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Changing Face of Agriculture in Bihar


Dr R K P Singh
Former Adviser,
State Farmers Commission,Bihar


Bihar is the third largest state with respect to population and seventh in terms of area in India.   Agriculture is still an important sector in Bihar since it contributes about 16 per cent to State Gross Domestic Product and provides employment to about 70 per cent of working force in rural area. The state is characterized by small land holders in the country. More than 90 per cent of farm households belong to marginal farm category (less than 1 ha land) but own about 44 per cent of cultivated land in Bihar.  Agriculture sector experienced a drastic change with respect to public investment, use of inputs, extension activities and crop-milk-fish production. State government assigned priority to the sector through providing fund to this sector by increasing annual average budget allocation from less than Rs 200 crore during 2001-06 to more than Rs 1,000 crore during 2006-11. In Bihar, the State Agricultural GDP was almost stagnant at Rs 32.5 billion during 1981-94 and its growth was negative in Ninth Five Year Plan (-1.4%) which turned positive in Tenth Five Year Plan (0.91%). During 2004-11, State AgGDP grew at the annual growth rate of 2.7 per cent. However, State Gross Domestic Product recorded growth of 10.9 per cent during the period which was higher than corresponding growth achieved at national level. State agriculture sector also achieved spectacular growth of 31 per cent in the year 2006-07. But the state failed to maintain higher agriculture growth due to flood in 2007 and 2008, and drought in 2009 and 2010. Despite severe drought in 2010, the state recorded the food grain production of 125 lakh tonnes and milk production of 63 lakh tonnes, indicating sustainability in agricultural production in Bihar.


Per hectare Net State Agril. Domestic Product (NSAgDP) increased from Rs 29750 in 2001-06 to Rs 36,193 in 2006-11, which worked out to be an annual increase of 4.3 per cent during the period, indicating increase in productivity of crops and animal in the state. However, an increase in area under high value crops and increase in high yielding dairy animals have also been observed during the period. Average per capita Net State Agricultural Domestic Product also increased from Rs 1904 to Rs 2209 during the period but annual increase was lower than the increase in per hectare NSAgDP, mainly due to increase in population by 25 per cent during the period 2001-11, which was higher than annual agricultural growth in the state. Bihar ranks sixth among major states of India with respect to per hectare State Net Agricultural domestic Product but at the lowest ladder with respect to per capita SNAgGDP. State Government prepared a Road Map for development of agriculture and allied sectors and tried to implement several projects/programmes for faster development of these sectors in the state. It is a coincidence that the Union Government has also launched several Mega projects namely; National Horticulture Mission, Rastriya Krishi Vikas Yojna and National Food Security Mission for agricultural development during last five years


Climate of Bihar is favourable for production of various field crops and agriculture of the state is still dependent on behaviour of monsoon and distribution of rainfall. During the last 10 years, food grain production was the highest (122 lakh tonnes) in 2007-08 when state received the normal annual rainfall (1196 mm) in 56 rainy days but produced the lowest food grain (79 lakh tonnes) in 2004-05 when annual rainfall was below normal (1003 mm) with the least number of rainy days (26). The state has achieved almost sustainability in agricultural production because the record food grain (125 lakh tonnes) was produced in 2010-11 with only annual rainfall of 866 mm with only 34 rainy days. Food grain production in drought year was even higher than food grain production of the normal annual rainfall year 2007-08. In Bihar, there was severe drought in 1966 when only 866 mm of monsoon rainfall was received and food grain production was declined by 50 percent of then normal production level. An increase in food grain production in the state in drought year 2010-11 was made possible due to increase in number of private tube wells installed by farmers. However, the State Government also made some cosmetic efforts for maintaining agricultural production.


Agricultural production scenario:


Analysis of food grain production during last 10 years revealed that average area under food grain declined from about 68 lakh hectares during 2001-06 to 67 lakh hectares during 2006-11, but their share in gross cropped area remained constant at 88 per cent during the period. Despite decline in area under food grain and unfavourable weather (flood in 2007 & 2008 and drought in 2009 & 2010) food grain production increased by about 18 per cent during last five years over preceding five years (2001-06). There was spectacular increase in food grain productivity from 1176 kgs per hectare during 2001-06 to 1743 Kgs per hectare during 2006-11. But production of rice, the main food grain crop which is grown in about two- third area of net sown area in kharif season, did not show any increase in productivity. Production of rice is still to cross 60 lakh tonnes whereas production of about 55 lakh tonnes of rice was achieved in 2003-04. Hence, it may be said that rice production in Bihar still depends on weather. In Bihar, rice cannot be grown successfully in scanty rainfall due to unreliable and costly irrigation sources. About 60 per cent rice is grown in irrigated situation but the majority of farmers provide survival irrigation to rice crop because diesel operated tube well is the main source of irrigation which is costly, particularly for marginal  farmers who purchase water at the rate of Rs 70-90 per hour.


Wheat production was stagnant at 40 lakh tonnes during 1995-2006 but its average annual production increased to 59 lakh tonnes in 2010-11. Average per hectare wheat productivity showed increasing trend from about 20 quintals during 2001-06 to more than 23 quintals during last five years (2006-11). Maize productivity also increased from 23 quintals to 33 quintals per hectare during 2006-11. However, winter maize productivity of 80 quintals per hectare is common in Begusarai and Khagaria districts of Bihar. The high yield of winter maize is mainly due to favourable ecology for production of maize in winter season along with farmers’ efforts in production of this crop in Bihar. State government made a little effort to boost winter maize production because farmers depend on non government sector for not only hybrid maize seeds but also for marketing, fertilizer and pesticide. Hence, there is an ample scope for increasing production of winter maize in Bihar. Increase in production and productivity of wheat and maize has been mainly contributed by adoption of modern production technology of these crops by farmers.


While comparing the productivities of principal crops with target set for respective crops at the terminal year of Eleventh Five Year Plan, there has not been any increase in rice productivity in the state but the targets set for wheat and maize  productivities  are likely to be achieved in the terminal year of the plan..There has been significant increase in per hectare productivity of principal crops during last five years but the state is still placed at twelfth position in rice, seventh position in wheat and sixth position in maize productivity in the country.     


Irrigation:Irrigation is one of the critical inputs for increasing agricultural production. In Bihar, about 54 percent area is irrigated which is much higher than the corresponding national average (42%) but among major states our irrigation efficiency is the lowest (134). Average gross irrigated area increased from 47 lakh hectares in 2001-06 to 47.98 lakh hectares in 2006-11 but it is mainly through private tube wells. Tube well irrigated area constitutes 62 percent of total irrigated area, mainly through private tube wells because more than 90 per cent of Govt. Tube wells are abandoned and do not provide irrigation to even 50 thousand hectares of land. State Government has installed few tube wells and handed over their management to individual (officially to committee) but these tube wells are not functioning well in the interest of farming community. State government provided assistance to install 21,036 pump sets in 2009-10 but it had almost insignificant impact on increasing tube well irrigated area which increased by only four thousand hectares from 27.22 lakh hectares in 2008-09 to 27.26 lakh hectares in 2009-10. Hence, almost identical number of tube wells might have turned non- functional during the year.


Canal irrigation is considered to be a farmers’ friendly and reliable source of irrigation. But it is most unreliable source of irrigation in Bihar. Canal system was an inefficient source of irrigation in Bihar which failed to provide irrigation facility to less than 50 per cent of its command area during the year 2009-10. Canal irrigated area declined from 16.66 lakh hectares in 2008-09 to 12.02 lakh hectares in 2009-10, indicating unreliability of canal irrigation system in Bihar. State Government has been making huge expenditure under plan and non plan heads on development and maintenance of irrigation infrastructure. During last five years annual plan expenditure of about Rs 2500 per hectare of irrigated area was incurred in Bihar but these investment has neither resulted in visible increase in irrigated area nor satisfactory maintenance of irrigation infrastructure in Bihar. However, eleven medium and major irrigation projects for increasing irrigated area are under progress in Eleventh Five Year Plan. About 55 percent of ground water is still to be exploited for irrigation purposes. Hence, there is vast potential for increasing irrigated area in Bihar which will help increasing agricultural production for not only consumption but for raw materials for agro-industry.


Fertilizer: Fertilizer is known as an essential input for increasing crop production. A spectacular increase in fertilizer consumption has been observed during green revolution period in the country in general and Bihar in particular. In Bihar per hectare fertilizer (NPK) consumption was only 4 kilograms in early sixties which increased to 19 kilograms in 1975-76 and further increased to about 200 kilograms in 2010-11. Per hectare fertilizer consumption in crop production increased by more than two fold during last 10 years from about 80 kilograms in 2000-01 to 200 kilograms in 2010-11. The higher and imbalance use of chemical fertilizers threatened the soil health but soil of the state is still reach in organic carbon (0.5-1.0). However, increasing use of chemical fertilizers accompanied with declining use of manure would likely to have adverse effect on soil health. Deficiency of micronutrients (zinc, boron and sulphur) has been reported from different parts of state but there is no facility where farmers could get their soil tested to know the extent of micro-nutrient deficiency. Government of Bihar made unsuccessful efforts to provide soil test (NPK) facility to farmers but a few farmers could get the report of soil test. Recently, Department of Agriculture started a campaign for popularizing organic farming in the state. In this context it is worth pointing out that the rice production in water logged area of north Bihar was totally chemical free up to mid-nineties. The majority of farmers growing fruits and vegetables for their domestic use do not use fertilizers and chemicals. We should educate these farmers, on priority basis, for organic cultivation of these crops before making efforts for organic farming of food grain crops, which may threaten our food security in short period. It is also a difficult task for farmers to arrange organic/bio-fertilizers for huge area under food grains. Organic certification is another difficult and costly activity, particularly for small and marginal farmers, who constitute more than 90 per cent of farm households and own about 50 per cent of cultivated area in Bihar.

Seeds: Seed is known for increasing agricultural production, good quality seeds alone can increase 30 per cent of agricultural production. In Bihar, high yielding varieties cover 65 per cent area under rice, 95 per cent area under wheat and 88 per cent area under maize but farmers are using poor quality seeds because most of these seeds are home grown.  State Government has been making sincere efforts to popularise and make available quality seeds to farmers since 2009. Under Chief Minister Beej Vistar yojana, rice and wheat foundation seeds were provided to farmers for production of quality seeds but only 25 per cent of produced rice and 31 per cent of produced wheat seeds could be utilised as seed in the next season. It may be considered a good effort in right direction but proper monitoring of this scheme could have made this effort more useful. In 2011 also, a large quantum of Daincha seeds for green manure, and hybrid rice seeds have been distributed among farmers but desired result may not be obtained due to poor monitoring of the scheme. Seed replacement rates of rice and wheat increased from less than 10 per cent in 2001-05 to 31% and 29%, respectively in 2010-11. Seed replacement rate of maize was high (45%) in 2001-05 but it also increased to 65 per cent in 2010-11. But availability of quality seeds of vegetables is still much lower in Bihar, adversely affecting vegetable production in the state.


Agricultural Development Programmes


There are 14 major agricultural development programmes managed and monitored by Department of Agriculture, Government of Bihar which include 5 state sponsored, 4 centre sponsored and 4 Mission Mode projects. An attempt has been made here to examine the performance of three important agricultural development programmes i.e.; National Horticulture Mission (NHM), Rastriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and National Food Security Mission (NFSM).

National Horticulture Mission (NHM): It was launched in Bihar in the year 2005-06 with the objective of bringing a holistic and integrated development in the horticulture sector. It is based on cluster approach, focussed to development of selected crops, improvement in production and productivity, adoption of good agricultural practices aimed at promotion of export and thrust on post- harvest management. During first four years of NHM implementation, less than one-fifth of fund allocated to this programme could be utilized but pace of implementation of various components of NHM was accelerated in 2009-10 when 60 per cent of allocated fund was utilized for implementation of the project. However, the steam of the project seems to be exhausted in 2010-11 because only 31 per cent of allocated fund was utilized in the year.


Among various  components of NHM, promotion of export and post harvest management have not been taken up seriously in Bihar, which are very important for increasing income of farmers. Mango constitutes about 50 per cent of total fruit area in Bihar and it is one of the important crops of NHM programme. Area under Mango increased by 4 thousand hectares during 2005-09 i.e.; annual increase of 0.71 per cent in mango area. Department of Horticulture made effort in implementation of NHM but state has lagged much behind in executing various projects of NHM, mainly due to inappropriate design of the project for more than 90 per cent farm households along with poor monitoring of the scheme.

National Food Security Mission (NFSM):It was launched in Bihar in the year 2007-08 with objectives to increase productivities of rice, wheat and pulses along with to maintain/increase the fertility of soil. This programme has made some dent in rural area by distributing seeds and fertilizers but a large number of remote villages and poor farmers do not have access to this programme. Department of Agriculture could make much higher expenditure (86% of allocated fund) in 2009-10 but it has reduced to 59 per cent in 2010-11. Paddy seeds distributed during kharif 2011 could not be utilized properly by the majority of farmers, due to their poor knowledge about the seeds or their less confidence in new technology (seed).


Rastriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY): The project was launched in 2007-08 to increase investment in agriculture and allied sectors, reduce yield gap and address the agriculture and allied sectors in an integrated manner. In RKVY, agriculture mechanization is the major component which accounts for 85 per cent of total outlay of the project but only one-third outlay of agriculture mechanization could be utilized in 2010-11. The performance of other components of the RKVY has been poor than the agriculture mechanization since inception of the project.


In all these Mega Projects, small and marginal farmers are least benefited due to their small size of land holdings, low socio-economic status and poor access to officials of agriculture department


Performance of Allied Sector


Livestock sector contributes about 40 per cent to the State Gross Agricultural Domestic Product of Bihar and supports the livelihoods and food security of about two-third of rural households. This is one of the fastest growing sub-sectors of the agricultural economy in the state and recorded about 6% growth during the first four years of the Eleventh Five Year Plan. If developed appropriately, livestock sector has the potential to significantly enhance the rural economy. Despite the higher growth and substantial contribution to State GDP, Bihar is still not self-sufficient in milk, meat, eggs and fish production. These sectors have the capacity to provide opportunities for livelihood to people in their present location and situation. Bihar has abundant water resources such as ponds and tanks covering approximately 65000 hectares and major flowing rivers (around 2700 kms in length) which are fertile breeding grounds for pisci-culture. North Bihar also has capture fisheries resources like, chours and ox-bow lakes. Converting these capture fisheries to culture fisheries could make them important sources of income and employment for fishermen communities, apart from being an excellent source of cheap protein for people. Total fish production in the State is about 2.66 lakh tonnes, however, annual consumption of fish within the State is about 5.0 lakh tonnes. The underutilization of aquaculture resources, unscientific management of water bodies and lack of entrepreneurship are some of the most obvious reasons for the gap between demand and supply of fish in Bihar.


Eleventh Plan envisions promotion of livestock sector to enable Bihar to become self sufficient in related products. As major inputs for agro processing, dairy and fisheries produce can become an important source for value addition within the state itself, which in turn opens up income and employment opportunities. An effort has been made to examine the progress made in various component of livestock sector in the state.


The milk production target in Bihar is likely to be achieved by the end of Eleventh Plan but there has not been any visible sincere efforts made by state government, except Immunization programme which could not reach to remote villages. The programme of establishing Fodder Block Unit is still in planning stage .However, the state faced an embracing situation in supply of fodder to flood affected farmers in last flood. State Govt failed to revive their old Artificial Insemination Centres and a large number of villages are not provided with artificial insemination facilities. COMFED (Co-operative Milk Producers Federation Limited) is doing good work in milk marketing in Bihar but milk processing capacity has not increased for the last four years. COMFED could cover only livestock rich districts and farmers of backward districts are still deprived of benefits of marketing network of COMFED.


Fish production recorded an annual growth of about 6% during first four years of Eleventh Plan but the state govt. programme of establishing govt. sponsored hatchery and supporting farmers for construction of new ponds could not make much headway in the state. In Bihar, the major problem in development of agriculture and allied sector is poor implementation and monitoring of programmes.


In the Eleventh Plan, an Agriculture Road Map withan outlay of Rs. 3757.12 crore has been approved by the state government to boost the agriculture sector. Besides, several new initiatives have been implemented for the development of agriculture and allied sector in the state. Despite renewed emphasis on agriculture the average annual growth Rate of GSDP in Agriculture and Allied Sectors in the four years of the Eleventh Plan was only 1.9 per cent against the target of 7 per cent during the Eleventh Plan, mainly due to the drought and flood during first four years of Eleventh Five Year Plan.


During the last two years, Bihar has been under severe drought conditions and the state government disbursed crores of rupees as compensation to the farmers to save them from drought disaster. It should also be noted that much of Bihar’s agricultural growth revolves around horticulture. Bihar is the fourth largest horticultural producer in the country. Fruits and vegetables are cultivated in nearly 10 per cent of cropped area, producing 3.2 million tonnes of fruits and 7.6 million tonnes of vegetables. But, leaving the corporate trade in litchi, not even 1 per cent of this horticultural produce is processed and not even five per cent finds place in multi-product area. It clearly indicates the extent of low and unstable prices and distress sale by farmers in the state.


Several new innovative programmes have been initiated by state governments like ‘Mukhyamantri Teevra Beej Vistar Yojana’, ‘Beej Gram Yojana’, Bihar Horticulture Development Society, ‘Mukhyamantri Bagwani Mission Karyakram’, etc  which will show  their  impacts on the growth rate only when  the process of strong infrastructure development and monitoring  of projects are taken up on priority basis.. Besides, what is needed is to orient and prioritise public expenditure for sectors like; agriculture and small scale agro-processing that cater to the needs of the overwhelming majority of Bihar’s population for improving their skill, access to knowledge and technology.




During last five years, the annual growth rate of State AgGDP has been around 2.7 per cent wheras State Gross Domestic Product recorded growth of 10.9 per cent during the period which was higher than corresponding growth achieved at national level. But the growth has not been sustainable, mainly due to floods in 2007 & 2008 and draughts in 2009 & 2010. A number of central sponsored projects have already been initiated in the State but they have not yielded the desired results. The strong monitoring system of agricultural projects, investment in irrigation and research, improving access of farmers to inputs and agricultural development programmes, increased agricultural credit to small peasants and tenants and, of course, increased generation and improved transmission of electricity are the prerequisites for higher and sustainable agricultural growth in the State. In the absence of these, desired rate of growth will remain elusive. Agriculture Extension officials should also be trained for modern agriculture technology and package of practices.






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