International Food Day

Vanishing paddy fields in Kashmir is a cause for concern
A farmer walks in a paddy field amid the season of seedling planting in Kashmir. [File]
A farmer walks in a paddy field amid the season of seedling planting in Kashmir. [File] Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

The International Food Day observed on October 16 has again brought into focus the fast vanishing paddy fields in Kashmir Valley.

These paddy fields are the main source of providing food to the people here. For last several years, the paddy fields are being converted into residential colonies and commercial complexes.

If the pace continues same way there will be less land left for paddy cultivation in future, which is not a good sign by any means. Because of the shrinking paddy fields, the dependence on import of rice, which is a staple diet in Kashmir, is increasing with the passage of time. Earlier, the paddy fields were converted into apple orchards on large scale. This was because of the flourishing apple trade.

The trade had brought prosperity to the farmers. High percentage of apple being produced in Kashmir is exported for sale to outside markets and consumed there. Apple orchards have come up on large scale not only in south Kashmir, but also in north and central Kashmir.

The apple growing and trade has become the backbone of Kashmir economy. However, due to the ups and downs in the trade for last several years, the growers and traders are facing losses. This may be the reason that some people feel that more paddy land should not be sacrificed now for orchards.

According to them the yield in the paddy crop should be made better using more scientific measures. There is a strong need to minimise further conversion of paddy fields into residential colonies and commercial complexes. Surely, due to increasing population there is more need for residential houses for the people.

But paddy land should be safeguarded and non-agricultural land must be utilised for the purpose. According to official figures, 1,62,309 hectares of land were under paddy cultivation in 2012-2013. It has decreased to 1,34,067 hectares till 2021-2022.

Sometimes the climatic factors also discourage farmers from going into paddy cultivation. The experts this year advised farmers in several parts of Kashmir not to cultivate paddy.

This was due to rising temperatures and prolonged dry spell. The farmers were advised to sow pulses and other less water consuming crops.

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