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Skyrocketing red gram price may cheer distressed farmers
Red gram is an important pulse crop. It is also known as Pigeonpea, Arhar and Tur. Though the high price of toor dal may be big disappointment to the general public but red gram farmers of Telangana are cheers a lot because they hope to recover at least part of their losses incurred in cotton and soya
Red gram is an important pulse crop. It is also known as Pigeonpea, Arhar and Tur. Though the high price of toor dal may be big disappointment to the general public but red gram farmers of Telangana are cheers a lot because they hope to recover at least part of their losses incurred in cotton and soya bean cultivation during this year's kharif season as their produce which will be harvested in over a month is likely to command good price even if there is a slump in the markets during trading season.
Production of pulses is expected to plunge in the State because of poor rains. Red gram, green gram and black gram are major pulses grown in the State besides Bengal gram, horse gram.
Among the pulses, red gram is a protein rich staple food. It contains about 22 percent protein, which is almost three times that of cereals. Red gram supplies a major share of protein requirement of vegetarian population. Red gram is mainly consumed in the form of split pulse as Dal, which is an essential supplement of cereal based diet.
In addition to being an important source of human food and animal feed, Red gram also plays an important role in sustaining soil fertility by improving physical properties of soil and fixing atmospheric nitrogen. Being a drought resistant crop, it is suitable for dry land farming and predominantly used as an intercrop with other crops.
The farmers of the State are happy about the surging of red gram prices, they were happy because they expected good price for their produce of red gram, since the monsoon crop growing area in State is 2.23 lakh hectares against the normal 2.90 lakh hectares. It was targeted to grow red gram in 3.08 lakh hectares. Had sowing started at the right time this year, the State would have produced 1.79 lakh metric tonnes of pulses but it is estimated that red gram is likely to yield about 0.98lakh quintals at an anticipated yield of about 5.30 quintals per acre on an average, in the State due to reduced cultivation of pulses affected by poor monsoon.
Similarly, the production of blackgram and greengram in kharif is estimated to be about 17,712 tonnes and 52,858 tonnes, respectively. Meanwhile, Agriculture department has estimated the production of red gram at 2.61 million tonnes against the target of 3.67 million tonnes. The production of green gram is also estimated to be 0.86 million tonnes against the target of 1.1 million tonnes in kharif. However, the production of blackgram is estimated to be 1.37 million tonnes against the target of 1.29 million tonnes.
Even if the farmers get the minimum support price of Rs. 4,625 a quintal and Rs.200 as a bonus, they will get at least some profit. This will be possible as the investment for rain fed crop will not exceed Rs. 10,000 per acre in fields where only red gram is grown.
A ground-level research and study of the cost involved in the cultivation of Red Gram conducted by the Indian Statistical Institute has exposed the lopsided fixing of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) by the Central Government and how the farmers were forced to eke out a pittance as a six –month long toil in the field. It also estimated that the farmer should get at least Rs.6157 as Minimum Support Price (MSP) as against Rs.4625 as fixed by the Central Government.
Due to lack of remunerative price and low returns the area under the Red Gram cultivation is declining over a period of time as per the latest data available with Agriculture department.
The annual productivity of the Red Gram was almost stagnant with the minimum fluctuations year to year. If the productivity of Red Gram which was 10 qunitals per hectare in 1950-51, it is almost the more or less same today with 12.75 qunitals per hectare also, meaning that there was no technological breakthrough in the cultivation of Red Gram, unlike the breakthroughs achieved in the production of wheat and rice. Moreover, the increase in the production of the red gram was mainly due to the increase in the area and not due to any increase in the productivity. In the last two decades the production of the Red Gram had remained static around 3 million tones.
The red gram requires more money under irrigated conditions and investment is in between Rs. 10,000 and Rs.12,000 and fluctuating some times and the yield is also around 5.50 quintals per acre. Besides this, a rain fed red gram field in the tribal areas of the State will need only about Rs.2000 to Rs.3000 as investment but the yield may be below 5 qunitals per acre.
As this lentil crop variety is sown as an inter-crop with cotton and soya bean, any income from it comes as a bonus. In fact, cotton and soya bean farmers are likely to recover some of the losses incurred by way of damage to the primary crops through an average yield of red gram raised in dry conditions.
By G Rajendera Kumar