Here are few excerpts from the report on the Agriculture Census, prepared by the Department of Land Records, Government of Himachal Pradesh.
Despite the apple boom, Himachal Pradesh remains a poor recipient of the changes in the agriculture sector, mainly in the form of new technologies and crop diversification methods. The state, largely rain-fed, has not seen any significant change in the cropping pattern, with food crops still dominating the agricultural operations. Small land holdings, which are becoming smaller with time, remains the prime cause of farmers’ dependence on the conventional crops which involve minimal input costs. Lack of irrigation facilities in potential areas has been identified as another reason for slow change in the agriculture sector. Himachal Pradesh’s latest report on the Agriculture Census, prepared by the Department of Land Records, reveals that there has only been a marginal change in the cropping pattern, not significant enough to take notice. Nearly 96.8 per cent of the total cropped area (10.24 lakh hectares), is under food crops — mainly wheat and maize. The remaining 3.2 per cent is under non-food crops, which also include fruits and vegetables.
But what has really put Himachal Pradesh on the back seat is its untapped potential in the cultivation of high-value crops. “The state enjoys a comparative advantage in the production of plantation crops, off-season vegetables, flowers and fruits. But, owing to various technical, economic, institutional and social constraints the potential has not yet been tapped in the hills despite the necessary technology being readily available,” says the report in its chapter on cropping pattern. It’s because of these reasons that the area under food crops remains almost equal to what it was in 1990-91 (between 96.8 per cent and 96.9 per cent). At least seven districts — Hamirpur, Mandi, Bilaspur, Sirmaur, Chamba, Mandi and Una — have more than 90 per cent area under food crops. Here, wheat remains the main food crop followed by maize, paddy and barley. In some districts like Lahaul-Spiti, Shimla, Kangra and Chamba the potato crop does provide a diversification option. Cultivation of seed potato in the Lahaul valley has been acknowledged as a good shift from foodgrains.
The report also hints at some dangers, if the new hill-farming technologies are not pro-actively put into practice. It says, “It is felt that the problem of degradation of the hills, as a result of non- farming activities on cultivable soil, is posing a new threat to the hill ecology and it’s not Himachal alone which is going to pay the price. Some of the neighbhouring states are also likely to be equally affected by these damages.” The study recommends an optimal farming system for the state, which should include a combination of different farming activities based on scientific inputs — animal husbandry, fisheries, sericulture, forestry, animal husbandry, spices, fodder crops, etc. The need for promoting agro-based industries is also stressed in the report to promote high-yield, high-value crops in the hills.