powered by a whopping 22.5% jump in agriculture and allied activities, on the back of good rains and a bumper harvest.
Maharashtra received only 84.3% of the normal rains in 2017, the survey tabled in the assembly on Thursday by finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said.
“We could have achieved a higher growth rate but for the negative growth in the farm sector. Still, the growth rate of 7.3% in Maharashtra is better than the national growth rate of 6.5%,” Mungantiwar said.
In June 2017, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis declared a Rs34,022 crore farm loan waiver following a series of agitations by political parties and farm lobbies. The survey estimates that production of cereals, pulses, oilseeds, and cotton would decrease by 4%, 46%, 15% and 44% respectively in 2017-18. However, sugarcane yield is estimated to grow by 25% over the previous fiscal.
The economic survey pointed out several areas of concern in the state’s farm sector. It says the share of agriculture and allied activities in the total gross state value added (GSVA) has gone down to 12.2% in 2016-17 from 15.3% in 2001-02. Mungantiwar admitted to the problem and said the farm sector posed both long-term and temporary challenges for Maharashtra.
“The negative growth in 2017-18 is largely on account of less-than normal rains. Out of total 355 talukas in the state excluding Mumbai city and suburbs, 147 received deficient rains in 2017, 146 received normal rainfall, and 62 received excess rainfall. Overall, we received 84.3% of the normal rainfall,” he said.
He, however, compared the advance estimate of crop production in 2017-18 with the actual yield in 2013-14 when the state had received 124% of the normal rainfall. In 2013-14, the overall farm output in Maharashtra was more than 13.7 million metric tonnes, he said, adding that in 2017-18, with 84.3% of the normal rainfall, the state was estimated to produce more than 13.2 million metric tonnes.
“This means that despite less rainfall, we are near about achieving the same farm output during an excess rainfall year. This also proves that our long-term investments in the agriculture sector in the form of Jalyukta Shivar (an amalgamation of decentralized water conservation and irrigation schemes) and large scale energization of agriculture pumps are paying off,” Mungantiwar said.
The bigger and more long-term worry for Maharashtra is the gradual reduction in the average size of land-holding among all states, he said. “As per the 2010-11 agriculture census, the state, with average size of 1.44 hectare of operational land holding, is ranked tenth among all states. In 1971, the average land holding in Maharashtra was 4.28 hectares and the total agriculture land was distributed among only 4.9 million land holders. But today the average land holding has shrunk to 1.44 hectares and the number of land holders has gone up to more than 13 million. This is a big challenge and we need to find solutions like collective farming,” Mungantiwar said.
More than 8.9 million hectares of farm land in Maharashtra, which accounts for 45.2% of the total cultivable land, was in the category of small and marginal (up to 2 hectares) but more than 10.7 million farmers held this land, which means 78% of the total 13.7 million farmers in the state were small and marginal, Mungantiwar said. He also said Maharashtra needed to increase its per-hectare productivity and added that he would announce steps towards this goal in his budget speech on Friday.