Northern India – Punjab.

Punjab is in the northwestern area of India and borders Pakistan after Punjab state was divided by the British. Punjab is the only state in India with a majority Sikh population. The holiest of Sikh shrines (the Golden Temple) is located in the city of Amritsar. It is visited by more people annually than the Taj Mahal, and by our visit doesn’t see many Westerners, especially four women and a couple of blue eyed people.

Punjab has a higher standard of socioeconomics and better infrastructure than the south of India, although it still had a huge shortage of electricity due to high demands. The people are more affluent, with a growing middle class and education levels are high in the younger generation. But as in Australia, the population is increasingly becoming more urbanised.

Agriculture is the largest industry in Punjab and while it is home to just 1.6% of the total available agricultural land, it is the largest single producer of wheat in India. It provides 60 percent of wheat and 45 percent of rice to the central grain kitty. Sugarcane, maize, barley, fruits and vegetables are other cultivars and commodity crops grown in the region. Rice and wheat are double cropped with the rice stalks being burned off prior to the planting of wheat.

Due to high crop intensity and the excessive use of fertilisers, soil health has deteriorated and the water level has gone down in the most part of the state. Indiscriminate use of pesticides have led to contamination of groundwater, residues in the food chain and environmental pollution. The average yield of wheat per hectare has decline from 47.0 quintals/ha in 1999-00 to 43.1 quintals/ha in 2009-10.

The average landholding in Punjab is 2.65 hectares, nearly twice that of Southern India. It has been achieved through producers being more progressive and prosperous, due to their willingness to adopt more modern farming techniques, the use of better cultivars, uptake of mechanisation and have more access to markets. However with continuing increases in population, land is being fragmented into smaller holdings, making agriculture less profitable.

Punjab farmers receive a agricultural price policy payment for their products as well as receiving large subsidies in the form of fertilisers, power, irrigation, and credit. This has allowed them to invest in machinery over the years but due to the average farm size decreasing, it is meaning farmers are taking on more debt and making themselves over capitalised. The richer farmers appear to have considerable economic and political clout within their farming organisations and at governmental level.

Research and extension is seen as vital for indian agricultural to overcome issues and plays a key role in increasing food grain production. Punjab Agricultural University is located in the city of Ludhiana and covers an area of 580 hectares on its main campus and 2000 hectares at the regional research stations. PAU provides world class research, teaching and extension services at the door-step of farmers and has continuos government policy support. It has played a key role in the past to transform the life of peasantry in the region and has also made notable contributions in increasing livestock and poultry production.

India and Indian farmers have done a commendable job in providing for a billion strong and growing population. They made significant strides in the green revolution and continue to met the challenge of securing the production of basic staples like rice and wheat.

I believe the opportunities are the same as in the south of India with knowledge transfer being our major commodity we can trade in. There are opportunities to build private public partnerships in processing and value adding ventures and infrastructure in refrigeration and transportation.

The hospitality of India people is worth mentioning again and although I can’t say why, I loved India and will return some day.

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