Area under sunflower crop ‘dries up’

Over the last one decade, the area earmarked for sunflower cultivation in Punjab has decreased drastically. While till 1999, the crop was cultivated in an area of 70,000 hectare, this year, the government has a target to cultivate the crop in 20,000 hectare.

Sunflower is not only the single oil seed crop that faces such decrease in cultivation area. The same has happened with every oil seed crop in Punjab, including rapeseed mustard, ground nut and sesamum seed.

This, despite the state government's claims about need for crop diversification in the light of groundwater being exploited as a result of paddy cultivation.

The sunflower crop, which was for the first time cultivated in the state in the early 1990s, had touched around 1.03 lakh hectare cultivation area in 1995-96. Till 1999, the crop was cultivated in an area of 70,000 hectare but after the diversification policy was formally launched in the state in 2000-01, the area under sunflower started declining so much so that in 2012, the area earmarked was 1,4000 hectare.

Similarly, rapeseed mustard crop, which was cultivated in an area of 1.58 lakh hectare in the early 1990s and 1.20 lakh hectare in 1995-96, will only be cultivated in 35,000 hectare this year. Groundnut, which was cultivated in 94,000 hectare area in 1980s, has reduced to just 2,000 hectare in 2012. Sesamum seed too will only be cultivated in an area of 5,000-6,000 hectare.

According to the agriculture department, the main reason of the drastic decrease of area under oil seed crops was poor government policies. "Neither the state government has ever fixed any Minimum Support Price (MSP) nor assured the procurement of such crops. Gradually, farmers have returned to wheat and paddy, which only have assured MSP and procurement," said a senior official.

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