Rice is the staple crop of India, and every day millions of Indians find comfort in it. With a high carbohydrate content, it is known to provide instant energy, and is a staple that is consumed by the majority of India’s population. Hence, the importance of rice crop in the country can’t be negated.
Rice crop’s history is a bit obscured with different accounts of its origin. While it is believed that certain varieties of rice crop were first domesticated in the area that is now the north-east India, there are some varieties that are ascertained to have originated in Southern China that were later introduced to India. It is also said that the word rice finds its origin in the Tamil word ‘Arisi’.
India is not only a leading consumer of rice crop but also its second largest producer in the world (106.5 million tonnes), lagging behind only China (144 million tonnes) according to the annual 2015-16 report by United States Department of Agriculture. This growth is linked to the efforts made during the green revolution to increase yield which ushered in an era of higher productivity and cultivation. India, however, still needs to work on improving the productivity of rice considering that India has the largest area under rice crop cultivation.
Rice Crop Types
There are various type of rice varieties that are consumed in our country – Basmati, White, Brown, Red, Jasmine, Parboiled and Sticky Rice. Of these, Basmati and White Rice are the ones that are most favoured in the country. Rice is an adaptable crop and can be cultivated in a variety of climates, be it plains, or the mountains and hence it can be grown as a Kharif crop or even as Rabi crop! However the primary season is Kharif and hence most of the Rice sowing is done during June to July, and for the Rabi, the sowing time is November to February. At the same time, the harvesting happens in November-December for the Kharif, and March-June for the Rabi. The states that cultivate rice for the Rabi season are Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu etc. Since rice is mostly a Kharif crop, hence majority of rice in the rest of India is produced in the Kharif season!
Rice Crop Production
In India, rice is grown in almost half the states, with West Bengal leading the way in terms of production with 14.71 million tonnes, followed by Uttar Pradesh (12.22 million tonnes) and Andhra Pradesh (11.57 million tonnes) as per the Agricultural Statistics 2014-15, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare of the Government of India. However, the low productivity is a concern for India since India’s overall productivity, which lies at 2390 kg/ hectare is less compared to the other countries, as well as there is a stark difference in India’s states. Punjab with a productivity of 3,838 kg hectare has the highest productivity in India, and Andhra Pradesh comes second with a productivity of 3,036 kg/ hectare. The difference shows in the form of Uttar Pradesh which despite being the second largest rice producing state, has a productivity of 2,082 kg/ hectare, much less than the national average.
Other concerns of rice cultivation
Rice has been traditionally troubled by pests and diseases and hence a lot of pesticides are used in the country to improve productivity and ensure a pest free crop. The common pests that affect rice are, Thrips, Green Lifehopper, Rice Case Worm, Paddy Stemborer, Swarming Caterpillar, and, Gall Midge.
The Indian government has decided the minimum support price (MSP) for the 2016-17 Kharif season to be at INR 1470 per quintal as compared to INR 1410 per quintal last year. The price was raised based on the recommendations of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), which actively advises the government each year on the support prices to ensure that farmers get a fair share for their crops.
Rice being a water intensive crop, depends heavily on groundwater for its growth. It takes in the major chunk of water withdrawals worldwide for production. Farmers in India have to rely on the groundwater for irrigation of rice, especially keeping in mind the increasing variability of the monsoonal deluge. This has resulted in a severe decrease in groundwater reserves in certain parts of the country. There is an urgent need for establishing proper irrigation methods to ensure higher productivity while minimising the use of groundwater.