Punjab has so far planted rice seedlings on 70 percent of its planned five million acres and expects to see the crop going over the target by much as it did last year.
Last season, the province had set a target of 4.5 million acres and ended up sowing the rice crop at 5.9 million acres.
Planners think the number could cross the five million mark and are certain it will even reach last year’s numbers because sugarcane has monopolized a much larger area this season. Sugarcane was planted on 19.20 million acres last year and has jumped to 21.40 million acres this year.
Abad Khan – a rice farmer in Sheikhupura – says farmers who want to sow wheat early go to plant rice early. Likewise, potato growers also need open fields in the next four months and time for land preparation. Climate change is also facilitating early planting.
“Like, there were no traditional hot dry winds that have historically threatened to burn out nurseries. The winds in June this year were much less hot and even less dry. These factors are delaying sowing time by two weeks. In the coming years, the rice planting time would certainly be redefined with the change in the weather pattern”, says Khan.
By setting the target of five million acres, while the province had sown rice on nearly six million acres, a Punjab government official, who is involved in the planning, said Punjab, as a matter of policy, is discouraging the water engulfing crops like sugar cane and rice.
“However, in addition to setting sowing targets, there is the economic reality of crops. Regardless of official preference, sugarcane and rice are on the rise. Both crops are out of cotton and are now underway, even in central cotton areas. Central Punjab has already fallen to them and South Punjab is under threat. Both are now competing with each other for acres. But, the pattern is not sustainable because they damage the aquifer, which the province cannot pay”, explains the official.