Gujarat an agriculture leader? Farmers in state more indebted than those in Bihar, report shows

Gujarat has a total of 66 lakh families where 40 lakh work in agriculture, said the report. In terms of land per family, Gujarat ranks tenth in the country.
Image for representational purpose. (Express Illustration)
Image for representational purpose. (Express Illustration)

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government's claim that the state is a leader in the agriculture sector has been invalidated by a report released by the Centre.

The Union Ministry of Agriculture in its annual report for the year 2021-'22 reveals that farmers in Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand are better off than their counterparts in Gujarat.

Each farmer family in Gujarat has a debt of Rs 56,568 whereas a farmer family in Bihar has a debt of Rs 23,534. In West Bengal, the debt figure is 26,452, Odisha 32,721, Chhattisgarh 21,443, and Uttarakhand 48,338.

Similarly, a farmer family in Gujarat earned a monthly income of Rs 12,631 which is far less that the monthly income of farmers in Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand.

A farmer family, the report found, earned a monthly income of Rs 12,631 in Gujarat. The average farmer family earns Rs 4318 from crop production, Rs 3477 from animal husbandry, Rs 4415 as wages, Rs 53 from rented land, as well as an additional Rs 369 per month.

Gujarat has a total of 66,02,700 families. A total of 40,36,900 families work in agriculture, the report noted. That is, agriculture employs 61.10 per cent of the state's households.

The average farming family in the state owns 0.616 hectares of land. In terms of land per family, Gujarat ranks tenth in the country.

Agriculture scientist and former Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith Rajendra Khimani said, "Prices of agricultural products do not rise in tandem with input cost of cultivation. As a result, the farmer becomes indebted. Input cultivation prices have increased by 60 per cent in the last three years, while produce prices have increased by no more than 30%. Simply put, this demonstrates a large gap between agri production costs and output product income, which is increasing farmers' debt."

"Small farmers are now shifting to cash crops, especially in tribal areas. Farmers used to grow cash crops for their families, but now in most parts of Gujarat, they are shifting to market-oriented farming. If you turn to market-oriented agriculture, you will have to incur debt to meet the demands of the market; if you try to commercialize agriculture, the debt will naturally increase," he added.

According to Ramesh Patel, a farmer from South Gujarat: "Fertilizer prices have risen. At the same time, the price of seeds has more than doubled. Furthermore, the price of diesel, which is used to power farm machinery and tractors, has increased. As a result, farmers' overall incomes decreased while input costs increased. Most farmers are also repaying previous debts."

According to data presented to the Parliament, agricultural loans in Gujarat increased from Rs 73,228.67 crore in 2019–20 to Rs 96,963.07 crore in 2021-22. It's interesting to note that during the past two years, the ticket size of loans obtained under the farm credit programme has also climbed by 45%. According to data from the Union Ministry of Agriculture, the per-account agriculture credit increased throughout the time from Rs 1.71 lakh to Rs 2.48 lakh during the quarter.

Economist Hemant Shah said, "The increasing amount of debt shows that these farmers are quite indebted, and those who fall under the marginal side will not be able to increase their income because of the debt, Government claimed that farmers' income will be doubled before 2022, but their own data claimed farmer debt has doubled."

It is important to note that, as debt levels rise, the suicide rate among agricultural workers and farmers in Gujarat has increased as well. According to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), 126 agricultural labourers and farmers in Gujarat died by suicide in the year 2020 during the pandemic.

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