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The major portion of the total population in Assam (88.8%) are living in rural areas. Thus top priority must be given to the development of rural areas which requires development of agriculture, implementation of land reform measures and the development of Co-operatives.

Agriculture in Assam and its importance

The economy of Assam is mainly depending on agriculture. More than 70 per cent of the total population in Assam are getting their means of livelihood from agriculture sector. As per 1991 census, 64 per cent of the total workers in Assam are agricultural workers. In recent years (1990-91) agriculture alone contributed 36 per cent to the total state domestic product.

Out of the total geographical area of 7852 thousand hectares, net area sown in Assam upto 1981-82 was to the extent of 2706 thousand hectares and area sown more than once was 754 thousand hectares making the total cropped area in Assam to 3, 460 thousand hectares. There are 104 thousand hectares of cultivable waste land and 88 thousand hectares of fallow land. In 1981-82 total cropped area of the state stood at 34.60 lakh hectares which constitute roughly 44 percent of the total geographical area of the state as against the all India coverage of 50 per cent.

Assam is producing both food and cash crops. Main food crops in Assam include rice, wheat, pulses, potato, maize etc. The principal cash crops are tea, jute, oil seeds, tobacco, sugar cane, mesta etc. The area under food crops in Assam increased marginally from 27 lakh hectares in 1975-76 to 27.04 lakh hectares in 1994-95. Total area under rice increased from 23.0 lakh hectares in 1976-77 to 24.9 lakh hectares in 1994-95 which accounts for nearly 72 per cent of the total cultivable area of the state. Area under non-food crops, excluding jute, registered an increasing trend.

As per agricultural census 1985-86, there were 19.90 lakh operational holdings in Assam of which 19.4 lakh in the plain districts and 50 thousand in the hill districts. These holdings covered an area of about 25.89 lakh hectares of land. The average size of operational holding in Assam declined from 1.47 hectares in 1970-71 to 1.30 hectares in 1985-86, inspite of increase in operated area. This indicates the impact of the growing problem of fragmentation and sub-division in land holdings.

Tea is one of the most important cash crop in Assam. Assam is well known for her tea. Total area under tea plantation in Assam were 233 thousand hectares in 1991. Total production of tea in Assam was 396 million kg, in 1991. Average number of workers engaged daily in the tae gardens were 554 thousand in 1991. Thus a huge number of people are earning their livelihood from these tea gardens. A good number of people are also engaged in tea trade in Assam.

Jute is another important commercial crop in Assam. Area under jute as gradually declined from 115 thousand hectares in 1979-80 to 112.3 thousand hectares and 91.0 thousand hectares in 1980-81 and 1994-95 respectively. The total production of jute was 925 thousand bales in 1994-95.

Thus agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of Assam. But agriculture in Assam is solely depending on vagaries of monsoons, which sometimes creates unexpected havoc on the agricultural production of the state. Thus irrigation facilities should be created at a massive scale to reduce the dependence of this large sector on the nature. There are wide scope for the establishment of the agro-based industries. Sugar industry can easily grow in the State. Jute industry can be developed to utilize the raw jute produced in the state. Thus by developing agro-based industries in the state, unemployment problem can easily be solved as these industries are mostly labour-intensive. There is scope for orange and other fruit plantations which can be used both for direct trade and for running some fruit canning centers. Thus the importance of agriculture in Assam must be realized as it provides food, raw materials for industries and employment to the major portion of the population.

Cropping Pattern in Assam

The cropping pattern is an important indicator to show the proportion of area under different crops at a definite point of time. Cropping pattern in a region or a state may change with the changes in proportion of area under different crops.

Change in cropping Pattern in Assam

At the beginning of the present century about 90 per cent of the of the total cultivable land of Assam was put under food crops and the remaining 10 per cent was put under non-food crops. But in 1958-59, there was a change in the cropping pattern in Assam along with other states of the country and accordingly excluding plantation crops, area under food crops came down to 84 per cent and the area under non-food crops slightly increased to 16 per cent. Then changes in the cropping pattern mainly occurred due to increase in the prices of non food grains or cash crops.

On the basis of average areas under different crops during the period 1947-48 to 1949-50, the relative importance of the principal crops in Assam were Rice- 64.8 per cent, Tea-- 6.2 per cent, Rape and Mustard- 5 per cent, Jute-- 3.7 per cent, Sugar cane- 1 per cent, Others- 19.3 per cent. Compared with total all-- India acreage, under different crops, Assam accounted for : Rice-- 6.1 per cent, Sugarcane-- 1.6 per cent, Tobacco-- 2.2 per cent, Rape and Mustard- 14.5 per cent, Jute 26.1 per cent, Tea-- 48.9 per cent.

After independence a lot of change had been recorded in respect of cropping pattern in Assam. The following table reveals the change in cropping pattern since 1960-61.

Table No. 6.1

Change in Area under different crops in Assam since 1960-61

(in Thousand hectares)






1. Total Foodgrains

1.1 Rice

1.2 Wheat

1.3 Other coarse Cereals

1.4 Pulses

2. Total non-foodgrains

2.1 Oil seeds

2.2 Jute

2.3 Cotton

2.4 Mesta

2.5 Sugarcane

2.6 Potatoes

2.7 Others

4572 (84.9)

4320 (80.2)

9 (0.16)


185 (3.4)

813 (15.1)

309 (5.7)

299 (5.5)




76 (1.4)


2521 (84.2)

2275 (75.9)

102 (3.4)


113 (3.8)

474 (15.8)

233 (7.8)

112 (3.7)




38 (1.2)


2755 (83.5)

2526 (76.5)

84 (2.5)


113 (3.4)

545 (16.5)

320 (9.7)

96 (2.9)




56 (1.6)


2704 (83.4)

2486 (76.7)

80 (2.5)

28 (0.9)

109 (3.3)

539 (16.6)

309 (9.5)

91 (2.8)




72 (1.9)


(Note : Figure in brackets shows percentage figures to total area under different crops.)

From the table given above it is revealed that the proportion of area under cultivation between food crops and non-food crops has recorded a little change from 85 : 15 in 1960-61 to 84 : 16 in 1980-81 and then to 83.4: 16.6 in 1994-95. Thus in recent years, the area under non-food crops has slightly increased.

Moreover, it is found that due to the partition of the state into Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, total area under different crops in absolute terms has declined significantly. In percentage terms, total area under the production of rice has declined from 80.2 per cent of the total cropped area in 1960-61 t0 75.9 per cent in 1980-81 and then again slightly increased to 76.5 per cent in 1990-91 and then to 76.7 per cent in 1994-95. Total area under wheat cultivation which was only 0.16 per cent of the total cropped area 1960-61, gradually increased to 3.4 per cent in 1980-81 and then it declined to 2.5 per cent in 1990-91 and 2.5 per cent in 1994-95. Again, the area under the cultivation of pulses as percentage of total cropped area of the state varied marginally from 3.4 per cent in 1960-61 to 3.8 per cent in 1980-81 and then again reversed to 3.3 per cent in 1994-95. But the area under cultivation of traditional commercial crops viz. oil seeds, potato, sugarcane recorded a modest increase. Especially, the area under the cultivation of oilseeds as percentage of total cropped area increased gradually from 5.7 per cent in 1960-61 to 7.8 per cent in 1980-81 and then to 9.7 per cent and 9.5 per cent in 1990-91 and 1994-95 respectively. Again the area under the cultivation of potato has recorded a marginal change from 1.4 per cent of the cropped area in 1960-61 to 1.7 per cent in 1980-81 and then slightly increased to to 1.9 per cent in 1994-95. But the cultivation of jute is gradually becoming unpopular in Assam. Accordingly, the area under the cultivation of jute in Assam as percentage of total cropped area which was 5.5 per cent in 1960-61 gradually declined to 3.7 per cent in 1980-81 and then to 2.9 per cent and 2.8 per cent in 1990-91 and 1994-95 respectively.

Factors determining cropping pattern :

Cropping pattern reflects the production behaviour of the farmers in their agricultural operations. At one time people felt that cropping pattern in India and more particularly in a state like Assam could not be altered. Accordingly, Mr. S.N. Sinha observed, "In a tradition ridden country with a very low level of knowledge, the peasant are unwilling to make experiments... In an agricultural community where the members are illiterate and tradition ridden, there is hardly any possibility of crop shift". But with the passage of time, things have changed a lot. Now the farmers started to believe that the cropping pattern can be changed and must be changed for the interest of the people so as to bring diversity in the agricultural sector. Thus although Assam has experienced a very little changed in its cropping pattern in comparison to that of the states like like Punjab and Haryana but whatever changes the state has recorded these are influenced by various factors. The following are some of the important factors which are very much responsible for determining the cropping pattern of the state in general:

1. Physical factors such as soil content, weather, climate, rainfall etc. ;

2. Technical factors such as nature and capacity of irrigation facilities, fertilizers etc. ;

3. Economic factors influencing cropping pattern includes remuneration and steady price of crops and income maximization aspects, i.e., relative profitability per acre, farm size, availability of farm inputs viz., seeds, fertilizer, assured irrigation water etc. ;

4. Government action undertaken in the form of administrative and legislative measures.

The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) suggested certain measures for introducing a better and scientific cropping pattern which include :

(a) Like USA, U.A.E. and other countries, the NCEAR suggest to introduce legislative compulsion for structuring a desired cropping pattern in different regions of the country.

(b) Government may appoint District Planning officers, who introduce crop planning in every season considering various seasonal changes and changes in other factors such as yields, prices, demand etc. The cultivator, also should co-operate with various government departments for implementing their programme.

(c) An Agricultural Mechanisation Corporation may also be set up for supplying various inputs on loan.

(d) The Government should also provide adequate transport and marketing facilities and also make provision for consolidation of holdings.

Thus in order to change the the cropping pattern in a state like Assam, the State Government should take adequate steps as suggested by NCEAR

Thus it can be finally observed that in a poor state like Assam, economic factors are playing a dominant role in determining its cropping pattern. Although the farmers in Assam are very much poverty stricken and conservative, still their cropping pattern can be changed through appropriate changes in economic motive. Whenever farmers in Assam see a better cropping pattern they try to adjust with such pattern. To adopt a better cropping pattern in a state like Assam, farmers should possess adequate know-how and requisite volume of capital in order to have a better result in their farming operation.

Agricultural production, Food Production and the yield rate

Agricultural production in Assam is growing at a very slow rate. The index of agricultural production of the year 1970-71(1956-57 = 100) for Assam was 126 as against all India index of 147. Again the index number of agricultural production in Assam of the year 1977-78 (taking 1969-70 = 100) increased to 123 as against the index of 132.7 for all India. The index then again declined to 122 and 114 in 1978-79 and 1979-80 respectively. But again the index scaled the highest ever peak level of 138 in 1980-81 and 172.4 in 1990-91. Again the index number of agricultural production (Base-Triennium ending 1981-82 = 100) has increased from 143.09 in 1992-93 to 1993-94 and then to 149.71 in 1994-95.

Food Production

The land in Assam is quite suitable for the production of foodgrains.The major portion of the total cropped area ,i.e., 83.4 per cent in 1994-95 is being utilised for the production of food grains in Assam. Various types of food grains production in assam includes rice, wheat, maize, other cereals and pulses. Total production of food-grains in Assam, which was 16.79 lakh tonnes in 1960-61 has increased to 23.66 lakh tonnes in 1975-76 and then to 34.4 lakh tonnes in 1990-91 and then declined to 33.80 lakh tonnes 1991-92. Thus the food-grains production in Assam , after registering an advancement of 16.6 per cent in 1990-91 has declined by 2 per cent in 1991-92 over 1990-91. Production of rice, the most important cereal crop grown in the State, rose to 32.9 lakh tonnes in 1992-93 as against 16.4 lakh tomnnes in 1960-61.

Again, in recent years, total production of foodgrains has further increased to 34.47 lakh tonnes in 1992-93 and then to 35.4 lakh tonnes in 1993-93 and then slighly declined to 34.9 lakh tonnes in 1994-95. Moreover, total production of rice has increased to 33.6 lakh tonnes in 1993-94 and then it slighly declined to 32.8 lakh tonnes in 1994-95.

The following table (no. 6.2) shows the total production of foodgrains in assam since 1960-61.

Table No. 6.2

                        Total Production of Foodgrains in Assam

(in lakh tonnes)


Production of Foodgrains





























The table given above reveals that total production of foodgrains in Assam has been increasing gradually since 1960-61 and it is more than doubled during the last 34 years, from 16.79 lakh tonnes in 1960-61 to 34.90 lakh tonnes in 1994-95.

Production of other cereal crops in Assam viz. Wheat and maize had registered some increase in recent years. Production of most of the commercial crops like sugar-cane, potato, oil seeds etc. registered marginal increase in recent years.

The following table shows the trend in the production of principal crops in Assam since 1960-61.

Table No. 6.3

Production of Principal crops in Assam

(Thousand Tonnes)













Autumn Rice

Winter Rice

Summer Rice

Rice (Total)


Other coarse



Total Foodgrains

Oil seeds

Jute (a)



























174 (b)









































N.B.- (a) 000, bales of 180 kg.

(b) Production of Gur.

The above table reveals that total production of rice, being the most important crop of Assam has increased from 16.41 lakh tonnes in 1960-61 to 25.23 lakh tonnes in 1980-81 and then to 32.7 lakh tonnes in 1990-91 and finally to 32.79 lakh tonnes in 1994-95. Total production of wheat which was only 9 thousand tonnes in 1960-61, gradually increased to 121 thousand tonnes in 1991-92 and then declined to 104 thousand tonnes in 1994-95. Production of other coarse cereals has also increased to 9 thousand in tonnes in 1960-61 to 18 thousand tonnes in 1994-95. Total production of pulses in Assam which was very poor at 26 thousand tonns in 1960-61, gradually increased to 59 thousand tonnes in 1994-95. Accordingly, total production of food grains has increased from 16.8 lakh tonnes in 1960-61 to 34.90 lakh tonnes in 1994-95.

Assam is backward in respect of production of commercial crops excepting jute. Total production of oil seeds in Assam has increased from 48 thousand tonnes in 1960-61 to 112 thousand tonnes in 1980-81 and then to 191 thousand tonnes in 1991-92 and finally declined to 164 thousand tonnes in 1994-95. Again total production of jute has increased from 813 thousand bales in 1960-61 to 912 thousand bales in 1980-81 and then gradually declined to 867 thousand bales in 1991-92 and then increased to Rs. 925, thousand bales in 1994-95. Total production of sugarcane has also increased from 869 thousand tonnes in 1960-61 to 1505 thousand tonnes in 1994-95. Total production of potato in Assam has increased significantly from 144 thousand tonnes in 1960-61 to 224 thousand tonnes in 1980-81 and then to 428 thousand tonnes in 1990-91 and 567 thousand tonnes in 1994-95.

Thus we have seen that although the production of principal crops in Assam have been increasing but it is increasing at a slower pace in comparison to that of all India production of principal crops.

Trend of Food Production in Assam in the Post-Green Revolution Period

The new agricultural strategy of Green Revolution was adopted in India during the Third Plan. The green revolution was initially adopted in India with the help of Intensive Agricultural Areas Programme (IAAP) and High yielding Varieties Programme (HYVP). From the very beginning, the coverage of green revolution was very much restricted to Northern states. Accordingly, Assam could not experience any major change in respect of food production, particularly in the initial period. Moreover, as the green revolution was very much restricted to production of wheat thus Assam, primarily being a rice producing state, cannot expect to benefit from such new agricultural strategy. Moreover, in the absence of irrigation facilities, the question of experimenting with such new agricultural methods was not at all feasible.

Thus, in the initial stage of post-green revolution period the trend of food production in Assam were almost stagnant. The table 6.2. reveals that the total production of foodgrains in Assam which was 16.79 lakh tonnes in 1960-61, gradually rose to 20.41 lakh tonnes in 1968-69 and then stagnated at the level of 20.34 lakh tonnes in 1970-71 and then slowly rose to 23.66 lakh tonnes in 1975-76.

In recent years, the Department of Agriculture of the state has introduced Demonstration programme and Area Extension Programme for the development of agriculture. With the growing use of high yielding variety (HYV) of paddy, the area under. HYV paddy in Assam started to rise gradually from 2.87 lakh hectares in 1975-76 to 5.48 lakh hectares in 1978-79 and 9.62 lakh hectares in 1987-88 and then to 11.44 lakh lakh hectares in 1993-94. Accordingly, total production of foodgrains gradually increased to 27.05 lakh tonnes in 1980-81 to 30.30 lakh tonnes in 1985-86 and then to 34.42 lakh tonnes in 1990-91 and then marginally rose to 34.90 lakh tonnes in 1994-95.

Similarly, total production of rice in Assam gradually increased from 16.41 lakh tonnes in 1960-61 to 25.23 lakh tonnes in 1980-81 and then to 32.70 lakh tonnes in 1990-91 and then finally to 32.79 lakh tonnes. But the production of other foodgrains, viz., wheat, coarse cereals, pulses etc. remained almost same during the last two decades.

Thus it is found that Assam has experienced a marginal impact of green revolution in the production of foodgrains and that too again is totally restricted to the production of rise alone.

Impact of Green Revolution or New Agricultural Strategy on Agriculture in Assam

Since the Third Plan onwards, Green Revolution or New Agricultural Strategy was adopted in India in a restricted manner. From the very beginning, the coverage of green revolution is very much restricted to Northern States like Punjab, Haryana and some parts of Uttar Pradesh. Moreover, as the green revolution was initially very much restricted to the production of wheat, thus the impact of green revolution in its initial stage was almost marginal. It is only since eighties, Assam started to experience the adoption of new agricultural strategy with the growing use of HYV seeds, chemical fertilisers, modern implements etc. to a limited extent. Thus even at ther present stage, Assam still stands as a marginal player in the field of green revolution or new agricultural strategy. Under such a situation, the state cannot expect to gain much from such new agricultural strategy.

The following are some of the impacts of green revolution on the agriculture in Assam.

1. Area under HYV Paddy : Although late, but due to the adoption of new agricultural strategy, the area under HYV paddy in Assam gradually increased from 2.87 lakh hectares in 1975-76 to 11.44 lakh hectares in 1993-94, which in around 42.3 per cent of the total cropped area of the state.

2. Consumption of fertiliser : With the adoption of new agricultural stategy, the consumption of fertiliser by the agricultural sector of the state started to increase gradually. Total consumption of fertiliser in Assam has thus gradually increased from a mere 3.48 thousand tonnes in 1975-76 to 43.17 thousand tonnes in 1993-94. This is no doubt a good trend. Again the consumption of fertiliser per hectare of land in Assam has increased from 4.8 kg. in 1986-87 to 12.8 kg. in 1995-96.

3. Yield rate : With the introduction of new agricultural strategy to a limited range along with the adoption of hybrid seeds, chemical fertilisers and expension of irrigation facilities, the average yield per hectare of some principal crops started to show some positive results. Table no. 6.4 reveals that the average yield per hectare of winter rice has increased from 1046 kgs. for all India in 1994-95. The average yield of wheat per hectare in Assam has also increased from 824 lgs in 1960-61 to 1290 kgs. in 1994-95 as compared to that of 2550 kgs. for all India in 1994-95. The average yield per hectare of potato has increased from 4784 kgs. in 1960-61 to 7854 kgs. in 1994-95 as compared to that of 15,000 kgs. for all India in 1994-95. Thus it found that the adoption of new agricultural strategy in Assam is having such a limited extent that yield rate in the state in still very poor as compared to that of all India Figures.

4. Increase in Production : With the introduction of new agricultural strategy at a slow pace, total production of foodgrains in Assam gradually increased from 16.79 lakh tonnes in 1960-61 to 34.90 lakh tonnes in 1994-95.

5. Multiple Cropping System : With the adoption of new strategy, the farmers in Assam started to adopt multiple cropping system in agricultural operations. This has resulted increase in agricultural production and has also enlarged the employment opportunities for the farm labourers. With the expansion of irrigation facilities within the state, more and more areas can be brought under the multiple cropping system, which would go a long benefit the farmers to the state.

6. Intra-state inequality : As the green revolution has enlarged the regional disparties between the different states of India, similarly, the adoption of new agricultural strategy has been widening the disparties between the different districts of the state. The district like Nagaon, Barpeta, Kamrup, Darrang and Mallar have been progressing at a quicker pack in respect of modernisation as compared to other districts of the state leading to growing disparities between the different districts of Assam.

Thus it is found that although the progress of green revolution in Assam is quite marginal but within the limited range it has started to reveal some impact on the economy of the state, in general and on the agricultural sector of the state, in particular.

Agricultural Yield Rate :

The yield rate of various crops in Assam is not at all satisfactory in comparison with the average yield rate of all India. In Assam, cultivation is still carried on with traditional techniques and modern inpute like fertilisers, HYV seeds, irrigation and pesticides etc. are yet to be extensively used. Further, the yield rates fluctuated widely in Assam due to natural factors viz, floods, draught, erosion of soil etc.

From the very beginning the agricultural yield rate in Assam in very low. The following table shows the agricultural yield rate in Assam.

Table No. 6.4

Yield Rate of Some selected crops in Assam (kg. per hectares)















Autumn Rice

Winter Rice

Summer Rice

Total Rice





Rape& Mastard























































The above table reveals that the yield rates of some principal crops such as Rice, Wheat, Jute, Sugarcane, Potato, Rape and Mustard have increased slightly from 1960-61 to 1992-93. The average yield rate of rice per hectare in Assam which was 968 kg. in 1960-61 gradually rose to 1220 kg. for India in 1980-81 and then to 1350 kg in 1994-95 as compared with 1880-81 and then to 1350 kg in 1994-95 as compared with 1880 kg. for India in 1993-94. Asmong the three varieties of rice produced in Assam, i.e., Autumn rice, Winter rice and Summer rice, the yield rate of summer rice remained always higher since 1970-71 and its yield rate per hectares has increased from 860 kg. In 1960-61 to 1244 kg in 1970-71 and then to 1708 kg in 1993-94, which then slightly declined to 1615 kg. in 1994-95. The yield rate of winter rice has increased from 1046 kg per hectare in 1960-61 to 1220 kg in 1994-95. But the yield rate of autumn rice did not record any considerable increase as it rose from 713 kg. in 1960-61 to 873 kg in 1990-91 which then declined to 785 kg in 1991-92 and again increased to the level of 973 lg. per hectare in 1994-95.

The average yield rate of rice in Assam, per hectare, was 975 kg. in 1951-54 and then it remained at 974 kg. in 1969-72 in 1951-54, increased to 1117 kg. in 1969-72. The yield rate of rice per hectare, which rose to 1038 kg. for Assam and 1235 kg. for India in 1975-76, fell to 947 kg. for Assam and 1235 kg. for India in 1975-76, fell to 947 kg. for Assam and 1088 kg for India in 1976-77 and then it increased to 1042 kg. for Assam and 1317 kg for India in 1977-78. Again, in 1978-79, the yield rate for Assam came down to 979 kg per hectare but it rose substantially to reach 1350 kg per hectare in 1994-95. This showsa that yield rates are fluctuating widely in different years both in Assam and other states of India. But the yield rate of rice in Assam which was slightly higher in the beginning, remained all along lower than the average yield rate of rice in India.

In case of total cereals, the yield rate per hectare for Assam was 1067 kg. in 1991-92; whereas the all India yield rate of cereals gradually increased from 886 kg. In 1972-73 to 1776 kg. in 1990-91.

In case of pulses taken together, the yield rate per hectare for Assam gradually decreased from 489 kg. in 1972-73 to 420 kg in 1988-89, whereas the same rate for India gradually increased from 474 kg in 1972-73 to 516 kg in 1990-91.

The yield rate per hectare in case of total foodgrains for Assam gradually declined from 1042 kg during 1972-73 to to 1032 kg. during 1988-89, whereas the same rate for India gradually increased from 813 kg. during 1972-73 to 1327 kg. during 1988-89.

The yield rate of wheat in Assam which was only 824 kg. per hectare in 1960-61 gradually rose to 1158 kg. in 1980-81 and then rose to significantly to 1290 kg. in 1994-95 as compared to India’s 2493 kg. in 1995-96. The yield rate of Jute in Assam which 1229 kg. per hectare in 1960-61 gradually rose to 1455 kg. in 1980-81 and then rose to 1632 kg. in 1990-91 and then finally rose considerably to 1832 kg. in 1994-95. The yield rate of sugarcane in Assam gradually increased from 34,403 in 1960-61 to 42,510 kg. in 1990-91 and then again declined to 42,223 kg. in 1994-95 as compared with 65,000 kg. for all India in 1992-93. The yield rates of potato in Assam has also increased from 4784 kg. in 1960-61 to 7704 kg. in 1991-92 and then to 7854 kg. in 1994-95 whereas the rate increased for all India was 15,814 kg. in 1989-90. Again the yield rate of rape and mustard in Assam has been increasing slowly from 381 kg. per hectare 1960-61 to 485 kg. in 1980-81 and then rose to 533 kg. in 1994-95 whereas the yield rate for all India was 826 kg. in 1989-90. The yield rate of tea in Assam was 1603 kg. per hectare in 1987-88 and 1700 kg. in 1990-91 as aginst all India yield rate of 1606 kg. in 1987-88.

Thus it is revealed that the agricultural yield of various crops in Assam are poor and even declining gradually in case of some crops.

Slow Pace of Modernisation of Agriculture or Transfer of Technology in Agriculture in Assam- causes or Major obstacles or Constraints

Adoption of modern technology or method is known as modernisation of agriculture or transfer of technology in agriculture. Modernisation of agriculture or transfer of technology in agriculture in Assam is progressing at a slow pace. Adoption of new agricultural strategy or green revolution which was very much restricted to Northern states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in its initial stage, could not make much headway ina backward state like Assam even at its later stage. There are certain major obstacles or causes responsible for the slow pace of transfer of technology or modernisation of agriculture in Assam. Then obstacles are mentioned below:-

1. Absence of sufficient assured and controlled water supply due to lack of adequate irrigation facilities is one of the major obstacles in the path of modernisation of agriculture. In 1994-95, total irrigation potential developed in the state (4.77 lakh hectares) covers only 13.8 per cent of the total cropped area of the state.

2. Small size of agricultural holding is another obstacle in the path of modernisation of agriculture. The average size of operational holding is only 1.37 hectares.

3. Lack of high yielding variety of seeds and its limited use is the next important obstacle, in the path of modernisation of agriculture.

4. Scanty use of fertiliser is another important obstacle on the path of modernisation of agriculture. In Assam, the consumption of fertiliser per hectare of land was only 4.8 kg. in 1986-87 as compared to that of 48.7 kg for all India.

5. Lack of adequate finance is another important obstacle in the path of modernisation of agriculture in Assam. Poor financial condition of the farmers and the absence of adequate institutional finance are mostly responsible for such a peculiar situation.

6. Natural factors like floods, hailstorm, frost or attack by pest or inscts and the inability to contain such natural problems are also responsible for lack of modernisation of agriculture in Assam.

7. Lack of adequate agriculture research is also another important obstacle in the path of modernisation of agriculture in Assam. This has led to the situation where fruits of research are not being percolated to the farmers and thus the problems faced by the farmers still remain largely unattended.

8. Lack of motivation on the part of farmers and eduacated youths is another important obstacle on the path of modernisation of agriculture.

Suggestion for sustaining Agricultural Production in Assam in view of the Current policy of Economic Liberalisation.

The current policy of economic liberalisation adopted in India has broadened the scope of modernisation agriculture in different states of the country. In order to sustain the agricultural production in Assam to the required level under the current policy of economic liberalisation, the following measures are suggested :

1.Modernisation of Agriculture : In order to keep pace in respect of increasing agricultural production, the farmers in Assam should try modernise the agricultural sector by adopting modern implements, using high yielding variety of seeds, applying adequate quantity of fertilisers, by adopting scientific rotation of crops and careful crop planning and finally through intensifying agricultural reserch and percolating the fruits of ressearch to the farmers.

Under the new GATT arrangement and particularly after the birth of World Trade Organisation (WTO), farmers, interest are completely protected through the ‘sui generis’ legislation to protect the plant varieties. Under this legislation, right of farmers to retain and exchange seeds are not affected. Thus the farmers in Assam can also avail the benefits of retaining and exchanging seeds of HYV variety produced in their farm without any difficulty. Moreover, the current level of agricultural subsidies, maintained at the rate of 5 per cent of the value of agricultural produce in India vis-a-vis Assam also can be easily continued to support the new agricultural strategy adopted in the state as present level of subsidies is far below the 10 per cent limit.

Moreover, the Central Government has already set up our Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institute in Assam to provide better quality of equipment and training to the farmers of the state.

2. Organisation Steps : In order to sustain agricultural production in Assam to the required level, adequate organisational steps must be taken for the all-round development of the agricultutral sector of the state. These Organisational steps include- consolidation of small and uneconomic holdings, overcoming the problems of agriculture created by natural factors like ever-recurring floods, extension of irrigation facilities, developing of marketing arrangements etc. All then steps will definitely develop the organisational structure of the agricultural sector of the state.

3. Widening the scope of Agricultural Trade : Under the present regime of economic liberalisation, non-tariff barriers on agricultural trade area gradually being withdrawn. This has led to the widening of the scope of agricultural exports throughout the country, as India is enjoying a comparative and competitive advantage in this respect. Assam being a agricultural state can avail the benefit arising out of economic liberalisation through diversification of its agricultural exports. If the agricultural sector is the state cna be modernised to a considerable level, the farm lobby in Assam would see major growth in exports of superior rice, vegetables, fruits, fishery products, meat products etc. over and above its traditional items of exports like tea and jute.

4. Development and Expansion of Plantation industry : Assam is quite famous for plantation industry. Tea industry of Assam is one of the most important agro-based industry of the state. Considering its age- old tea gardens, tea plantation in the state needs its expansion in areas. Moreover, re-cycling of plantation activities in the age-old gardens can be great help in regeneration of tea plantation in Assam.

Moreover, the state is having enough scope for rubber plantation, coffee plantation, horticultural plantation etc., considering the natural endowments and land available in the state. Development and expansion of these plantation can lead to a boost in agro-horticultural production and its exports in the state.

Thus under the present regime of economic liberalisation, the state can play role of an important playre in the field ageicultural production and its exports, if adequate steps are taken to take care of the genuine needs of the sector.

Low agricultural productivity

The agriculture, which is the main source of livelihood in Assam, are suffering from low productivity. The agricultural sector in Assam has not developed sufficiently. In respect of modernisation of agriculture Assam was trailing behind other states of India. Thus the agricultural productivity in Assam still remains stagnant and poor.

The agriculture productivity in Assam is even comparatively much lower than that of all India average. The index of agricultural production of Assam and India taking 1956-57 as base, stood at 126 and 147 respectively during 1970-71.

The index of agricultural production (triendum ending 1969-70 = 100) for Assam stood at 119 in 1975-76 and then declined to 117 in the next year whereas the same figure for India, as a whole, stood at 132.7 during 1977-78. In 1989-90, the index of agricultural production for Assam and all India were 156 and 183 respectively. Again the index number of agriculture production (Base-Triennium ending 1981-82-100) for Assam has gradually increased from 143.09 in 1992-93 to 146.61 in 1993-94 and then to 149.71 in 1994-95.

 Causes of low agricultural productivity

The main causes of low agricultural productivety in Assam are as follows:

1. Small size of holdings : The size of agricultural holdings in Assam is very small. As a result of the unrelenting pressure of population and lack of alternative employment opportunities outside agriculture, the size of holding has become very small. The average size of the total operational holdings is 1.37 hectares. Of the total operational holdings 60 percent are of size less than one hectare. Of the total area of operational holdings in Assam, holdings having less than 3 hectares account for nearly 57 percent of the total land operated. This small holdings along with growing fragmentation of lands stands in the way for modernisation of agriculture to raise the agricultural productivity in the State.

2. Primitive methods of cultivation : The farmers in Assam are still following the orthodox method of cultivation. They are still relying on the centuries old wooden plough to turn the land, the crude sickle to harvest cropes while farmers in some other states of India are shifting from primitive methods to modernnised methods of cultivations, the farmers in Assam are still basing on their old methods. Thier methods are far from the best for raising agricultural productivity in the State.

3. Lack of irrigation facilities: Irrigation facilities in Assam are very poor. Assured and controlled water supply for agricultural land is particularly important in the sub-tropical climate of Assam where the rainfall distribution is not even and crop transpiration rate is high in winter. But the cumulative achievement (in minor irrigation) in general areas by the end of 1977-78 was of the order of only 3.75 lakh hectares which was about 12 per cent of the net cropped area. Total irrigation potential created under major and medium irrigation upto the end of 1977-78 was only 0.61 lakh hectares and its utilisation was limited to only 0.32 lakh hectares. Upto the end of 1980-81, a total of 3.58 lakh hectares of irrigation potential (about 95 thousand hectares was under major and medium irrigation and about 2.63 lakh hectares was under minor irrigation) was created in the state which was only 10.9 per cent of the total cropped area of the state.

Again, at the end of 1994-95, total irrigation potential created in Assam was 4.77 lakh hectares. Out of this irrigation potential created under minor irrigation was 2.97 lakh hectares and under major and medium irrigation was 1.79 lakh hectare. But all these irrigation potential developed in Assam are not being properly utilised due to delay involved in the development of non-farm work, like construction of field channels, land levelling or shaping and adoption of the warabandi system etc. Accordingly, the actual irrigation potential utilised in Assam during 1993-94 was only 1.30 lakh hectares which was about 27 per cent of the total potential created during that year.

Due to the absence of sufficient assured and controlled water supply, the agriculture in Assam is still depending on rainfall which is neither regular nor even.

4. Use of ancient implements : Agriculturists in Assam are still using all old and ancient implements instead of using modernised inputs. These implements are neither sharp nor suitable for raising the agricultural productivity in the state.

5. Lack of high yielding seeds : The supply of high yielding seeds are very minimum in Assam. Thus the farmers are mostly using the traditional variety of seeds whose average yield is just half of the yield of improved variety. However, the HYV covered only 23.6 per cent of the area under rice in 1977-78. Area under HYV paddy has been increasing from 2.9 lakh hectares in 1975-76 lakh to 11.5 lakh hectares in 1993-94. So the lack of HYV seeds in the state is a very important cause of the low agricultural productivity in the state.

6. Scanty use of fertiliser : Agriculturists in Assam are not applying sufficient quantity of fertilisers on their lands. Constant cultivation of land causes deterioration of its fertility which requires application of fertilisers. But poor cultivators cannot afford to purchase costly chemical fertilisers for their lands. A small section of wealthy cultivators in Assam are applying small amount of fertilisers on their land. Poor cultivator cannot even spare full quantity of cowdung for their land which is a good kind of organic manure. Total consumption of chemical fertiliser in Assam increased from 7.86 thousand tonnes in 1973-74 to 43.2 thousand tonnes in 1993-94. Further, the consumption of fertiliser per hectare of land in Assam was only 12.8 kg in 1995-96 in comparison to 74.6 kg. for all India. Even these fertilisers are mostly used for tea plantation in the gardens. Thus due to the absence of use of fertiliser on agricultural lands in Assam, agricultural productivity of the state remained poor.

7. Natural factors : Nature still dominates agriculture in Assam. It is said to be a gamble in the monsoons. The rains are totally uncertain in Assam. Sometime rains are insufficient and sometimes we have too much of rain resulting in heavy floods which cause widespread damage and destruction. ther natural calamities like hailstorm, frost or attack by pest and insects atre also of common occurance in Assam. These natural factors always go against the farmer in stepping up agricultural productivity.

8. Lack of adequate finance : There is lack of adequate financial facilities for the farmers in Assam and thus they have to depend on the village money lenders, who charge very high rate of interest. Commercial banks advanced a very little amount of finance to agricultural sector in Assam comparison to its needs. Total outstanding credit of scheduled commercial banks in Assam to Agricultural at the end of March, 1991 was to the tune of Rs. 7721 crores only. Again major portion of this amount is advanced to plantation industries. The total disbursement of refinance by Agricultural Refinance Development Corporation to Assam as on 30th June 1978 was only Rs. 483 lakh which is only 0.5 per cent of the total disbursement of the corporation. Further, as on 30th June 1978, under the aegis of SFD/MFSL agencies, total amount of financial assistance sanctioned were Rs. 228 lakhs against 13 schemes.

Again till 1990-91, through Integrated Rural Developmet Programme (IRDP) about Rs. 6262 lakh worth of loan was advanced. Moreover, in 1989-90, about 40 per cent of the total agricultural crwedit was advanced by the commercial banks in Assam.

Thus the volume of agricultural finance available in Assam is far from adequate. "The vicious circle resulting in poverty, debt and high interest rates holds the small cultivation in a tight      grip ."

9. Lack of Productive Investment : There is absence of productive investment in Assam alongwith other state as the investment in land is found less attractive than the investment in jewellery, trade and money lending.

10. Inadequate marketing facilities : The farmer in Assam are deprived of due prices of their product due to defective marketing system available. Middleman takes away a major portion of the profit, paying a very minimum price to the farmers. Farmers are not guaranteed fair and remunerative prices of their product thus creating little inducement to increase agricultural output.

11. Land Policy : There is delay in implementation and uncerainty about the rights of the farmers on land. There is excessive reliance on revenue administration in connection with land legislation which affects agricultural productivity in the state.

12. Lack of agriculture research : Agricultural research in Assam is very poor in comparison to its needs. Whatever research is being conducted is not even made available to the farmers fully and thus the problems faced by the farmers still remain unattended.

13. Socio-economic factors : Socio-economic factors like farmers’ conservative outlook, ignorance, illiteracy etc. stand in the way of adoption of modern techniques in Assam. Further, the antiquated organisation of agriculture run by illiterate, ignorant and illequipped person cannot raise the agricultural productivity of the state. Adoption of progressive agricultural technique is to some extent impossible under the present position.

Thus we find there is gross absence of many basic facilities in the agricultural sector in Assam which are responsible for this low rate of productivity.

Remedial measures

The low agricultural productivity is a very serious problem for the economy of Assam particularly when the average contribution of this sector to the state economy is around 40 per cent although 77 per cent of the total population are engaged into it. For the improvement of agricultural productivity in Assam we must adopt both economic and non-economic, short term and long term measures, These as follows :

1. Consolidation of land holding : For modernisation of agriculture in Assam provision for consolidation of holding is to be made by enacting legislation in this regard. Uneconomic small farms should be consolidated and fragmented ones be grouped together through consolidation and co-operatives. Incentive for the formation of co-operatives farming should be offered.

2.Overcoming natural factors : Adequate measures must be taken to overcome the problems of agriculture in Assam created by natural factors. Extensive flood control measures should be adopted to prevent huge loss and devastation created by ever-recurring floods in Assam. Sufficient irrigation facilities must be provided to the agriculturist through the extension of major and minor irrigation works by utilising huge irrigation potential vaialable in the stae. This will save the agriculturist from unprecedented drought. Adequate quantity of insectsides and pesticides should be made available to the farmers either free of cost or at cheaper rates along with the knowledge to apply it.

3. Application of modernisation: Farmers in Assam must apply modernised technique in their agricultural farming for raising agricultural productivity. Increased quantity of fertilisers and manures must be made available to all the farmers of the state. Farmers must follow scientific rotation of crops and careful crop palnning. Improved variety of seeds should be taken for the reclamation of low lying land. Provision be made for the manufature of cheap modern tools and equipment in large scale which reduce the cost of farming. Agricultural research should be intensified and fruits of research should be made available to the farmers.

4. Economic measures : To make agriculture more remunerative, active economic measures must be introduced. Steps must be taken to improve farm organisation and land management. Subsdiary agro-based industries must be set up in the rural areas so that surplus labour in the agricultural sector can be utilised in these industries. Steps must be taken to break the vicious circle of poverty. Adequate credit arrangements must be provided so that farmers can get sufficient credit at cheaper rate and also on easy terms. Marketing facilities of the agricultural product must be improved and regulated markets must be set up all over the state. Government must introduce price support policy and also guarantee minimum prices of the agricultural goods to the farmers.

5. Human Development : For the improvement of agricultural productivity in the state, the quality of farmer must be improved through education , both general and technical. To save the farmers form epidemics and other diseases, adequte public health measures must be undertaken. Farmers should shed off their fatalism and adopt new ideas which will make them more rational and help them to gain self-confidence.

Thus to raise the agricultural productivity in Assam, the above mentioned measures, both economic and non -ecomonic, must be introduced.


Importance of Five Years Plans on the Development of irrigation potential in the North Eastern States.

Irrigation facilities are an integral part of the agricultural development programme. North eastern region has sufficient irrigation potential but its importance was not realised in the early years of planning. During the First and Second Plans, expenditure on irrigation in the North Eastern states were very insignificant, viz ; for Assam the amount was Rs. 251 lakhs which created anitcipated benefits to the extent of 82,000 acres. During the Third, Fourth and Fifth Plans, expenditures on irrigation in Assam were Rs. 228 lakhs, Rs. 571 lakhs and Rs. 61.10 crores respectively creating benefits from major and medium irrigation to the extent of 38 thousand hectares and 70 thousand hectares (potential) of area during the Fourth Plan respectively of which 40 thousand hectares of land were benefitted from the Fifth Plan Schemes.

Total irrigation potential in Assam, upto the end of the Fourth Plan, was of the order of 2.18 lakh hectares. Utilisation of the above potential created was only 30-35%. This was due to inadequate attention given to Command Area Development programme which included construction of field channels, consolation of land holdings and other infra-strctural development. The cumulative achievemenmt (in monor irrigation) in general areas by the end of 1977-78 is of the order of 2.75 lakh hectares which is about 12% of the net cropped area. Total irrigation potential created in Assam by the end of the Fifth Plan as in percentage of ultimate potential was 11.1% in comparison with all India’s 48.7% which shows wide gap in the utilisation of development potential between the North East region and other regions of country. The allocation on irrigation and its benefit in other North Eastern State were either nil or very negligible in amount.

Again in 1985-86, i.e., at the first year of the Seventh Plan, total irrigation potential created in North-Eastern states were 572 thousand hectares for manipur, 50 thousand hectares for meghalaya, 8 thousand hectares for Mizoram, 51 thousand hectares for Nagaland and 29 thousand hectares for Tripura.

Again the percentages of gross irrigated area to gross cropped (sown) area in the North- eastern states in 1987-88 were 15.5 per cent for Assam, 39.9 per cent Manipur, 23.7 per cent for Maeghalaya, 12.1 per cent for Miziram, 29.2 per cent of Nagaland and 10.5 per cent for Tripura. Thus it is found that the North-eastern states are very mucvh backward in respect of developing irrigation facilities although the economy of these states are very much depending on the agricultural sector.

The main reason for these backwardness in the field of irrigation are inadequate attention on the part of the Government, lack of fund and lack of peoples’ co-operation.

Development of Irrigation Potential in Assam

Assam has to face the problem of irregularity in the arrival of monsoon. Some times the state is facing the problem of heavy rain leading to devatation of crops due to flood or the problem of drought due to scarce- rain. Under this situation there is immense importance facilities in the state.

Assam is blessed with huge natural irrigation potential which remained mostly neglected. It is only recently that irrigation has been given its due importance by developing irrigation projects and for its utilisation. In the absence of sufficient and assured irrigation facilities the agrarian economy of Assam largely depends on vagaries of weather. Record of last few years shows that the rainfall in the state has been showing erratic behaviours. Therefore, to develop agriculture in the State utmost importance must be given to bring more and more areas under assured and controlled water supply. Only assured irrigation facility would enable raising a second and successful crop in the dry winter.

Total irrigation potential in Assam, upto the end of Fourth Plan, was of the order of 2.18 lakh hectares out of which only 30-35% of the above potential were utilised. Till the end of Fifth Plan, total irrigation potential created in Assam as in percentage of ultimate potential was 11.1% only as against 48.7% fol all India.

The irrigation programme being carried on in Assam consists of (a) Major and medium irrigation programme and (b) Minor irrigation programme. Upto the end of 1980-81, a total of 0.58 lakh hectares of irrigation potential have been created in Assam, of which 95 thousand hectares are developed under major and medium irrigation scheme and the rest 2.63 lakh hectares are developed under minor irrigation schemes. Total irrigations potential created, till 1994-9 is to be around 4.77 lakh hectares. Out of the total irrigation potential created in 1994-95, 1.79 lakh hectares are developed under major and medium irrigation schems and the rest 21.97 lakh hectares of area are developed under minor irrigation schemes. But what is more painstaking is that although the total irrigation potential created in Assam is very poor, but out of which only 1.30 lakh hectares of irrigation potential are utilised in real terms in 1993-94, which comes around 27.04 percent of the total irrigation potential developed so far. The irrigation potential created in Assam so far, covers roughly 14 percent of the total cropped area of the State which is very poor in comparison to the potential created in some other states. Further, the actual utilisation of the irrigation potential created in the State remained as low as 27 percent only in 1993-94. This is mainly due to absence of field channels, assured supply of electricity, reluctance of cultivators to adopt the envisaged cropping pattern etc. To minimise these constraints, the Government of Assam is initiating following steps such as formation of sub-divison level co-ordination committees, gearing up rural electrification programme, construction of field channel, special extension measures steps to improve institutional credit flow etc.- for the fullest utilisation of the irrigation potential created in the State.

Among all the districts of Assam, the irrigation potential created upto March 1995 was highest in Nagaon district (85,820). The other district, in order of irrigation potential created are- Barpeta (55,405) hectares), Sonitpur (51,107 hectares), Darrang (50,277 hectares), Kamrup (32,553 hectares), Kokrajhar (20,856 hectares), Karbi Anglong (21,060 hectares) and the lowest size of potential created in the district of Karimgunj (2884 hectares) and Hailakandi (3581 hectares) followed by North Cacher Hills district (4802 hectares).

Agricultural Finance in Assam

Farmers in Assam are facing a chronic problem of lakh of adequate financial facilities from the very begining and they have been depending on the village money lenders, who charges a very high rate of interest. In recent years steps have been taken by various agencies to flow gricultural credit in the State.

In Assam, the bulk of the agricultural credit is channelised through the Gaon Panchayat level Co-operative Societies (GPSS). The Assam Co-operation Apex Bank, Nationalised Banks, including the State Bank of India are the main credit advancing agencies.

Total outstading credit of scheduled commercial banks in Assam to the agricultural sector at the end of March, 1991 was to the extent of Rs. 7721 crores only. Again the major portion of this amount is advanced to plantation industries.Total disbursement of refinance by Agricultural Refinance Development Corporation (ARDC) to Assam as on 30th June,1978 was only Rs. 483 lakh which was only 0.5 percent of the total disbursement of the corporation. Further, as on 30th June, 1978, under the aegis of SFDA/MFAL agencies, total amount of financial assistance sanctioned were Rs.228 lakhs against 13 schemes.

In recent years, commercial banks are advancing agricultural credit through co-operative Societies. During 1989-90, the flow of credit for Rabi crops production through the co-operative was as under:

1. Target-Rs. 330 lakhs.

2. CLS submitted to the financing Bank- Rs. 457.66 lakhs.

3. Credit Limit sanctioned - Rs. 185.90 lakhs.

4. Loan disbursed (Upto 31.390) - Rs. 133.47 lakhs.

It is thus observed that only about 56 percent of the targetted credit was sanctioned by the Banks and 40 percent of the targetted credit was disbursed during 1989-90. This is mainly due to the fact that though the membership of Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) though quite high, the percentage of borrowing members is relatively low. Non-adoption of improved methods of cultivation, traditional shyness to borrow loans from financing institutions, procedural difficulties to which the farmers has to go through to procure loans are also some of the impediments responsible for low volume of credit sanctioning disbursement in the State.

NABARD: In recent years, the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) is playing an important role to flow agricultural credit in Assam through different agencies. NABARD does not help the farmers and other rural pepole directly rather it flows the credit to these people through co-operative banks, commercial banks and Development Banks, Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) etc. It is thus working as an apex body dealing with policy planning and other oprational aspects of rural credit for the all round development of rural economy of the State. The long term and short term credit needs of these institutions are also met by NABARD.

In 1995-96, the amount of refinance disturbed by the NABARD to North-eastern states showed an increase of 27 percent over the previous year. However, the Annual Report of the NABARD,1994-95 reveals that as compared to the rest of the country, refinance to the North-east during 1994-95 was 1.68 percent with cumulative disbursement till March 1995 being the order of 1.8 percent. Out of the total refinance of Rs.67.56 crore received by the NE states from NABARD during 1995-96, Assam received the major share i.e. Rs. 44.46 crore while Mizoram got the lowest share of Rs. 1.24 Crore. On the short-term credit limits for seasonal agricultural operations, the NABARD disbursed Rs. 6.30 lakh to the entire NE region during 1995-96, of which RS. 450 lakh was earmarked under special line of credit for development of tribal population.

NABARD has also set up a Rural Infrastucture Development Fund (RIDF) with a corpus of Rs. 2,000 crore for completing ongoing infrastructure development projects. On the promotional and developmental intiatives the NABARD has taken taken special care for strengthening co-operative banks, Regional Rural banks (RRBs) by helping them tp prepare specific development action plans (DPAs).

Another important data available from NABARD shows that the purpose-wise disbursements under schematic lending for different purpose viz, minor irrigation, land development, farm mechanisation, plantation/horticulure, fisheries, dairy development, storage and market yards, N.F.S., IRDP etc. in Assam from the banks during 1993-94 was Rs. 26.85 cores and the total disbursements of schematic lending in Assam upto 31st March, 1994 was cstimated at Rs. 269.17 crores. Out of these various schematic lending, the maximum amount is disbursed on plantation and horiculture (Rs. 102.84 crore), followed by IRDP (Rs. 94.93 crore) and Minor irrigation (Rs. 37.72 crore).

It is observed that while the other regions of the country have derived benefits from the refinance facility available from NABARD but the policy of providing refinance to commercial banks by the NABARD at 90 percent of their disbursements in the NOrth-Eastern region has not met with much success as the absorption of refinance by the banks in the region continued to be sluggish.

Again, in 1996-97, disbursements of agricultural advances by public sector banks under special Agricultural Credit Plan (SACP) in Assam was Rs. 7.20 crore only as compared to that of Rs. 920.5 crore in Andhra Pradesh.

Central Debt Relief Scheme : Following the pattern of the Central Debt Relief Scheme, the Assam Agricultural and Rural Debt Relief Scheme,1990 has been approved to facilitate writing off of loans with interest upto Rs. 10,000 issued by the Co-oprative Banks which has fallen over due on 2nd October.1989. The financial involvement for this will be about Rs. 28.40 crores to be shared on 50 : 50 basis by the state and centre.

Moreover, in respect of over due loans issued by the Nationalised Bank,directly or through GPSS/LAMPS under their adoption, writing-off of loan is being done under the Central Debt Relief Scheme.

These exercise will make more than 2 lakh borrowers debt free and eligible for fresh loan during next crop seasons. Keeping this in view, the Agriculture Department has already proposed a credit target of Rs. 250 lakhs for Rabi season in 1990-91. With the recent posting of Agricultural Inspectors and Assistant Agricultural Inspectores in about 300 GPSS for input management and distribution, including credit, it has already improved, the credit sanction,disbursement in the selected GPSS.

Inspite of all these schemes, it can be observed that the flow of agricultural credit in Assam is very inadequate in comparison to its requirement. Thus proper steps must be taken by the Government as well as to its different agencies to augment the flow of agricultural credit in the state. Moreover, steps must be taken to motivate the farmers for proper utilisation and regular repayment of agricultural loan in the state so as to attain a viable rural credit structure.

Procurement of Paddy and Public Distributuion System

Procurement of Paddy in Assam

The Assam State Co-operative Marketing and Consumers Federation (STATFED) and the Food Corporation of India (FCI) were entrusted with the task of procurement of paddy till the kharif year 1981-82. However, it was during the kharif season during 1982-83, the State Government decided to procure paddy/rice through STATFED both under price support measures as well as under level scheme on millars. In those years the procurement price of paddy was fixed at Rs. 122 per quintals for common variety, Rs. 126 fine variety and Rs. 130 for superfine varieties. Upto February 1983 of the kharif year total of 3.03 lack quintals of paddy and 491 quintals of rice were procured in the State by the STATFED. The following table shows the volume of paddy procured in Assam over the last few years. The table reveals that total procurement of paddy and rice in Assam which was 15.501 M.T and 17,381 M.T respective in 1985-86 gradually decline to 1397 M.T in 1990-91 and then reached to 126 M.T and 8.575 M.T. in 1992-93.

Again the procurement of paddy and rice in Assam further declined to 73 M.T. and 4,995 M.T. respectively in 1993-94.

Table No. 6.5

Procurement of Paddy and Rice in Assam


Rice (in M.T)

Paddy (in M.T)







(upto june,1995)













Source : Director of Food and Civil Supply, Assam, Guwahati-5

Public Distribution System in Assam :

As Assam is depending heavily on outside source for supply of a large number of essential commodities the need for effective public distribution system is very important for this State .In August 1975, the exisitng public distribution system was introduced in Assam and since then the essential commodities like rice, wheat products, levy sugar, salt, controlled cloth etc. had been supplied to the consumers in rural and urban areas through a wide net work of distribution centres. In 1982,665 GPSS with 15,821 retail outlets in the rural areas of the plain districts, 17 wholesale Co-operative societies, 130 consumers’ co-operative stores and 2196 Fair Price Shops in the urban areas and 21 LAMPS with 349 retail outlets in the hill areas are associated with the distribution of the above commodities in the state. Beside, the STATFED through its 145 retail outlets spread throughout the state, is also engaged in the distribution of many essential commodities.

The gross allotment of rice wheat from the central pool to the state during 1982(January to December was 3.65 lakh tonnes and 2.57 lakh tonnes and FCI in Assam was to the extent of 2.42 lakh tonnes (or 66 percent) and 2.20 lakh tonnes (or 86 percent) respectively.

In the mean time, the state Government has a number of remedial measuresin order to ensure regular supply of essential commodities as well as to check malpractices by traders. These measures include strict enforcement of the existing control orders, display of stock position and prices by traders, regular review of the availability and supply position of essential commodities etc. The new control orders viz. the Assam trade Articles (I.S.C.) Order, 1982 and the Assam Public Distribution of Articles Order, 1982 were promulgated in the State for curbing down the activities of corrupt and unscrupulous traders.

In recent years, the public distribution system has been revamped in Assam along with the other states of the country. In 1995, total number of fair price shops in Assam stood at 29,833 out of which 3,456 were located in the urban areas and 29,833 were located in the rural areas. Moreover, the total amount of rice and wheat released through public distribution system in Assam was 4.32 lakh Metric tonnes and 2.16 lakh metric tonnes respectively in 1992.


Land tennure System in Assam

Land tenure system has its importance as it locates the owner of land, influences the productivity of land and social organisation prevaling in that area.

Like other states of India the tenure system in Assam was not satisfactory rather it was a bit peculiar. Owing to certain historical reasons zamindary system was prevalent in Assam which was to some extent similar to the system prevalent in Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Under the Zamindary system one or more persons owned a village and where responsible for the payment of land revenue. There were permanent settement in Goalpara and in the Karimganj Subdivision of Cachar district.

The system was not at all beneficial due to following reasons: (I) it robbed the state of its due share (ii) making the land lords absentee parasites, the zamindary tenure proved harmful to the cultivators and stood in the way of agricultural development, (iii) discouraged all enterprise on the part of cultivators due to frequent enhancement of rent and fear of ejectment and (iv) the agricultural sector suffered as the zamiders contributed nothing for agricultural progress.

The above metioned evils make way for the abolition of zamindary system, bringing the huge number of tenants into direct relationship with the State and making available to the state Government several lakh farmers.

Land reforms


In agriculture and allied activities, land is one of the basic inputs for production. Remodeling of existing agrarian structure is extremely essential to ensure the achievement of the desired objectives in agricultural production in conformity with the accepted concepts of social justice. The main objective of land reforms was to alter the pattern of land ownership and bring a structural change in rural society for the attainment of greater production and justice.

As mentioned in the Second Five Year Plan, the objective of land reform was to create conditions for evolving the agrarian economy high degre of efficiency and productivity and to establish an eglatarian society as early as possible. The Fifth Plan draft mentioned that the objectives of land policy have been to remove such motivational and other impediments in agricultural production as arise from the agrarian structure inherited from the past and also to eliminate all elements of exploitation and social injustice within the agrarian system so as to ensure equality of tenurial status and opportunity to all sections of the rural populations.

The basic motive of various land reform measures initiated in Assam are:

(I) Providing security fo tenancy right to the tenants ;

(ii) Protecting tennants from under and wanton exploitation by land owner ;

(iii) Establishmentof a direct nexus between the tenants and the Government ;

(iv) Fixation of ceiling on land holdings etc.

Principles of land reforms

Land reform measures must be framed on the basis of certain principles. In India, the Agrarian Reforms Committee (1948) laid down certain principles for land reforms which were accepted by the Planning Commission. The principles of land reforms are :

(I) The agrarian economy should develop the farmer’s personality.

(ii) There should be no scope for class exploitation.

(iii) There must be maximum efficiency of production ; and

(iv) The scheme of reforms should be practicable.

The above principles involve the following major changes :

(a) abolition of Zamindari, (b) reform of the condition of tenants through legislation, (c) an increase in the unit of cultivation, (d) consolidation of holdings, (e) adoption of mechanised cultivation where needed and provision of water, electricity and finances for the improvement of agriculture.

Land reform measures introduced in the state of Assam were also based on the same above mentioned principles .

Land reform measures introduced in Assam

Land is one of the basic inputs for production in agriculture and allied activities. Thus to remodel the existing agrarian structure, reform of the present land system is an important step. The economy of Assam is totally dependent on agriculture. The land tenure system in Assam was not at all satisfactory. The system of land holding stood in the way of agricultural development of the State.

Thus the Goverment of Assam introduced various land reform measures in the state during different years since independence the main purpose of such land reforms would be to alter the pattern of land ownership and bring about such a structural change in the rural society as to ensure that the fruites of production are equitably enjoyed by those who toil in the agricultural land. These measures are as follows :

(I) Abolition of intermediary tenures : Along with other states of India, the Zamindari system in Assam was abolished. Record of land holding in Assam shows that there were permanent settlement in Goalpara and in the Karimganj subdivision of Cacher district. Only a few minor intermediary tenures are still existing and efforts are being made to end them. With this abolition of intermediary tenures, a huge number of farmers have been brought into direct relationship with the State.Besides, considerable areas of cultivable waste land,private forest etc. have been acquired for its utilisation. But till now, a sizeable area of land is still held by absence owners. Thus Planning Commission Committee for land Reforms suggested the abolition of absentee ownership of land, abolition of share-cropping and conversion of rent of kind into cash rents and acceleration of the programme of transfer of ownership to tenants.

(ii) Protection to Adhiars : The system of ‘Adhi’ cultivation is very much common in Assam. Thus to provide adequate to Adhiars, The Assam Adhiars protection and Regulation (amendment) Act was passed in 1955. By this act the adhiars have been given facilities. These are (a) the restriction on indiscrimnante eviction of the adhiars, (b) conferring of rights to adhiars to continue cultivate adhi land and (c) specification of grounds on which adhiars may be evicted.

(iii) Preparation of Tenants ‘and Adhiars’ Records of Rights : This scheme is being implemented along with resettlement operations in the district of Nagaon, Darrang, Lakhimpur and Dibrugarh and also in two sub-divisions of the district of Cachar. A crash programme for preparation of records of right in the district of Kamrup, Goalpara, Sibsagar and in the Karimganj sub-division of Chachar district, has since been undertaken. The need for updating the record of rights of tenants and adhiars (now tenants) in these districts was extremely urgent partly because of the launching of S.F.D.A and M.F.A.L schemes and partly due to the enactment of the Assam (Temporarily Settled Areas) Tenancy Act. 1971. Further,steps have been taken to strengthen the Land Records Staff for collectionof agricultural statistics. So far 251 lakh persons have been recorded as tenants.

(iv) Protection to tribal people : In order to protect the interest of the simple plain tribe people of Assam, the Government of Assam passed the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation (Amendment) Act in 1947. Under the direction of this Act 30 tribal belts were constituted in the areas predominantly inhabited by the tribals in the plain district of Brahmaputra Valley.

(v) Consolidation of holdings : The scheme for consolidation of holdings was originally taken up to save labour and money in agricultural operations and also to increase agricultural production. The Assam consolidation of Holdings Act,1960 was enacted in 1961 for consolidation and prevention of fragmentation of agricultural holdings for better cultivation in the plain districts of the state. A programme for consolidation of land holdings was in progress till 1969-70 and an area about 2005 bighas of land in 41 villages was brought under the scheme. But since June,1969 this scheme had been kept in abeyance. A sample survey of the utility of consolidation in existing circumstanaces was carried out in 1973. The Goverment of Assam has also adopted the agrarian reorganisation policy which aims at (a) consolidtion of holding. (b) land management practices, (c) development of Co-operative farming and (d) development of Co-operative village mangement.

(vi) Land Ceiling : Imposition of land ceiling is a very important measure towards land reforms in Assam. The Assam Fixation of Ceiling on Land Holdings Actwas passed in 1955. The Act provides for fixation of ceiling on land holdings at 150 bighas per family. Later, it was reduced to 75 bighas by making necessary amendment. Again the Government of Assam amended the existing legislation on land ceilings during June, 1972 to limit the amount of agricultural land that can be held by a family to 50 bighas and to reduce the allowable area of orchards from 30 bighas to 15 bighas. Through the implementation of these amendments, it is estimated that surplus area of about 12 lakh bighas would be available for acquisition under the Act, composed of 9 lakhs bighas from tea garden areas and the balance from non-tea areas. The surplus land so acquired would have to be equitably distributed among several beneficiaries. It is proposed that the surplus land, as and when acquired, would have as a first charge on it the requirements of homestead land for landless agriculturists and others without homestead land. Then the remaining cultivable lands would be constituted into Agricultural Farming Corporations composed of genuine landless cultivators who will enjoy the share of profit of this corporation. Land not suitable for cultivation would be utilised for afforesation, where feasible.

The achievements in respect of acquisition and distribituin of Ceiling surplus land in the State as on March,1985 is shows below:

(I) Area declared sruplus -17.80 lakh bighas

(ii) Area taken possession of -17.80 lakh bighas

(iii) Area distributed -11.57 lakh bighas

(iv) Total number of families benefitted -3.27 lakh

(v) Land distribution to institutions -0.47 lakh bighas

(vi) No. of instituions benefitted -1,224

Source : Directorate of Land Requistion and Reforms, Assam.

Thus it is observed that a series of land reform measures as enacted by the State Legislature from time to time are under implementation in the State. These measures basically aim at : (i) providing security of tenancy right, (ii) protecting tenants from possible exploitation (iii) establishment of a direct nexus between the tenants and the Government and (iv) distribution ceiling surplus land etc.Data made available that by the State Directorate of Land Requistion,Acquisition and Reforms, shown in the above chart reveals that under the Assam Fixation of ceiling on Land Holding Acts (as amended ) a total of 17.78 lakh of surplus land have been acquried in the State at the end of 1984-85 since inception. Out of these, 11.57 lakh bighs have been distributed to about 3.87 lakh allotees upto that date. Again in 1992-93, the state Government could distribute 21,983 acres of ceiling surplus land among the landless beneficiaries. The break up is scheduled caste- 1987 acres, scheduled tribe-3060 acres, others- 16592 acres and Institutions-345 acres.

Basic Problems in the Effective Implementation of Land Reforms in Assam and Modifications in view of ongoing Economic Reforms

Land reforms measures introduced in Assam are facing some basic problems in its effective implementation. Although the land reforms programme in Assam was started with good spirit and enthusiasm but the very response from such programme was lost in the mid-stream. The following are some of the basic problems in the effective implementation of land reforms in Assam.

1. Faults in Legislation : The legislations enacted for land reforms in India is having certain built-in-faults. This includes-unsatisfactory definition of personal cultivation ; unlimited retention of land for personal cultivation ; large scale transfer of land by the Zamindars to their family members leading to a largescale evasion of land ceiling law ; inadequate definition of tenant from the point of view of tenancy reform ; forcible voluntary surrender of land by tenants to land lords due to omission of share croppers and informal tenants from the provision of the laws related to tenancy refrom and inadequate celing laws at the initial stage, leading to realisation of small areas as surplus followed by illegal transfer of land.

2. Lack of Political Will :Strong political will, determination and courage are very much important for the implementation of land reform measures related to restructuring property relations. But unfortunately,this is very much absent in the state as well as in the whole country , which leads the land reform measure a mere slogan. The Report of the task force on Agrarian relations, in this connection observed, "Enactmant of progessive measures of land reforms and their efficient implementation call for hard political decision and effective potitical support, direction and control.........The lack of political will is amply demonstrated by the large gaps between policy and legislation and between law and its implementation."

Thus,so long the required political will is not forthcoming, implementation of land reform measures in true spirit will be very difficult.

3. Bureaucratic Obstacles : Bureaucratic Obstacles is also another impediment in the path of implementation of land reform measures in Assam. Sometimes, enthusiastic administrators are demoralised by the political bosses. the bureaucracy always try to play safe by following a ‘lukewarm’ attitude. In some cases, even administrators have joined hands with the politician to grave the surplus land (declared).The rich peasant power is dominating in every layer of government and they are subverting the land reforms in such a manner that the implementation of land reform measures is becoming more and more difficult .

4. Lack of Peoples’ co-operation :In the absence of peoples’ active co-operation, the implementation of land reforms in Assam is gradually becoming more and more difficult. Lack of consciousness on the part of farmers of the state regarding their rights on land is also responsible for poor implementation of land reform measures in Assam.

Thus considering all these factors it can be observed that under the prevailing situation it is very difficult to implement the various land reform measured in the state.

Thus the main challange before the land reform programme is to dislodge the vested interests on land and legal support offered by the judicial system to those vested interest group in the guise of sanctity of private property. In order to break such as impasse the following suggestions of the Force should be followed in true sprit :

(I) As the judicial systems is time consuming and dilatory, thus in respect of the implementation of various land reform measures, judiciary should not be involved.

(ii) Organisations of the poor peasantry in the form of strong militant trade unions, is no doubt, a pre condition for the successful implementation of land reforms. Formation of a land reform Committee by the Government at the Village, taluqa or district level having majority representation of marginal farmers, share croppers and landless cultivators for the implementation of land reform measures will be a good step in this direction.

In the mean time, the State Government have barred the jurisdiction of Civil Courts in respect of ceiling on land holdings and also made subsequent provision in ceiling laws for necessary appeal and revision through revenue Courts and tribunals. Moreover, necessary steps are also taken by the State Government to record the rights. Adhiars or share croppers for providing security of their tenancy.

Although attempts were made to establish a linkage between land reform measures and rural development programmes but in real practice, the State Government has failed to established such a linkage. Thus it can be finally observed that the land reforms in Assam is still far away its goal.

Modification of Land Reforms in view of Ongoing Economic Reforms :

With the introduction of economic reforms in the country, the agricultural sector is also facing a lot of changes particularly in relation to social relation of production, organisational structure modernisation of agricultural sector, etc. Under this changing situation, land reforms also need some modifications in view of ongoing economic reforms.

Accordingly, the land reforms measures introduced in Assam also need some modifications. Globalisation of the economy and the economic reforms introduced in the country has also widened the scope of development of agricultural sector alongwith the development of industry and trade. Assam being an agricultural state can reap the maximum benefit by exporting various agricultural, horticultural and floricultural products to diferent countries. But this would require an organised development of agricultural sector.

The following are some of the important modifications in land reforms in Assam in view of ongoing economic reforms :

(a) Stricter measures to abolish the absence owership of land for the effective utilisation of land resources :

(b) Systematic converion of Adhi" land into permanently settled land, for providing incentive to adhiars to boost agricultural output ;

(c) Ceiling of land may be raised for the development of organised, intension and large scale agricultural farming on a specific fruitful basis like tea cultivations in the state.

(d) Sincere and serious attempt be made for proper consolidation of holdings and to adopt land management practices through development of co-operative farming on voluntary basic and pursuasion for reaping the benefit of modernisation of agriculture.

Agricultural Holdings in Assam- Its Problem of Fragmentation and Sub-division

Problem of Decline in the Average Size of Holdings in Assam

In the absence of alterative occupations particularly in the rural areas, population to large majority, i.e. to the extent of 77 percent, has to depend on the agricultural sector alone. This has resulted excessive dependence of the economy of the State on agriculture leading to a huge pressure on agricultural land holdings. According to 1991 census, about 6.41 percent of the total working population in Assam are engaged as cultivators and agricultural labourers. Thus the excessive dependence of the population on the agricultural sector has been resulting continuous subdivision and fragmentation of land holdings in Assam. All these has been resulting a continuous decline in the average size of holdings in Assam.

Agricultural Census : As revealed by the Agricultural census 1985-86, there were 19.90 lakh operational holdings in the State wihich covered an area of about 25.89 lakh hectares of land. Compared with the figures of the earlier census (1980-81), the number of operational holding and operated area during 1985-86 were lower by 13.4 percent and 17.1 percent respectively. The marginal holding with less than 1 hectare of land acounted for 62.0 percent of the total holdings and 19.0 percent of the total operated area of the state in 1985-86. In case of small holdings with size class between 1 to 2 hectares, the share turned out to be 21.36 percent of total holdings and 23.11 percent of the total operational area. On the other hand, the large holdings (10 hectares and above) which constittuted only 0.25 percent of the total number of operational holdings, accounted for as much as 16.68 percent of the total operational area in the State. An important feature revealed by these successive agricultural census is that the average size of operational holdings in Assam recorded a declining trend. The following table shows important findins about operational holdings in Assam as obtained from Agricultural Census, 1970-71, 1976-77, 1980-81 and 1985-86.

Table No. 6.6

Number, Area and Average Size of Operational Holdings in Assam











1. Numberof holdings

2. Total Operated area

(in thousand hectares)

3.Average size of holdings

(in hectares)















24,19, 156


3, 161



Source : Economic Survey, 1989-90. (Assam). p.11. and statistical Hand Book, Assam,1995.pp.52-53.

The table given above reveals that the total number of holdings in Assam gradually rose from 19.66 lakh 1970-71 to 22.97 lakh in 1980-81 and then to 24.19 lakh in 1985-86. Another important feature reported is that the average size of operational holdings in Assamhas declined considerably from 1.47 hectares in 1970-71 to 1.37 hectares in 1976-77 and then marginally to 1.36 hectares in 1980-81 and then finally to 1.31 hectares in 1985-86. At all India level also the average size of holdings have also declined from 2.00 hectares in 1976-77 to 1.84 hectares in 1980-81.

Measures to deal with the problems of fragmentation and sub-divison of land holdings in Assam

Continuous fragmentation and sub-divison of land holding is creating a huge problem for the agricultural development in Assam. With this the size of the farm becomes most uneconomic which stands in the way of modernisation of agriculture in Assam.

The Government of Assam has adopted the following measures during the plan period to deal with the problems of fragmentation and sub-division of land holdings in the state :

(a) Consolidation of holdings, and

(b) Development of co-operative farming.

(a) Consolidation of holdings : It means the rearrangment of scattered fields of an individual owner into bigger and compact fields, through exchange with the fragments of other cultivators in the area. The idea is to reduce the number of fragments as much as possible. The process of consolidation also provides an opportunity for the planning of common village facilities like roads and schools. The scheme for consolidation of holding was originaly taken up to save labour and money in agricultural operations and also increase agricultural production. The Assam consolidation of Holdings Act, 1960 was enacted in 1961 for consolidation and prevention of fragmentation of agricultural holdings for better cultivation in the plain districts of the state. A programme for consolidation of land holdings was in progress till 1969-70 and an area about 2005 bighas of land in 41 villages was brought under the scheme. But this scheme had been kept in abeyance since June, 1969 due to desirability of first completing the work relating to recording of rights of tenants and, if possible conferring ownership rights on them.

The main difficulties which have stood in the path of progress of consolidation are-- sentimental attachment of the people of Assam to part with ancestral land, fear of losing better lands, lack of trained and honest staff, lack of up-to-date records, lack of finance and wide difference in land values in the State.

(b) Development of Co-operative farming : To overcome the evil effects of small and uneconomic holding in Assam adoption of some sort of Co-operative farming, i.e., joint cultivation, is a very appropriate method in the desired directions. This sort of farming can provide the advantages of largescale farming without abolishing private property. During 1973-74, the Government of Assam have introduced a novel scheme for setting up Agricultural Farming corporation in each sub-division of the state. The main objective of the scheme is to ensure the management of land and its proper use by tillers of the soil through the settlement of landless agricultural farmers in Government and surplus land that may be available as a result of enforcement of land ceiling Act. According to the scheme, cultivators would be organised into corporate bodies to manage and cultivate agricultural land. Fifty or more agriculturists along with the State Government may form an Agricultural farming corporation in the State. The State Government will only give their share capital contribution to such corporations. The basic idea underlying the setting up of such corporations is to treat land as an earning asset rather than as a form of wealth. Till 1974-75, nine Agricultural Farming Corporations were registered in the State. These Corporation accomodated a total of 818 families and took up cultivation of 983 hectares of land during 1974-75. The State Government is encouraging the Co-operative farms by providing some special facilities. During 1979-80, Assam had 121 joint farming societies and 277 collective farming societies. But it was found that nearly half of these societies remained dormant during the year. Net area sown by these societies were of the order of 2102 hectares under joint farming societies and 5528 hectares under collective farming societies. In 1979-80, the value of production from these societies stood at Rs. 10.4 lakhs in respect of farming societies and Rs. 18.0 lakhs in respect of collective farming societies as against Rs. 8.7 lakhs and Rs. 16.7 lakhs respectively in 1978-79. Again in 1970, total number of agricultural co-operative societies in Assam stood at 413.

Thus it reveals that although there is marginal improvement in the operation of some established joint farming societies but the extent of development of Co-operative farming in the state remained very poor. It is due to lack of response on the part of the agriculturists of the state towards the policy of consolidation of holding and development of Co-operative farming. Thus agriculturists in Assam should come forward with active interest to adopt the policy of consolidation of their holding for their mutual benefit. Agriculiturists should also try to develop Co-operative farming by forming increasing number of joint farming societies ad Co-operative farming societies in the state. In this respect, the existing farming societies has got their additional role to attract the farmers to form such societies by showing a better result. As the Co-operative farming societies are having definite advantages of modernisation and cost reduction, thus they can show definitely a better result if organised efficiently.

Shifting Cultivation in Hill Areas of Assam

Definition and process of Shifting Cultivation

Definition : Land Cultivation in Assam is classified into two distinct pattern - (a) Settled farming on the permanent and developed land in the plains and valley areas and (b) shifting Cultivation or ‘Jhumming’ on the hill slopes or the jhum land available in the hill area the state.

Shifting Cultivation is a primitive method of Cultivation which might have originated in the neolithic period covering the years between 13,000 to 3,000 B.C. Perhaps the system of shifting cultivation is the first stage for the use of soil for the production of crops. This system of Cultivation was practised over a long period of time as a regular system by the hill inhabitants of Black Africa and America. In India, shifting cultivation is still practised in the hill areas of entire North-eastern region, Sikkim, Bihar, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Shifting Cultivation is known as slash-and-burn-agriculture, migratory primitive agriculture, nomadic agriculture, hoe and burn, forest field rotation,land rotation agriculture and in north-east India it is known as ‘Jhum’ Cultivation or ‘Jhumming’. Due to diminution of fertility, ‘Jhummias will have to shift from one area to another area and thus it is known as shifting cultivation.

Process : The process of shifting Cultivation is like that firstly a plot is selected and the next step is to slash or cut the forest, bushes etc. upto the stump level in the month of December, January followed by drying and burning the jungle Jungle for making it clear. After that holes are dug on land with the help of simple instrument like dibble or digging sticks for sowing seeds of several crops. After several shower, when the ash settles down, then seeds of several crops are applied into holes for getting a large variety of crops from a same field. In this process of shifting cultivation, the original fertility of land alongwith the burnt ashes make it possible to raise a good yield of crops for a year or two. After that all the nutrients of soil will become exhausted and thus yield falls drastically. This will force the farmers to shift into a new area leaving the previous land as fallow land for gaining fertility and follow the same process of slash and burn in new area as mentioned above.

Area under shifting Cultivation in Assam

Shifting Cultivation requires a large amount of land but it can support only a small number of population. In Assam, shifting cultivation is mostly practised in the two hill districts, i.e., Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills district in Assam. The total area under shifting cultivation in Assam is estimated at 4,90,000 hectares. Out of which the average area under shifting cultivation in a year in Assam is estimated at 70,000 hectares. Thus out of the total amount of area under shifting cultivation only 14.3 percent of the total area is cultivated in a year, leaving the remaining 85.7 percent of the area as fallow land for regaining fertility. The jhumming cycle in Assam is aabout 7 years.

As per the report of the Task Force, Ministry of Agriculture on Shifting cultivation (1983) it is observed that the annual area under shifting cultivation in Assam is 696 sq. kms. The minimum area under shifting cultivation one time or other is also estimated at 1,392 sq. kms. The fallow period in Assam is about 2-10 years. The report further observed that the total number of families practising shifting cultivation in Assam is around 58,000.

In Assam, Jhum Cultivation is practised in the hilly area of  Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills districts. Out of the 15,332 sq. Kms. of land on the hill districts, the areas under jhum cultivation is estimated to be little over 60,000 hectares with a total population of 8.04 lakh as per 1991 census report.

Evil Effects of Shifting Cultivation in Assam

Shifting Cultivation in Assam has been destructing the natural endowments in the two hill districts of the state through its various evil effects. The following are some of these evil effects.

Firstly, the most important evil effect of shifting cultivation in Assam in that destrution of forest in the hill areas causes heavy soil erosion during rainfall and consequent siltation in the major rivers like Brahmaputra and Barak leading to a heavy flood in the plain low lying areas of the State. Moreover the loss of top soil to the extent of 22 percent of the total soil due to jhumming causs a serious fall in the fertility of soil in the hilly areas. Thus it creates a serious economic problem for the people of the state.

Secondly, shifting cultivation has resulted a high national waste as it has converted a green land into fallow for the major part of the jhum cycle.

Thirdly, shifting cultivation causes deforestation on a large scale and is highly destructive to productive and protection values of forests in the state. A recent report released by the DehraDun-based Forest Survey of India (FSI) based on Sattelite data and extensive field surveys shows Assam to be the main victim of shifting cultivation in the recent years. In the early 1990s, the state lost about 243sq. kms. of forest to shifting cultivation. In the same period, jhumming further deforested 100 sq. kms. in Meghalaya, 28 sq. kms. in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur and 10 sq. kms. in Tripura.

Fourthly, shifting cultivations upsets the ecological balance of nature in the state and it leads to environmental degradiation and disturbs the fragile eco-system. The jhumming practice has caused extensive climatic changesin the state and destroyed rare flora and fauna of the state along with surrounding natural vegetation. Thus the environmental imbalance has resulted uneven spread of monsoon rainfall leading to the problem of drought and excessive rainfall resulting flood in the low-lying areas of the state.

Future Strategy and Efforts to control Shifting cultivation in Assam

In the mean time, the state government and other agencies have undertaken various measures for controlling shifting cultivation in desired directions. In the fifties, the Government of Assam took the earlier attempts for taking the problem of shifting cultivation with the introduction of the plantation of cash crops like rubber, coffee, black pepper and cashew nut for encouraging the ‘jhumias’ to accept these crops. During the Fifth Plan periods, a major thrust was given with three different programmes on the control of shifting cultivation in all the north-eastern states. These were :

(I) scheme of soil conservation in the state plans :

(ii) Centrally sponsored pilot projects for the control of shifting cultivation :

and (iii) regional river basis scheme for controlling shifting cultivation under NEC.

1.Irrigated Terraces : Another successful way of controlling shifting cultivation is to settle the jhum on an irrigated terraces by channelling water from mountain streams. This type of cultivation is known as terrace cultivation which is very much popular in Khasi and Jayantia hills of Meghalaya. Thus adequate steps must be taken to introduce irrigated terrace cultivation in the two hill districts of Assam.

2.Watershed Management : The concept of watershed management indicates optimum use of land and water resourses within a physiographic or hydrological unit governed by natural conditions. This watershed management makes provision for scientific survey and investigation of each unit for detailed planning and its implementation conducted by a technical team on each watershed. The National Watershed Development Project for rainfed areas is now being implemented in various North-eastern states. Thus steps must be taken to introduce this watershed development project in the hill areas of Assam.

3. Settlement of Jhumias : Solution to the problem of shifting cultivation requires the settlement of tribal families on permanently settled agriculture. This would require development of land for regular cultivation which again requires a huge investment and many years. Thus short term measures as suggested by ICAR should be introduced. Considering the physiographic character of land, climatic conditions, social conditions, food habits etc. alternative system of farming like diversified farming should be introduced. This would require a system which includes agriculture, horticulture along with animal husbandry, fishery, poultry farming etc.

4. Development of Rubber, Oil-palm and coffee cultivation : In order to control shifting cultivation in the hill areas in Assam, proper steps must be taken to take up intensive and extensive rubber, coffee and oil-palm cultivation and for the development of non-forest waste land in the Karbi Anglong and North Cacher Hill districts of the state. Recently in March, 1997, the State Government has decided that a large area of the non-forest water-land would be brought under ’rubber block planting’ scheme where more than 65 percent of the total investment would be contributed by the Rubber Board of India and the rest would be financed by the State Government. The scheme is expected to give employment opportunities to a large number of tribal persons in Karbi Anglong district. As regards coffee cultivation, it has been decided to bring 5,000 hectares of land under the ‘robasta’ varity of Coffee during the year 1997-98 . It is pertinent to mention that the land in Karbi Anglong district has been found to be suitable for the oil palm cultivation and more than 1000 hectares of land in the district have been earmarked for raising oil-palm cultivation.

5. Soil Conservation Measures : In order to protect the bio-diversity, it is of utmost necessicity that the delicate eco-system be protected by soil conservation measures. The will benefit all sections of people not only in the hills, but also in the plains. In the mean time, the Government of Assam has taken up soil and water conservation schemes in the problematic areas to wean away jhum cultivation in the hill slopes adopted by the hill tribes in both the hill districts of Assam. These schemes includes land reclamation, bench and broad-based terracing, water harvesting and water distribution, paddy land development scheme in the agricultural land with necessary river taming works etc. and also raising of protective afforestation lands. Meanwhile, a great achievement is being noticed in improving those problem-prone areas through such schemes in both the hill districts.

But whatever steps are taken by Government in this direction, all  are not being implemented sincerely. Thus, under such a situation it will not be possible to wean away the traditional age old practice of cultivation completely. But the magnitude of the practice of this type of cultivation is being considerably reduced by diverting and motivating the hill people for accepting a permanent and settled method of cultivation. Thus both the whole hearted efforts on the part of Government agencies and NGOs as well as motivational progress are equally important to transform this age-old tribal agricultural practices into a settled and developed farming practices.



North -East India is rich in type of natural vegetation. Climate physiography and soils of the region have provided favourable conditions for luxuriant growth of natural vegetation.

The region has one of the heaviest rainfalls in the world . Although the average annual rainfall of the region is about 250 cm it varies from place to place. The windward sides (of SW Monsoon ) of the foothills generally receive 300 cm to 400 cm rainfall while the plains receive 200 cm to 300 cm annually. The leeward sides of the hills , as the Lanka-Lumding -Namber region receives only 100 cm annually. The high Himalayas, on the other hand, experience frost and snowfall.

As the physiography varies from lowlying swamps and marshes to high mountain ridges lying above 6000 m, the soils vary from sand, silt and loam to laterite.

Classification :

There variations have give rise to various types of flora in North East India. Of all the physical factors, it is climate which seems to have the most telling effect on the vegetation type. The heavy rainfall which comes from May to September, keeps the relative humidity of the area very high throughout the year . Temperature variation is low, remaining normally between 12 0 C and 35 0 C except in the high hills. These favourable climatic conditions , augmented by fertility of the soils have provided luxuriant growth of numerous species of plants . Based on the physiognomy, foliation and flowering characters and gregariousness or otherwise, the natural vegetation of North East India can be divided into the following groups :

1. Tropical Evergreen Forest : Those parts of the region where average annual rainfall is more then 200 cm and temperature is 250 C there grow tall trees with evergreen foliage. The Himalayan foothills region from Panch Nai eastward upto Luhit district of Arunachal the foothills of Changlang and Tirap district of Arunachal, Nagaland and their adjoining plains district of the Brahmaputra Valley, North Cachar Hills, the northern and eastern foothills adjoining the Barak plain and higher altitude of the Meghalaya Plateau (860 m - 1600 m ) bear tropical evergreen forests. The tropical evergreen forests of this Plateau include pine vegetation and the temperate broad -leaved trees of the higher altitudes. Similarly, over the hills of Arunachal Pradesh, Patkai Range and Manipur hills at altitude between 800 m to 1200 m, one can see the tropical evergreen forests.

A common feature of the evergreen forests is the presence of a thick undergrowth at ground level and many creepers and lianas at upper level. In the pine forests, however, these are absent.

The common plants of the tropical evergreen forests of this region are Nageswar or Nahar (Messua ferrea), Halong (Dipterocarpus macrocarpus) Hallock, Makari Sal or Makai(Shorea assamica), Shishu (dulbargia sisso),Titachampa (Atrocarpus chaplasa) Champa, Garjan (Dipterocarpus turbinatus ), Bonsom (Phoebe goalparensis ) , Amari (Amoora wallichii ), Agaru (Aquilaria agallocha) Khakan, Beyleaf Banaria Am (Mangifera sylvatica), etc. At higher altitudes these forests also contain Chestnut , Maple, Magnolia, Laurel, Alder and Birch besides rhododendron, willow, juniper and various sub- species of pine . The pine forests are common in the higher altitudes of Meghalaya. Manipur and Nagaland. In the Himalayas pine forests are located between 1200 m and 2000 m height.

The tropical evergreen forests of North East India contain numerous varieties of orchids, some of which are rare and valuable. These forests also support various sorts of climbers including cane.

These forests generally support soft wood for plywood industry and packing boxes for tea industry.

2. Tropical Deciduous Forest : Deciduous forests are found in those areas of North East India where the average annual rainfall is 80 cm to 200 cm. The districts of Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon , Goalpara Barpeta Nalbari, Kamrup , Darrang, Marigaon Nagaon,, Sonitpur,, Karbi Anglong, North Cachar Hills and the and drier parts of the Barak Valley in Assam support tropical forests. In Meghalaya these forests are found in Garo and Jaintia hills. The drier parts of Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland also have deciduous forest. In Arunachal pradesh the deciduous forests are limited to a very narrow zone of foothills.

The common species of tropical deciduous plants are Sal (Shorea robusta), teak (Tectona grandis ), gamari (Gmelina arborea ), Simul (Bombax malabaricum), khoir (Acacia catechu), Au tenga (Belenia indica), Jack fruit (Atrocarpus integrifolia ), Kadam, Siris, Arjun, Silikha, Bhomora, etc.

Economically the most important products of the deciduous forest are sal and teak. These two species of plants supply hard wood for construction of buildings bridges and railway sleepers. The sal and teak forests are confined to two distinct belts in Assam. Firstly there is a long strip of land in the south bank of the Brahmaputra from Mankachar to Marigaon along the Meghalaya foothhills, and seccondly, there is another strip in the northern part of Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts.

3. Tropical Grassland : Grassland is not uncommon in North East India. However, most of the grasses of the region, except the alpine grasses of high altitude in the Himalayas, are not climogenic, i.e. they are not produced due to climatic reasons, such as inadequate rainfall and temperature. Firstly, some of the grasses, found on the hill slopes of North East India are there because the original forests were earlier destroyed for shifting cultivation. This also led to depletion of the soil cover,. Such areas subsequently have given rise to grasses only.. Secondly there are tall grasses in the Tarai region of the Brahmaputra Valley because here the ground always remain saturated with water and hence tall trees do not grow. Thirdly, the river banks and charlands are normally sandy. Such land cannot support tall tree but gives forth luxuriant seasonal grasses. Lastly, the swamps and marshes support swamp vegetation which include mostly grasses.

(A) The grasses found on the hill slopes come up as a secondary growth after people clear the land for shifting cultivation and settlement. The human interference since time immemorial has given rise to many grasslands over the hills on depleted soils of North East India. These grasses include various types of thatch and other members of the gramminaceae family.

(B) The foothill tarai region, especially on the north bank of the Brahmaputra Valley, also support tall grasses, such as various type of reed and thatch. As mentioned above, damp ground of this region favours the growth of tall grass only. The grassland of Manas Sanctuary is an example of this type.

(C) The river banks and riverine islands are mostly made of sandy soil. This type of soil cannot retain water for a long time. Hence tall trees, except a few varieties like simul, khoir etc. cannot grow on these areas. The plants that grow on the river banks and islands are known as riperian vegetation. The riperian vegetation in North East India is mostly tall grass. The grasslands of Dhemaji, Majuli, Kaziranga, Bhurbandha Pabitara, Orang, etc. on the banks of the Brahmaputra belong to this category. Along with grasss these areas also contain simul, khoir karoi kadam and local plum (zyzyphus) trees.

(D) In the plains of North East India, especially in the Brahmaputra and Barak Valleys and Manipur Basin, there are many marshes and swamps. These support various types of swamp grasses and other plants like lily, lotus, waterwort, water hyacinth, taro, etc.

4. Alpine Grassland : Although North East India falls within the relatively low latitudes, it has high Himalayan mountains where temperature is low. The higher mountain slopes of the Himalayas at an altitude of 4000 m to 5200 m in Arunachal Pradesh, one can see lush green grass coming up in late spring. This vegetation is known as alpine grass. Apart from various species of grass, it also contains some varieties of juniper, rhododendron, shrubs and mosses. This zone of grass lies above the coniferous forest belt which is mentioned in the evergreen group.

The Specialty of the Forests of N.E. India :

Heavy rainfall, high humidity throughout the year and high temperature of North East India have made the region very rich in floral resources. Some of the important features of the forests of the region are noted below :

1. In the evergreen forests of Assam one can find Makari Sal (Shorea assamica) which are one of the tallest trees in India. It grows to a height of 60 m -70 m. In fact, there are several other species of plant in this region which are ranked as some of the tallest trees of the country.

2. The forests of the region contain about 400 varieties of rare orchids which are regarded as one of the richest occurrence of these plants in the world. It also contains rare pteridophytes like tree fern.

3. Side by side with broad leaved forests there are coniferous forests also in the region.

4. There are some varieties of carnivorous plants in this region. In Garo and Khasi hills of Meghalaya, alone there are there varieties of carnivorous plants, viz. pitcher plant, bludderwart and Surujneor.

5. There are many varieties of saprophytic and parasitic plants apart from epiphytes in this region. Monotropa, Belonifora, etc. are some of the examples of these varieties.

6. The region is also very in medicinal plants. Besides, the region is also native to beverage plants like tea.

Forest Resources of North-East India:

Forests are a precious resource given by nature. It is often termed as multipurpose resource. Forests supply us raw material for construction of building , bridge, ship railway wagon, rail track, boat, etc. These also supply raw materials to industries for production of paper, pulp plywood, etc. Besides, the forests supply medicinal plants ornamental plants and above all fuel wood for domestic consumption. Forests also supply food to some extent to men and to all animals. From the view point of environment, forests are important because they influence rainfall and protect soils from being eroded besides keeping the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels steady.

Although North East India was once rich in forest resources, it is no longer so now. Reckless cutting of tree and clearing of forest and a lack of concerted effort in afforestation have made it poor now in this precious resource. Following figures give the statewise forest coverage of North East India in 1990 based on satellite imagery (basic statistics 1995, NER)

State                                                                      Forest (in % of total area)

1. Arunachal Pradesh                                                     82.3

2.Assam                                                                         33.2

3. Manipur                                                                       80.0

4. Meghalaya                                                                  69.8

5. Mizoram                                                                      86.2

6.Nagaland                                                                     86.9

7. Tripura                                                                       50.9

Total                                                                               65.9

All India                                                                         19.5

 These forests provide hard wood for construction. soft wood for plywood and manufacture, bamboo and grass for paper and pulp, fuelwood, lac khoir, gum, bamboo, thatch, cane, various medicinal and ornamental plants, vegetable, fruits, honey and many varieties of wild animals and birds and products from them. Many of these have demand in international market.

Some of the economically very important trees found in North East India are Agaru, sal, neem, champa, tea and bamboo. Agaru or Agar has become a rare plant now. In the olden days people used to prepare thin long sheets out of its wood for writing. It is locally known as Sanchi tree. One can still find hundreds of valuable and rare manuscripts written on Sanchi sheet during the six hundred years prior to the advent of the British into North East India. Besides providing writing sheets, Agaru or Agar contain a very valuable oily essence from which a precious perfume and some drugs are prepared . It is still found, although infrequently, in the forests of Golaghat, Jorhat , Sibsagar , Nagaland and Manipur. Sal (shorea robusta ) is another valuable species of plant found in North East India. It provides extremely hard wood for construction of buildings, bridges and railway sleepers . It also provides gum and essence. Pine tree not only provides soft wood but it also supplies turpentine and resin. Neem, plant abundantly found in the region is one of the most important medicinal plants. Champa also provides an essence used as perfume. Tea plants are used for extracting tennin and other colouring juice apart from extracting their leaves as a source of beverage.

The forests of the North East India are also rich in fauna. The mammals include various types of primates carnivores and herbivores, Hoolock gibbon, one of the 4 types of apes found on the earth today, occurs in this region. The region also has one horned rhinoceros in the forests like Kaziranga, Laokhowa, Orang, Paabitara and Manas. Some of these forests Kaziranga, Laokhowa Pabha, aand Manas also have wild buffalo. There are as many as 11 varieties of monkey including the rare golden langur and capped langur in this region . Elephants abound the foothill regions of all the states of North East India. The four horned antelope, deer, barking deer, musk deer, Pigmy hog , bison and wild boar are some of the important herbivores of the region. The most important carnivores found here are Royal Bengal Tiger, Leopard, various other large wild cats, civet cats, snow leopard, Himalayan bear. etc.

Some important products of the wild mammals of North East India found mention in the ancient Indian classics and travel accounts. Of these ivory i.e. elephant tusk, horn of the one-horned rhinoceros and Kasturi or perfume glands of the naval region of musk deer are the main. The elephant tusk which provides the precious ivory was a much prized possession of the kings and emperors in India since time immemorial. The kings and chiefs of North East India used to trade with these commodity and pay tributes to other kings and emperors with whom they came in contact. One of the reasons why the rulers of Delhi in the mediaeval period used to invade North East India time and again is to lay hands on its rich forest products including tuskers and ivory. The so called horn of rhinoceros is widely used in China and south west Asia as a very rare drug. That is why it is considered to be very valuable and poaching of the animal still goes on . The musk deer, especially its male ones, bear some special glands in its intestine which secretes a precious juice. This juice is considered to be a very important drug in China.

There is also a rich reptile population in North East India. It has marsh crocodile, fresh water gharial turtle, tortoise , varieties of monitors, chamelions , lizards and snakes. Of the important snakes, the python is ubiquitous in the hills ,while krait , viper and cobra are found in the tropical forests and grasslands of the plains.

As in the other families of fauna, north East India is rich in avifauna also . It has scores of species of birds-large and small, charming mocking and terrifying . Stork, peacock, pelican , various types of ducks, pheasant , vulture , kite , eagle , varieties of doves and parrots, wren, linnet , tit, etc. are the common birds of this region.

As North East India abounds in water bodies, swamps and marshes there are numerous varieties of fish fauna in the region. Some of the fish live in the numerous streams and rivers and some in equally numerous beels, jheels and swamps. In fact fish used to be so abundant in the region that to an inhabitant of it, fish as an item of food, is important next only to rice. It is the main source of protein supply to them. But of late many beels and swamps have become silted up. Further, the ever increasing population of the region have taken to indiscriminate catching of fish. These have led to an scarcity of fish in the region.



Socio - economic Base of Agriculture

Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of the people of North East India. The traditional types of agriculture carried out in primitive manners still determine the way of life of the people of the region. Barring aside the production of a few minerals, whatever little industry has grown up in this region is essentially agro-based. The importance of agriculture can be clearly understood if the following points are taken into consideration.

1. Agriculture produces most of the food requirement of the region.

2. It provides employment to about 65 percent of the working population of the region. So, agriculture is the major source of livelihood of the people of the region.

3. Agriculture provides raw material for many local industries, such as tea, jute, sugar, rice milling, flour milling, oil pressing, fruit processing and canning, etc. Agriculture provides livelihood to the vast majority of the people of the region both directly and indirectly.

4. The contribution of agriculture including its allied activities like animal husbandry, piggery, poultry keeping, fishing, etc. to the income of the region is the largest among that of other economic sectors. It is found that nearly a half of the total income of the region comes from the agricultural sector.

Although agriculture is of prime importance to the region, it has remained largely undeveloped. Unlike other parts of India, where innovation in agriculture has made some headway, North East India has still been sticking to primitive methods showing little progress in this vital sector of economy. The socio-economic factors that affect the agriculture of the region are noted below:

1. Fragmentation of Holding: With the rapid increase of population and perpetuation of the law of heritage of landed property on the one hand, and lack of economic diversification on the other the agricultural plots have undergone subdivision in every generation. The result is that the agricultural land now has been turned into uneconomic small plots and fragmented. Such small and fragmented plots are neither suitable for application of modern machinery like tractor and harvester nor are they worthy of any other form of heavy capital input. This situation acts as disincentive for agricultural development.

This problem can, perhaps, be solved only by consolidation of land holdings through cooperative endeavourer.

2. Primitive Methods and Implements: The primitive methods and implements are still in vogue among the peasants of North -East India. Land is tilled in the plains by a wooden plough with the help of a pair of bullocks. Tilling is neither deep nor perfect. In the hills again plough tilling is replaced by slash -and burn and light spadework especially in the plots of shifting (jhum) cultivation. Besides, use of manure or fertilizer, insecticide and weedicide is almost absent. It is only recently that some farmers have started using high yielding varieties of seeds for raising a part of their crops. But the use of fertilizer or manure is still to get currency. It is noticed that per hectare consumption of fertilizer in the North East is only 2.5 kg as opposed to more than 5 kg in Punjab and Haryana.

The shifting method of cultivation in the hills has faced with increasing problems. With the increase of population the jhum -cycles are becoming shorter. The jhum -plots now can hardly accumulate enough natural manure. Frequent use of the hill slopes has evoked topsoil erosion, rendering the plots infertile.

The cause of the problem of the continuance of primitive method lies in the poverty of the farmers on the one hand and lack of scientific knowledge on the other. Initial help for capital investment either in the form of cash or kind may help the farmers to get away from the primitive implements. But such help must be supplemented by proper extension services to make them realise the benefit of the scientific methods. In the hills even if the shifting cultivation is allowed to continue for some time, some substitute means and methods, such as terrace farming horticulture, planting of nitrogen bearing and manure yielding crops in the used jhum plots, etc. should be progressively introduced.

3. Inadequacy of Irrigational Facilities: Although North East India receives very high average annual rainfall, about six months of the year remains completely dry. The rainfall is concentrated mainly to six months from May to October. Because of long drought in winter no substantial crop can be grown in the six dry months Besides, even during the summer months there are periods of drought which affect preparation and proper growth of jute plants and tea leaves. Merely a high average annual rainfall should be no reason for not adopting artificial irrigation. If water is supplied in a regulated manner throughout the year, more crops with greater yield have been cultivated.

In order to solve this problem, irrigational facilities must be developed adequately. In the plains of North East India power operated lift and tube -well irrigation would be more suitable than canal irrigation. In the hills terracing of slopes and tapping of the streams may be more fruitable.

4. Soil Erosion: With the progressive destruction of forests for human habitation, agriculture, construction of roads, extraction of timber and due to over grazing, the forest cover in North East has been dwindling fast. With the reduction of forest cover the soil erosion, especially in the hill slopes, has increased by leaps and bounds. As the topsoil is being depleted the crop yield has decreased.

This problem can be controlled by preventing deforestation, encouraging afforestation and stopping over grazing in the agricultural fields.

5. Scarcity of Suitable Agricultural Land: Availability of land in North East India is a myth rather than a reality. The four plains, namely, the Brahmaputra Valley, the Barak Valley, the Manipur Central plain and western Tripura are already over crowded with agricultural population. These plains hardly constitute 30% of the total area of the region, while the remaining 70% are full of hills and plateaus. Then again, the plains are often ravaged by floods and shifting river courses. These contain many marshes and swamps unsuitable for agriculture. In fact whatever little land was found suitable for agriculture has already been put to use,. Further horizontal extension of agriculture can be done only at the cost of ecologic equilibrium.

This problem can be solved only by improving the methods of agriculture so that more production can be obtained on whatever agricultural land the region has . Apart from this , reclamation of waste land shall contribute marginally to ease the problem.

6. General Poverty and Interrelated Factors : Very small sized landholding, primitive agricultural methods, natural calamities oppressive summer heat and humidity preventing hard labour, illiteracy and many such physical and socio economic factors have kept the farmers of North East India in abject poverty. They eke out a precarious living on the verge of starvation. The average farmers family budget is a deficit one. This crushing poverty is responsible for the farmer’s ill health, illiteracy and general ignorance. They cannot spend on high yielding varieties of seeds, chemical fertilizers, insecticides, modern agricultural implements, etc. in order to produce more and get rid of the poverty, Besides, they cannot spend on their children’s education nor on their medical care. The food of an average farmer is poor and deficient in vitamins minerals and proteins. The farmers of North East India therefore, are handicapped by a poor physique and ill health.

Thus, it is seen that the farmers have to live in a vicious cycle. To rid them out of it a well planned programme is necessary. To educate them in scientific agricultural methods, supply them with agricultural inputs such as high yielding varieties of seeds, irrigational facilities whenever necessary, fertilizers, insecticides, agricultural implements etc at subsidised rates or on loan are some of the measures that will go a long way in uplifting their present condition. Since there is hardly any suitable land to physically expand agriculture, it is obvious that productivity has to be increased. Productivity depends upon the quality of input and health and efficiency of the farmers. The Panchayats may perhaps seriously consider the there pronged improvement based on education, input and health for the farmers to rid them of the vicious circle.

7. Land Tenure System in the Hills : The traditional land tenure system among the tribes of the hills of North East India is based on village-community ownership. Individual family ownership is confined mostly to the homestead land and the wet plots of sedentary cultivation. Since the main method of cultivation in the hills is shifting (jhumming), the jhumland is commonly owned by a village community. Each member family of the village community decides to move away from that area to somewhere else.

In the areas of shifting cultivation, the authority of distribution of land for farming to the individual families is vested on the headmen or village councils. Among the Karbis of Karbi Anglong and a few tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, where settlements are sparse, although the jhumland is owned by the village community, an individual family is allowed to cultivate a plot of land according its own choice. But the Karbi villagers often shift their settlements and jhumland and as a result individual farmers can hardly have any interest on development of land.

Among the Garos of Meghalaya, the district are divided into revenue units called ‘hill mauzas;. Each mauza is divided into ‘akings’ Each aking is under an Aking Nokma (headman) who owns land on behalf of this clansmen. The Aking Nokma has the authority to distribute land among his clansmen for jhum cultivation.

The Khasi Hills are traditionally divided into siemships under Siems. The land under a Siem is allowed to be cultivates. However, if he fails to cultivate for three consecutive years, he loses the right over it.

In Mizoram there were hereditary chiefs in the past. They used to be called as ‘Lal’ and were vested with the authority of distributing lands among the villages. The system was changed after independence and the management of land is now vested on the village councils elected by the villagers after every three years. The jhumland is now distributed by the village councils.

The above note on the land ownership system in the hills shows that individual farmers do not own land. As such agricultural development and land management at individual initiative are by and large absent. Moreover, with the increasing pressure of population on land jhum cycle has become short on the one hand and individual families are allotted smaller plots of land on the other. Thus it is seen that the land tenure system in the hills has also hindered agricultural development . However , it be remembered that jhumming is not just a way of livelihood. it constitutes a way of life. Hence, agricultural development in the hills , including any change in land tenure system, must be done after an in depth study and with an integrated development planning so that the tribal social life is not adversely affected.

8. Low Crop Intensity : The crop intensity in North East India is one of the lowest in the country. It is found that the area sown more than once is only about 18% of the net sown area. A number of reasons such as absence of irrigational facilities, the habit of not herding cattle in the season when traditional paddy crops are not in the field , non use of manure and fertilizer, absence of the use of short -growing varieties of crops etc. contribute to a low crop intensity in the region Most of the paddy fields in the plains remain fallow for about 5 months of the year. The condition is still worse in hills with shifting cultivation. Although a number of crops are grown together like interculture in a jhum field, it remains almost fallow for one -third of the year. Besides after cultivating the plot for a year or two, it is kept fallow for a couple of years or more.

In order to raise crop intensity, irrigation must be provided, especially in winter. Besides some quick growing cash-crops should be introduced. The farmers should be motivated to grow multiple crops in the same plot of land by using manure and fertilizer. Besides, provisions should be made for grazing lands, so that cattle and goats are not allowed to graze freely.

9. Paucity of Agricultural Credit: Some amount of capital, either in cash or in kind - is always needed if agriculture is to be taken seriously. As seen earlier, the farmers of North East India are traditionally poverty, stricken. Very few of them can get agricultural credit at favorable terms in time.

This problem can be solved by providing agricultural credit on easy terms in proper time, so that the man behind the plough can cultivate his land without having to go to the money lender or middleman.

10. Problem of Marketing of Agricultural Products : The cultivators of the region do not get a fair return from their agricultural products. Due to poverty they cannot hold back the sale of their products for long. Often they are forced to take up distress sale to repay long or to meet family expenditure. Sometime again, due to absence of any good road and means of conveyance to markets, the producers sell their products at home or in the crop field itself at much lower price to the intermediaries.

These problems can be solved by providing marketing facilities to the growers. Improvement of roads and conveyance facilities and procurement by public sector agencies may go a long way in mitigating this problem. Introduction of growers, and sellers, cooperatives will also help solve these problem.


Although in general terms agriculture also includes livestock and fishery, in North East India raising of crops is by far the most important, while livestock and fishery tend to be marginal. This is quite evident from the land use pattern of the region. Out of the total geographical area of 25,509,000 hectares of the region .about 44% account for forests and 3,729,000 hectares of 14.6% is net sown area. Area devoted to grazing and fishery are insignificant.


Of the crops raised, food crops are by far most important in the region .It is found that the food crops occupy 76.21 percent of the total cropped area. Of the food crops again, rice, which forms the staple of the people of the region, is the most important and occupies about 68 % of the cropped area. Next to rice come pulses followed by maize. The following table shows the production of food crops in North East India

Total Foodgrain Output in N.E. India



Area cropped

(‘000 ha)


(‘000 tomes)



Arunachal Pradesh




























Source :Basic Statistics, NEC, 1992

The table shows that Assam has highest production of foodgrains within the region ,distantly followed by Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram has the least production. A temporal analysis of the area devoted to foodgrains and their production and yield reveals that during the decade between 1980-81 and 1990-91, there has been some increase in each respect. While the area devoted to food crops increased by 7.7% from 3,427,000 ha to 3,713,900 ha, the total production increased by 21.64% from 3,826 thousand tonnes to 4,882.8 thousand tonnes and the average yield increased by 15.13% from 1,116 kg/ ha to 1315 kg/ ha. This shows that apart from growing food crops in some new areas, land used for more than one crop has also increased. On the other hand use of high yielding varieties of crops, fertilizer insecticide and irrigation has contributed to the increase of average yield and total production. It must, however, be admitted that the total foodgrain production in North East India is still far less than its requirement and hence the region has to important foodstuffs from other parts of the country.

Rice :Rice is the most important food crop of North East India. It is grown both in the hills . It is often said that the region, along with Southern China and South East Asia is the original homeland of rice. That rice is obvious from the fact that it not only forms the staple food for them but also many of their rituals and festivals are associated with sowing and harvesting of the crop. Festivals like Bihu of Assam, Wangala of Meghalaya, Thoubalchumba of Manipur, etc. are closely associated with rice cultivation and harvest.

Depending on the season of cultivation, the rice grown in North East India can be divided into three varieties: Aman or Sali, Aus or Ahu and Bao. The Aman rice is transplanted in summer from late May to early September in wet fields and harvested in the period from late November to early January. Of the three varieties, this is the most important from the view point of area cropped and out put. Aus or Ahu rice is broadcast in the months of March and April in dry fields and harvested in summer. This variety is grown either in very lowlying areas where Aman rice cannot be grown due to the presence of standing water in summer or on the comparatively high land where enough water does not accumulate even in summer for Aman rice. The Bao rice is essentially a variety of long stemmed rice that can withstand a long period of deep and stagnant water. Its seeds are broadcast in spring when the ground remains dry and is harvested in winter when the water that accumulate over the ground in summer has dried up. Besides these three varieties, another variety, known as Boro, is grown in the lowlying areas of North East India. It is transplanted in the months of December and January in the lowilyng areas where water level goes down to a few centimetres by this season. It is a quick -growing variety and can be harvested in April and May before the water level rises.

Climatically and pedologically. the river valleys of North East India are suitable for the production of rice. It being the most important staple is grown not only on the plains but on the hills In fact rice occupies more then two -thirds of the total land under cultivation in North East India. Of the four varieties of rice grown in the plains of the region, the Ahu or Aus or Autumn rice is broadcast in spring, while all the other three varieties, viz Sali or Aman, Boro and Bao are transplanted. Over the hills, however, varieties of upland rice is grown. Some of these , like Ahu in the plains, are broadcast in the jhum-fields, while others are grown on the terraced hill slopes or at the valley bottoms under wet conditions.

The yield of local varieties of rice has been found to be poor. Hence of late, new and hybrid varieties, such as IR-8, CH-63, Jaya, Ijong, Pusa and Pankaj, have been introduced into the region. The production of these varieties is high and they now occupy about 60 percent of the land devoted to rice in the region.

In Assam as much as 2.00 million hectares of land is given to rice. The state produces about 2.5 million metric tones of paddy grain with an average yield of 1,155 kg per hectare. All the districts of the Brahmaputra and Barak Valleys grow rice abundantly. It is only in North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong that rice is grown less because of terrain condition. It has been noticed that because of introduction of new high yielding varieties, the rice production in the state has shown an upward trend. In the year 1960-61 the state produced 1.63 million metric tones of rice. This rose to 2.5 million tones in 1980-81 and further to 3.3 million tones in 1990-91.

In Meghalaya rice is grown both on the hill slopes and occasional valley bottoms. In three western districts i.e. Garo Hills West, East and South, both spring rice and winter rice are grown. These districts have more denuded topography with fairly wide valley bottoms where wet rice (winter rice) cultivation is carried out. Over the hill slope spring rice is cultivated by broadcast in the jhum fields. The four eastern districts viz. West Khasi Hills, East khasi hills, Ri Bhoi and Jaintia Hills Generally grow winter rice on limited valley bottoms and a small quantity of hill rice over the slopes in the jhum fields. In 1990-91 Meghalaya produced 119.8 thousand tones of rice over 103.7 thousand hectares of land.


Production of Rice in NE India 1990-91 



Area Devoted

(‘000 ha)


(‘000 tonnes)



Arunachal Pradesh




































Source : Basic Statistics of North Eastern Region, 1992,NEC, Shillong

 In Arunachal Pradesh rice is grown mainly in the jhum fields. In the limited valley bottoms, however, wet rice is grown. In the Apatani Plateau around Ziro in Lower Subansiri district wet rice is grown by an ingenious method of irrigation. In recent years the farmers have been encouraged to construct terraces over hill slopes and grow wet rice in the Pradesh. This has some effect and Arunachal is growing more rice now. In 1990-91 it produced 121.8 thousand tones of rice over 142.5 thousand hectares of land.

In Nagaland rice occupies about two thirds (60,000 ha) of the total land (90,000 ha) under agriculture. Rice is mostly grown here in the jhum-fields. However, in the Angami inhabited areas of Kohima district rice is found to be grown over terraces with a traditional method of irrigation which is very much ingenious and effective. Apart from this the limited valley bottoms also produce wet rice in the state. The state government of Nagaland have of late encouraged the farmers to take to crop rotation and this has resulted in a remarkable change in the agricultural practices of the state. In 1990-91, Nagaland produced 127.4 thousand tones of rice over 156.3 thousand hectares of land.

In Manipur rice is grown mainly in the fertile Manipur Basin. O ver the hill slopes, only a small quantity of rice is grown in the jhum fields . The Japanese method of rice cultivation was adopted in Manipur during the fourth five year plan period. The yield of this crop is, therefore high (1742 kg/ha) in this state compared to other regions of North East India. In 1990-91 Manipur produced 274.2 thousand of land.

In Mizoram rice is traditionally grown on the jhum fields. In recent period, however, the crop is seen to be grown over the newly created terraces on the hill slopes and the occasional valley bottoms. In 1990-91, the state produced 63.8 thousand tones of rice over 51.3 thousand hectares of land.

In Tripura rice is grown both on the and on the hill slopes. In the hills the crop is grown partly on the terraced beds and party in the jhum-fields. Aus, Aman and Boro varieties of rice are common in the plains. The state produced 50.13 thousand tones of rice over 270.6 thousand hectares of land in 1990-91.

With a rapid increase in the population the rice production has fallen short of the requirement in the region. Efforts have been made to increase the production of the crop mainly by using high-yielding varieties of paddy and by bringing more land it. The following table shows the trend of rice cultivation in the North East India since 1980-81.


Trend of Rice Production in N-E India

1980-81 to 1990-91


Area Devoted

(‘000 ha)


(‘000 metric tones)



























Source : Basic statistics of N.E. Region, NEC 1992

The table shows that over a decade, the area devoted to rice increased by about 8% from 3.0 million hectares to 3.3 million hectares. The increase of production is, however, more i.e. by about more than 28%, from 3.5 million metric tonnes to 4.5 million metric tonnes. The yield has also marginally increased from 1150 kg/ha to 1,361 kg/ha. This reveals that the high -yielding varieties of rice have come to be used by the farmers.

The region produces some varieties of quality rice like Joha in Assam and Moirang Phou in Manipur. However, their production is limited.


Wheat: Wheat has recently been introduced to North East India. In fact, it is after the development of hardier hybrid varieties of wheat, that it came to be introduced in the last few decades. The crop is yet to be popular in Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland. In other states of North-East India, it is carried out as a supplementary crop by some farmers over the higher grounds. Normally it is grown as a second crop on less productive land. The seeds are sown in October and November and the crop is harvested from January to March.

Following table shows the area under wheat and its production and yield statewise:

Wheat Output in NE India 1990-91



(‘000 ha)


(‘000 metric tonnes)




Arunachal Pradesh























Source : Basic Statistics of NER, NEC, 1992


The table shows that compared to the all India production, the wheat production in the region is insignificant. It is found that only 1.78% of the total agricultural area of the region is given to wheat. Besides, there has not been any increase in the area devoted to this crop since (1980-81). The following table gives the trend of wheat cultivation in the region since the early eighties:

Trend of Wheat Production in N.E. India

1980-81 to 1990-91


Area Devoted

(‘000 ha )

































Source :Basic Statistics of NER, NEC 1992

The table shows that although the area devoted to wheat has remained more or les the same, the use of high yielding varieties of seeds and application of irrigation and fertilizer to some extent, have improved yield.

In Assam wheat cultivation was started only in the early nineteen sixties .More of less of it is now grown in all the plains districts of Assam. As stated above, it is grown as a rabi crop between November and March. The varieties commonly grown in Assam are Sonalika, Kayan, Sona, Sofed and Lorma. The crop is grown over relatively high ground which is not generally used for traditional Aman or Sali rice .However, some amounts of water and fertilizer are supplied wherever and whenever it is possible to do so . At present Kamrup, Nalbari,Barpeta and Dhubri are the leading district in wheat production. The total production of the crop increased from 3,000 tonnes in 1960-61 to 11,700 tonnes in 1970-71 and further to 118,300 in 1980-81. The maximum production (154,800 tonnes )was recorded in 1984-85, but after that it showed a decline to 104800 tonnes in 1990-91.

One of the reasons as to why wheat cultivation has not picked up in Assam is that it has to be cultivated in the dry season. Neither rain falls during that period nor is there any provision for artificial irrigation. The yield of wheat in the state is, therefore, lamentably low. Moreover, there is not enough spare land for wheat cultivation. The land for it has to be tilled when the traditional rice crop is still standing in the field. Anyway, the wheat cultivation will prosper in Assam only on setting up of facilities for artificial irrigation.

In Arunachal Pradesh wheat is cultivated mainly in West Kameng, East Kameng and Luhit district over the gentle hill slopes. In 1990-91 the state produced 6700 tonnes of wheat over 3500 hectares.

In Meghalaya wheat is cultivated mainly in West Garo Hills, East Garo Hills and West Khasi Hills district. In 1990-91 the state produced 5900 tonnes of wheat over 4600 hectares.

In Tripura wheat is grown mainly in West Tripura District. In 1990-91 the state produced 6900 tonnes over 3700 hectares of land. Of all the North Eastern state Tripura has the highest yield of wheat.

Nagaland produces very little quantity of wheat. However, some Ao and Lotha farmers have taken to the cultivation of this crop in recent years. In 1990-91 the state produced 4950 tonnes of wheat over 4610 hectares.

The production of this crop in both Manipur and Mizoram is negligible.

Maize : Maize is an important crop of the hills of North East India . Although the area devoted to this crop is less, being 2.08% of the total agricultural land, its production is relatively high, especially in the hills. In the plains of Assam, Manipur and Tripura only small patches of land is given to this crops by the farmers in their kitchen gardens. Hence in these areas production of maize is negligible. Maize is generally grown as an Aman crop in North East India. It is sown in March to May and harvested in August and September.

It has been noticed that the area devoted, as also production of maize have been slightly increasing in the region. In the tear 1980-81, maize was grown over 92,500 hectares of land and the production in that year was 87400 metric tonnes. The corresponding figures for 1985-86 were 98200 hectares and 104300 tonnes. In 1990-91 the area devoted and production increased to 111700 hectares and 125000 tonnes respectively. It is noticed that yield also increased from 877 kg/ha in 1980-81 to 1122 kg/ha in 1990-91.

The following table shows the area devoted, production and yield of maize in 1990-91 statewise.

Maize production in North East India 1990-91


Area Devoted

(‘000 ha )


(‘000 tonnes)




Arunachal Pradesh



























Total NE




All India




Source :Basic Statistics of NER, NEC, 1992

The above table shows that Arunachal Pradesh is the leading producer of maize in North East India. It is grown in almost all the thirteen districts of the state. Arunachal not only devotes a large area for this crop, but also its production is the highest in the region. Most of the crop in the state is grown in the jhum fields.

Nagaland is the second largest producer of this crop in the region. It is mainly grown in the northern parts of the state dominated by the Ao and Lotha farmers. New hybrid varieties of maize are being introduced to the state in recent period.

In Meghalaya maize is cultivated in the higher areas of the eastern, western and central plateau, mostly in jhum fields. West khasi Hills District is the leading producer of maize in the state.

In Assam maize is produced mainly in the districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar in jhum fields. Besides, some Nepali and ex-tea garden residents of the plains also grow this crop. As the crop is not used as staple by the plain dwellers, it is not seriously grown by other farmers. Providing manure and fertilizer it can be gainfully grown as cash crop over the fallow land Assam produced 12,900 tonnes of maize over 12,100 hectares of land in 1990-91.

In Manipur the crop is grown mainly in Senapati and Ukhrul areas in the northern part if the state. In Mizoram a little quantity of maize is grown mainly in Aizawl district. Tripura’s maize production is negligible. However new high yielding varieties of the crop is being introduced to these three states also in recent period.

Millets : Some varieties of millets are grown in North East India in the hills. In fact, these from of the important crops grown by the tribal farmers in the jhum fields over the hillslopes. There are several varieties of millets including bull rush (Jowar ) and pearl millet (Bajra). The millets are used not only as staple but also brewed to prepare a variety of local intoxicating drink. Millets are grown in Meghalaya throughout the state. In Arunachal Pradesh pearl millet is grown in Tirap, Lohit, Dibang Valley, East Siang, West Siang and Lower Subansiri districts. In Nagaland it is grown in Mokokchung districts. Other states, however, do not produce millets. In 1990-91 the region produced only 35200 tonnes of millets over 43700 hectares of land. The yield of millets in North Eastern states is as low as 805 kg/ha.

Pulses : North East India grows some quantity of pulses, but the region is not self -sufficient in these. On the other hand, pulses are the second most important staple food after rice .Some amounts of pulses are grown in every state of the region, except in Arunachal Pradesh.

Pulses are grown as rabi crops. The seeds are grown in August, September and October and the crops are harvested in December and January. No irrigation seems to be practised in the fields growing pulses. The common varieties of pulses grown in the region are Tur or Arhar (pegion pea or small per or red gram), Urd (black gram) Matikalai (pulse), Magu (green gram) and gram (chick -pea or Bengal gram). Some amount of Arhar is also grown especially in the areas inhabited by tea garden labourers.

Tur is cultivated mainly in Assam , Meghalaya and Tripura. Assam is of course, the leading producer of it followed by Meghalaya and Tripura .In 1990-91 the region produced 62.000 tonnes of tur over about 77500 hectares of land. Gram or chick pea is cultivated in Assam, Manipur Meghalaya. In 1990-91, the region produced 2200 tonnes of gram over 4400 hectares of land.

Apart from the above varieties, some local varieties of pulses are also grown in the region. The region produces between 60,000 tonnes to 70,000 tonnes of the pulses taken together over about 130,000 hectares to 140,000 hectares of land. Of these, Assam alone produces 3/4 of the total production of the region.

Oilseeds : North East India grows several varieties of oilseeds , but the region is not self sufficient in edible oil. Of the oilseeds grown in the region, mustard and rape, sesamum, castor, linseed, and groundnut are the main. Of late the region has started cultivating soyabean also on experimental basis . The area under oilseeds in the region is about 4.82% of the total cultivated area and total production comes to about 300,000 tonnes annually. Almost all the oilseeds except castor are grown as rabi crop over sandy land. In Assam the oilseeds, especially mustard and sesamum are grown over the silted flood plains during the dry season.

Mustard and rape are the common oilseeds grown in the region with a total production of 197400 tonnes in 1990-91 over 345700 hectare of land. The seeds are sown in September and October over fertile land and the crop is harvested in January and February . In Assam both mustard and rape are commonly grown on the flood plains of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries inhabited by immigrant farmers. In 1990-91 the state produced 157900 tonnes of mustard and rape seeds over 294933 hectares of land . In Arunachal mustard is grown in the districts of East Siang , Dibang Valley , Lohit and Tirap . The relatively plain and fertile foothills of there district provide suitable ground for the oil seed. In Meghalaya mustard is grown mainly in West East and South Garo Hills districts. In Tripura the crop is grown along the foothills. The production of oilseeds in other state of the region is negligible.

Sesamum may be called as a minor oilseed in North East India from the view point of its production, In 1990-91 the region produced 16100 tonnes of sesamum over 27,100 hectares of land , the yield being 594 kg/ha. The crop is grown in all the seven states of the region with Assam producing the largest quantity (7200 tonnes).

The production of other traditional oilseed is very much negligible in North East India . Only a small quantity of linseed is grown in Assam. especially in the Barak Valley . Small quantities of groundunt are grown in Nagaland and Tripura. Efforts have recently been made to grow his crop in the higher slopes of Manipur and Meghalaya. Castor is grown is some parts of Assam, mainly to use its leaves as a feed to Endi -silk worms. In doing so , some seeds are also obtained for oil. Many farms, government, grow castor plants.

Soyabean, another source of oil, has recently been introduced on experimental basis in the north -eastern region. In 1990-91 the region produced 5,500 tonnes of soyabean over 4.800 hectares of land. Assam, Arunachal Pradesh , Nagaland, Manipur and Meghalaya have started experimental production of this crop. It is said that Assam’s soil and climate are suitable for soyabean. production of it has gained ground in Karbi Anglong, Marigaon and Barpeta districts of Assam. Cultivation of Sunflower has also been introduced in Assam in recent years.


The soil and climate of North East India are such that it can produce a variety of tropical cash crops. Of these Jute, sugarcane, mesta and cotton are traditionally grown in this region. Besides tea was introduced as a plantation crop in the middle of the last century by the British planters and has been under production as an industrial crop ever since In recent years some more cash crops have been introduced to the region . Of these ramie (a fibre crop ) coffee and rubber are the main. Since tea, coffee and rubber cultivations have been organised more in the industrial line than as traditional agriculture, these shall be discussed separately. The traditionally cultivated cash crops are discussed below

Jute : Jute is an important fibre crop grown in the lowlying plains under monsoon climate. The crop needs heavy rainfall and high temperature during the period of its growth. The seeds are sown on lowlying silted areas (when these are dry) in the months of March and April and the fibre is extracted, after cutting the trunks and retting then under water, in the months of September and October. The crop needs standing water in the field when the seedlings grow to a height of about half -a metre and above. That is why jute is normally grown in the flood plains of the Brahaputra and Barak and their larger tributaries.

Although jute is a typical monsoon crop it was not earlier grown in North East India, except in the Barak Valley , When the Britishers came to occupy the Brahmaputra Valley in 1826, they found extensive tracts of the flood plains of the Valley ideal. It should be noted that by that time the British industralists started jute textiles mills both at Dundee in England and at Hooghly side near Calcutta. They did it on the basis of raw jute supplied by the then undivided Bengal. The British Government was interested in extending jute cultivation to lowlying wastelands supply to their mills and partly for increasing their land revenue collection. After a lot of assessments and proposals submitted by the British administrators of the Brahmaputra Valley, the then government agreed on a scheme of colonisation of the Brahmaputra flood plains (charland ) by the landless peasants of the then East Bengal on June2, 1896. The peasant immigrants were allowed to settle in the charlands of undivided Goalpara, Kamrup , Nowgong, Darrang and Lakhimpur, Thousands of immigrants from East Bengal, especially from the districts of Mymansingh came in, settled in the charlands of the above district and started growing jute. After that jute cultivation spread to other suitable areas of North East India. The growth of the crop got a boast up after the partition of India in 1947. The partition took away the traditionally jute growing area of eastern Bengal to the then East Pakistan leaving the jute -mills in India with an inadequate supply of the raw material. The central and state governments made efforts to grow more jute. Subsequently with the growth of transport and communication and commercially of Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya,

North East India now produces about 1/8 of the total jute production of the country. In 1990-91 the region produced 940600 bales of jute over 103400 hectares of land. The latter constituted 3.02% of the total land under agriculture in the region. The following table give the statewise area devoted to the production and yield of jute in North East India.

Jute in India 1990-91


Land devoted

(‘000 ha )


(‘000 bales)


kg/ ha

















Total N.E.




All India




Source :Basic Statistics of NER Shillong, 1992

Since jute is essentially a cash crop, its cultivation is sensitive to the demand and price in the market. Therefore, its production varies from year to following its demand in the national and international market. Of late the demand of raw jute has come down because of the production of synthetic fibre for making bags, carpets ropes etc. It is found that in 1980-86 the production rose to 1255400 bales over 139900 hectares. In 1990-91 the production of jute decreased to 940600 bales over 103400 hectares because of fall in demand in the market.

Assam is the most important producer of jute in North East India . About 81% of the total area devoted to jute in the region is in Assam. This crop contributes largely more attention as a jute growing state after partition. This state is now second most important jute growing in the country after West Bengal. Assam devotes between 80,000 hectares to 100,000 hectares of raw jute. Dhubri, Goalpara , Bongaigaon Barpeta , Nalbari, Kamrup, Darrang, Marigaon , and Nagaon are the districts where it is grown in large quantities. Besides these districts, each of Sonitpur , Lakhimpur and Karbi Anglong also produces some quantities of it. In case of all these districts, the crop is grown in the lowlying flood -plains near the river Brahmaputa and its large tributaries by immigrant settlers of erstwhile East Bengal. In the Barak Valley jute is grown to some extent in all the three districts on the flood plains of the Barak river.

In recent Years efforts have been made to improve the quality and augment the production of jute in Assam For this purpose , the following Development Blocks have been included under the ‘Special Jute Development Progress Programme’. These Blocks are :

1.Gauripur , Bilasipara and South Salmara in Dhubri district.

2. Gossaigaon in Kokrajhar district .

3. Manikpur in Bongaigaon district.

4. Rupasi and Gabardhan district .

5. Barkhetri in Nalbari district .

6. Hojo in kamrup district.

7. Dalggaon, Sialmri, Majbat and Kharupetia in Darrang district

8. Juria, Lawkhowa and Batadraba in Nagaon district .

9. Bhurbandha in Marigaon district.

In Meghalaya jute is produced in the foothill region of West and South Garo Hills districts. In 1990-91 the state produced 50,500 bales of jute over about 5,000 hectares of land.

In Tripura jute is cultivated in the lowlying areas of the plains. In 1990-91 the state produced 23,600 bales of jute over 2,700 hectares of land.

Nagaland produces about 8,000 bales of jute other states of North East India its production is negligible.

Mesta : Mesta is a minor fibre crop of North East India. Tripura, Assam Meghalaya and Nagaland produce this fibre in little quantities. Of these states Tripura is the lading producer followed by Assam. In 1990-91 Tripura produced 47,100 bales of mesta over 6,100 hectares of land. During the same year Assam produced 34,900 bales over 7,400 hectares In Assam all the districts except those of the Barak Valley produce some from quantity of it. The district wise highest production, however, come from Darrang and Sonitpur districts. It is noticed that mesta production has been gradually decreasing in Meghalaya. In 1990-91 the state produces 28,500 bales of the fibre. over 4,800 hectares of land. Nagaland produces very little quantity of mesta. In 1990-91 it hardly produced 1000 bales of the fibre. Thus it is found that in 1990-91 whole of North East India produced about 111,500 bales of mesta over 18,400 hectares of land. The yield of the fibre is highest in Tripura and lowest in Meghalaya.

Because of the abundance of cheap synthetic fibre and its products in the market , the importance of mesta, like other natural fibres, has been declining resulting in a decline of its production.

Ramie : Ramie is also a minor firbe crop of the region. Although it grows naturally in North East India it was not used widely in the past. It is said that ramie is the hardest of natural fibres and is known as "vegetable steel fibre’ or vegetable silk fibre. This fibre is widely grown and used in South East Asia and East Asia, especially in philippines, China and Japan. It is grown in U.S.A and Mexico also The fibre has world -wide market because it can be blended with synthetic fibres like polyester and with cotton to produce durable cloth.

In North East India this crop is beginning to be grown in Assam and Tripura. In Assam a ramie research station was first set up at sarbhog in Barpeta district under the jute Research Institute, Calcutta. The government of Assam has been encouraging the farmers to grow it in their fallow lands. Taking cue from the government some tea planters have started growing ramie over the fallow lands of their tea gardens. The Agriculture Department of the state has set up Ramie Board to advise the Department and the growers for better production of the crop. Besides, the Department has taken up the work of multiplying ramie rhizome at seven different stations of the state for supplying high yielding variety of it to the growers. At present Assam grows ramie over only about 1,000 hectares of land. The main problem faced by the ramie growers is lack of an assured market. Besides, lack of modern facility for degumming of the fibre is also there. Degumming is necessary to produce fine fibre out the bark of the plant.

 Cotton: cotton is not an important fibre crop in North East India now-a-days. However, it used to be grown earlier for preparing cloth domestically. With coming of the British and opening up of all India trade and commerce, cotton yarn produced in western India became cheaply available , and cotton cultivation began to be abandoned largely, However some amount of cotton is still grown in the region for domestic use. In1990-91 the region produced 10,200 bales of production and area devoted in comparison to 1980-81 (11,100 bales and 16,600 ha ) and 1987-88 (13,100 bales and 13000 ha). With the markets being flooded by cotton and cheap synthetic textiles, the local production of the crop has gone down.

North East India ,with a very heavy average annual rainfall is not ideally suitable for good varieties of cotton. The type of cotton traditionally grown is short staple .The two hill districts o Assam. viz Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills and the three Garo district of Meghalaya have some favourable physical conditions for growing the crop. Some amount of it is also grown in the hills of Mizoram, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. The following table shows the production of and area given to cotton in 1990-91

Cotton production and area, 1990-91


Area devoted (ha)

Production (bales)

Auranachal Pradesh
























Source : Basic staistcs of NER. 1992

Of all the North Eastern states Meghalaya is the most important in cotton production. Short staple cotton is grown in the Garo Hills districts of the state. These districts have light loamy soil on gentle slopes. Besides the climate here is warm, humid and frost free. These physical conditions have helped the growth of short staple cotton in Garo hills traditionally. In 1990-91 Meghalaya produced 5400 bales of cotton on 7,400 hectares of land. This is a slight improvement over 1980-81 when cotton production was 4200 bales and area devoted was 6,900 hectares.

Assam is the second important producer of cotton in North East India. The two hill districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills produce the bulk of the state’s cotton. As in Meghalaya in Assam also the traditional variety is short staple. However, efforts have been made to grow medium staple cotton at Kherani Cotton Farm in Hamren sub-division of Karbi Anglong. It is said that since Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills climate is favourable for cotton. the crop may be grown more extensively. These districts now grow about 1,000 bales of cotton over 2,200 hectares of land. It is however, noticed that production of cotton in the state has not significantly increased since 1970-71.

In Tripura short staple cotton is grown in the slopes of the hillock. But in the face of availability of cheap textiles in the market , the cotton production has been decreasing in the state. In 1990-91 the state produced only 1.000 bales of cotton over 1,000 hectares of land.

A limited quantity of cotton is grown in Mizoram over the hill slopes in the jhum fields. In 1990-91 the state produced 2,400 bales of over 900 hectares of land.

In Arunachal Pradesh cotton is cultivated in the frost free hill slopes in the southern lower region. Its production is highest in Lower Subansiri district. The total production of cotton in the state has been increasing slowly. In 1990-91 it produced 300 bales over 400 hectares of land.

Manipur and Nagaland produce only small quantities of cotton. Manipur produced 300 bales of it over 400 hectares in 1990-91. In Nagaland cotton is produced mainly in the Ao and Lotha inhabited areas. The state’s production in1990-91 was 100 bales over 100 hectares of land.

Sugar cane : Sugar came is a traditional crop of North East India. It is grown in relatively high and fertile flat or rolling ground. Very heavy rainfall and flooding often limits its growth. However, the crop is grown over 44.000 hectares of land in the region. This accounts for 1.19 percent of agricultural land of North East India. The crop is grown in the region as a source of gur and molasses for domestic use.

Compared to the other states of the region, Assam has favourable physical condition for sugar cane cultivation. Assam is followed by Nagaland where some amount of sugar cane is grown in the plains around Dimapur. Tripura and Manipur also grow small quantities of sugar came While Meghalaya and Mizoram grow insignificant quantities of it, Arunachal Pradesh is yet to cultivate it. The following table shows the statewise production, area devoted and yield of sugarcane in 1990-91

N.E. India : Sugar cane Production : 1990-91


Area devoted

(‘000 ha )

Production of raw

cane (‘000 tonnes)

Yield kg/ ha

1. Arunachal


2. Assam


4. Meghalaya 5.Mezoram


7. Tripura


























Total N.E.




Source : Basic Statistics of N.E.R. 1992

 In Assam sugar cane is produced in the districts of Golaghat, Jorhat, Sibsagar, Nagaon, Kamrup, Nalbari and Barpeta. The plains of the Brahmaputra Valley surrounding the Karbi Plateau produce good havests of sugar cane. On the basis of local production there came up one co -operative sugar mill of 800 tonne capacity at Baruabamun Gaon (near Dergaon ) in Golaghat district and another near Kampur in Nagaon district. Both the mills have, however, now turned out to be sick because of irregular supply of cane . It is further found that area under sugar cane and its production have not significantly changed in the last few decade. For example, in 1966-67, the area given to it and production were 31,000 ha and 13,47,000 tonnes, while in 1991-92 the corresponding figure were 36000 ha and 15,22,000 tonnes. The reason for this backwardness are firstly , use of archaic methods of fertilizer.

Nagaland comes next to Assam in sugar cane produced in the region , In 1990-91 the state produced 129,000 tonnes of sugar cane over 3800 hectares of land in the Dimapur lowlands in Kohima district. In fact, there came up a khandsari sugar mill along with a brewery near Dimapur on the basis of this of this production. The Khandsari mill now has stopped production due to unreliable supply of raw sugar cane.

In Tripura sugar cane is grown on the foothill plains. The state produced 91,000 tonnes of cane over 1900 hectares of land in 1990-91. The entire production of the crop is pressed for processing gur (molasses) for domestic use.

Manipur produced 60, 700 tonnes of cane over 1,900 hectares of land in 1990-91. The state entire production comes from the plains districts and is used for gur production.

In Meghalaya sugar cane is mostly produced in the three Garo hills districts where there are enough of rolling ground. In 1990-91 the state produced 2,200 tonnes of cane over 100 hectares of land. It is found that both area under the crop and its production have been declining in the state in recent years.

As Mizoram does not have enough of plain land except in Chimtuipuri district, the crop is grown in a very little quantity. In 1990-91 the state produced only 1,800 tonnes of cane over 500 hectares of land.

Arunachal Pradesh has recently introduced sugar cane production in its foothill slopes and plains.

Rubber : The climate and soils of North East India are more or less suitable for rubber (Ficus Indica ) plant. Its Long season of rainfall from April to late September and fertile hill slope provide somewhat favourable condition for rubber tree. In fact, many rubber trees used to grow earlier wild in this region. Assam used to export rubber between 1896-97 and 1900-01 at the rate of 140 to 150 tonnes annually. In the face of competition from cheap rubber imported from Malaysia and Brazil, its production went down. However, from 1957.The Department of Soil Conservation, Govt. Of Assam started planting rubber plants in small patches on experimental basis. It was realised that Assam, and for that matter whole of North East India , have many areas depleted by jhum cultivation . Having been bare of effective vegetal cover, these abandoned jhum fields suffered from soil depletion. The Soil Conservation Department Corporation started planting rubber seedlings on commercial basis in 1976. The Rubber Board of India assessed that about 100,000 hectares of land in North East India can be used profitably for growing rubber. North East India now has more than1,200 tonnes of rubber annually. Following tables shows the area under rubber trees and production in North East I

Rubber Production in N.E. India 1990-91.


Area Developed in ha

Production in tonnes

Arunachal Pradesh





















Source: Basic statistics of NER,1992

Of all the states of North East India , Tripura is at the forefront in rubber production. The plantation of rubber was introduced in this state in 1963. Tripura has ideal climate for rubber.It now produces more than 1000 tonnes of rubber annually over more than 17000 hectares of land..

Assam comes next an area 9880 hectares and annual production of 110 tonnes. In Assam the private sector has also come forward to grown rubber in small plantation. There are at present 15 important rubber plantation in Assam. Of these, (1) Burhapahar, (2) Rangagara, (3) Dolamara, (4) Bargaon, (5) Baithalangsu , (6) Henegeri and (7) Ouguri are in Karbi Anglong district (8) Belchara, (9) Madura, (10) Delai and (11) Kahara are in North Cachar Hills district, (12) Chandrapur and (13) Tapatai (Nursery)are in Kamrup district (14) Udalguri is in Darrang district and (15) Kakilabari (Nurserv) is in Barpeta district. The Rubber Board of India wants to expand rubber plantation un Assam to 23,000 hectares. Looking at the growing demand of natural rubber in the India merket (which is likely to be half-a million tonnes in 2000 A.D, the rubber plantation jhas bright future in the region.

Meghalaya has under over 3,880 hectares of land and produces 40 tonnes annually. The three Garo Hills district, E. khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills support the rubber plantations.

Rubber plantation has been very recently introduced to Nagaland. Its plantations are located in North western foothills bordering Assam. The state has 1395 hectares of land under rubber. As the rubber saplings are still very young, latex production has not started as yet.

In Manipur rubber plantation was started in 1987 at Jiribam in the western foothills of the state bordering Cachar. The state has 1215 hectares of land under rubber and produced 10 tonnes of latex annually.

Rubber plantation was started in Mizoram in 1972. It is stated that there is 20,000 hectares of depleted land abandoned by jhum -cultivation which can be profitably used for rubber cultivation. In 1990-91 the state had 1100 hectares of land under rubber, producing 4 tonnes of rubber.

In Arunachal Pradesh rubber plantation has been introduced very recently. An experimental farm has been started at Bardumsa. The state now has 50 hectares of land under rubber and produces 10 tonnes annually.

Coffee : In some hill slopes of North East India the climate and soil have been found to be suitable for coffee. It is recorded that two French entrepreneurs started the cultivation of coffee in the foothills of Cachar as back as in early eighteen -fifties. They could not sustain their efforts because of lack of capital. Subsequently, about a hundred years later coffee was reintroduced in Assam in 1954. On a scientific research it has been found that those gentle hill slopes of North East India which do not rise beyond 2000 metres , which have an average annual rainfall of about 130 cm and which have previous sandy or brown clay soils are suitable for coffee production. On the basis of this study it is said that the region has about 44,000 hectares of such suitable land.

Experimental plantation of coffee extended from Assam to other states of the region during the fifth and sixth five year plan periods One. of the aims of extending coffee cultivation in the region is to use the depleted abandoned jhum fields. Even the individual jhum cultivators were encouraged to grow some plants in their small jhumfields. Considering the potentiality of coffee cultivation , each of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur , tripura and Arunachal Pradesh governments formed their state Coffee Corporations for commercial growth of the crop. Besides, the state governments of Mizoram and Meghalaya entrusted their soil Conservation Departments to get coffee grown wherever possible within their respective territories. With the slow expansion of coffee cultivation in the region, a dry depot to store coffee seeds was constructed by the Indian Coffee Board at Guwahati. Besides, a coffee processing unit has also been started at lakhra, near Guwahati with the financial help of the North Eastern Council. A Coffee Research Centre has also been established at Diphu.

 Nagaland is now at the forefront of coffee production with 2177 hectares of land under this crop. More than 1000 families of Nagaland pursuing jhum cultivation earlier have now been engaged in coffee cultivation. The coffee gardens of this state are located in the foothills of Mokokchung, Wokha and Kohima districts. The yield of coffee in Nagaland is one of the highest in North East India.

 Assam follows Nagaland in coffee production in the region. Most of the coffee gardens of Assam are located in Karbi Anglong and North Cacher Hills districts, especially in their lower foothills. The important gardens of Karbi Anglong are (1) Harmati, (2) Upper Deopani, (3) Chutia Nala, (4) Hamren and (5) Bargaon. The main gardens of North Cacher Hills are (1) Mahur, (2) Lasong, (3) Gunjang and (4) Asalu. Gunjang is the largest coffee garden in Assam. The average yield of the coffee per hectare in Assam is about 1000 kg. The state now has 1438 hectares of land under coffee and produced 115 tones of coffee in 1990-91.

 Mizoram now has 783 hectares of land under coffee. In the state there are now 80 families cultivating coffee over 108 hectares of land. Besides, the Soil Conservation Department also gets coffee grown through farmers over more than 600 hectares of land.

Tripura grows coffee in the lower hills slopes in the West and North Tripura districts. The state has 726 hectares of land under coffee and the area has been expanding slowly every year.

Meghalaya grows coffee in the lower hills slopes of Garo Hills and Jaintia Hills district. The total area under the crop is 717 hectares.

In Arunachal Pradesh most of the coffee plantations are located in the lower foothills of Tirap and Changlang districts. Namdang and Deomali areas of this region now have several coffee plantations, The total area under coffee in the state was 710 hectares in 1990-91.

Manipur has started coffee plantation in the lower foothills surrounding the Manipur Basin. The total area under the crop was 328 hectares in 1990-91.

Tea : Tea plants (camellia thea) used to grow naturally in the upper Brahmaputra Valley and its adjoining Arunachal foothills. In fact, Robert Bruce, an official of the British empire, who is credited with the discovery of tea in Assam in 1823, only saw the Singphos drinking tea and gave publicity of the existence of the plant, the leaves of which were boiled to prepare the drink. The drink was locally known as Fanap or Finap. The East India Company, after having annexed Assam, seriously looked for the plant and then Governor General formed a Tea Committee on January 24,1834 to examine the possibility of commercial cultivation could be proved beyond doubt and in 1838, the potentiality British entrepreneur a tea garden near Chabua in the present Dibrugarh district. In 1840 a group of British planters formed Assam Company at Nazira for commercial plantation of tea in a large scale. At the initial stage, the companies faced with in the labour shortage as However, that problem was overcome by bringing in labourers from Chotanagpur and its surrounding region. By 1852 tea plantation was started also in Surma Valley and a few years later it was extended to Tripura.

Tea production

Table of progress Achieved

From 1859 to 1920

Year                                                                 Production in Assam

1859                                                                        7.50 million Ibs

1872                                                                       11.33 million Ibs

1878                                                                      28.50 million Ibs

1885                                                                     53.50 million Ibs

1901                                                                    134.00 million Ibs

1920                                                                    237.00 million Ibs

North East India has favorable physical conditions for tea. This plant needs a high annual temperature of more than 250 C and a high average annual rainfall of 150 cm-250 cm. Besides, the should be gently sloping for water to run away quickly. The soil should be acidic. Further, the winter drought should not North East India and the slightly undulating grounds of the upper Brahmaputra plain, Barak Plain and Tripura Plain. It is, therefore, found that North East India produces more than 2/3 of the total tea production of India. In fact, Assam alone produces more than 20% of the world’s tea.

Of all the states in India, Assam produces the largest quantity of tea and has the largest area under this crop. In 1990-91, the state had 856 tea gardens spread over 229,248 hectares of land and produced 380 million kg of tea with an average yield of 1655 kg/ha. In Assam tea is grown both in the Brahmaputra Plain tea gardens are located mainly in foothills regions, higher areas occupied by old alluvium and over the relatively higher undulating plains not inundated by floods. Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Nagaon and Sonitpur are the districts where tea gardens are frequently found. Besides, Darrang, Lakhimpur, Kamrup and Kokrajhar districts also have some tea gardens. In Barak valley tea gardens are located along the foothills and on the isolated hillocks (tillas) scattered in the plain. The following table shows the distribution of tea gardens, area under them and their production.

Tea in Assam, 1989


No of

Tea Gardens


occupied (ha)


(‘000 kg)

Yield kg/ha

1. Sonitpir &


2. Goalpara, Kokrajhar & Dhubri

3. Barpeta, Nalbari &


4. Lakhimpur

5. Dibrugarh &


6. Sibsagar,Jorhat &


7. Nagaon

8. Cachar,


























































Source : Statistical Hand Book of Assam, 1990

The table shows that Assam had in 1989 altogether 856 tea gardens. A few of these are 589 tea do not have tea processing factory gardens. Assam had 229,428 hectares of land under tea in 1990-91 This accounted for about 8 percent of total agricultural land in the state Compared to India as a whole, Assam with 230,000 ha of land accounted for 54.7% of the total land under tea (420,000 ha) in the county. It is found that the area under tea in Assam has been slowly increasing. The following table shows the growth of tea industry in Assam since 1961.

Assam : Trend of Growth of Tea Industry 1990-91


No. of


No. of Factories

Area occupied

(‘000 kg)









































Source : (I) Statistical Hand Book of Assam, 1992

(ii) Basic statistics of NER, 1990

The table shows that the number of tea gardens, number of factories, area occupied, production and yield have been increasing since 1961. This development has been possible because more scientific growth of tea, use of fertilizer, opening up of new gardens and expansion of old ones and about all, increasing demand of the beverage in the national and international market. Today Assam has about 12,000 small tea growers. They are cultivating tea on a total area of 37,700 hectares and producing about 13 million k.g. tea annually. Apart from themselves (12000 tea growers ) they are providing, employment to nearly one lakh labourers and 3000 clerical staff.

Generally since the early black tea is produced in Assam But since 1980 green tea is also being produced. In 1982 the production of green tea was 1270 tonnes (0.4 p.c. of total tea production ).

Instant tea project has been established at the tea research centre of Toklai Experimental station in 1974. Instant tea is a golden coloured powder which dissolves in hot or cold water very easily. Tea leave is the main raw material for instant tea.

Tripura comes next to Assam in production of tea with 58 tea gardens, spreading over 6.5 thousand hectares of land. In 1989 there were 8,945 persons employed in tea plantations, which produced about 5.2.million kg of it annually. The tea produced in Tripura is of good quality. Yet the trend of growth of the industry has not been encouraging. This is because the state suffers from transport bottleneck and labour climate, topography (with low gently sloping hills ) and soil shall be able to prosper in tea plantation.

Tea Statistics of Tripura 1961-91


No of Tea


Area under


(in m. kg)


(in m. kg)

Yield (kg)

per ha.


























(i) Basic statistics of Tripura 1992

(ii) Tripura at a glance 1992

Since tea plants were first found in the foothills of Lohit district of Arunachal, the state, especially its eastern foothills are ideally suitable for the cropp. Experimental tea plantation was started of Ingkiang Sub-Division of East Siang district have also started tea plantation over about 1000 hectares of land in small family gardens. A large tea garden at Oyang near Pasighat with 600 hectares of land has already come up. This garden is trying to grow Darjeeling variety of tea also. The state has taken up an ambitious plan to grow tea at the cost of Rs. 6.4 crores and it is likely that the state will soon find place in the tea map of India.

Mizoram has been growing on indigenous variety of tea for domestic use since long. In fact, it is found that as many as 2,098 families grow tea on their small orchard gardens over 1,000 hectares of land for their domestic use after an indigenous method of processing. The Soil Conservation Department of the State has of late concentrating on growing tea. A tea garden has come up at Maidun in the northern foothills of the state bordering Cachar. There are suitable location at Jabek near Lunglei for tea cultivation.

Tea Statistics in NER

Number of Tea Estates







Arunachal Pradesh



































All India






Source : B.S. NER 1992

Area Under Tea







Arunachal Pradesh



































All India






Source : B.S. of NER 1992.

The climate and soils of Meghalaya have been found to be suitable for tea cultivation. In fact, a few small experiment plantations were started in the state about a decade ago. It is found that the tea grown in such experimental gardens at Umsning, Rariyangdo and Tobrunggiri is of excellent quality and its yield is also encouraging. Based on these two nurseries have been started, one each at Umsning in East Khasi Hills and Ronggram in West Garo Hills. A tea processing factory has also been installed at Barapani and another at Ronggram.

Nagaland Government have also been planning to start tea cultivation in the state and their negotiation with the Tea Board of India is in progress. Manipur has little organized tea plantation.

Labour : When tea plantation was first started in the eighteen thirties, the British plantation tried to engage local people refused to work. Hence the planters looked for other source. They started bringing in Santal, Orao, Munda, etc. tribal people from Chotanagpur Plateau and its surrounding region From about 1850 to about 1940 thousands of labourers came in from this region, especially from Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Chaibasa, Santal, Pargana ,purulia, Jagadalpur, Sambalpur, Raipur, Bastar, Talengana, etc. areas of Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. In the Barak Valley tea gardens there are labourers from north Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh also. These labourers and their descendents have contributed heavily to the population make-up of North East India, especially, Assam.

As tea is very important industrial crop, enough attention has to be paid for the cultivation, processing and marketing. In fact, research for the development of tea industry was started as back as in 1900. In 1911 a tea research centre was started at Toklai in Jorhat for developing more scientific and fruitful methods of cultivating tea plants, applying fertilizer, testing soil, selecting sites for garden and processing tea leaves, Many welfare schemes have also been taken up for the benefit of the labourers, For a better marketing of the tea produced in North East India a tea auction centres was established in 1970 in Guwahati. This center has become one of the most important tea auction centers in the world. It now auctions more than 150 million kg of tea valued at more than Rs. 550.00 crores annually. The government of Assam has come forward to help the financially sick tea gardens with its Assam Tea Corporation.

Contribution to Economy : Tea industry has contributed substantially to the economy of the region, especially Assam. About 17 percent of the workers of Assam are engaged in tea industry. Tea has brought in valuable foreign exchange to cater the demand of the tea gardens. Many machine shop, cardboard industries, tin -plate and aluminum foil processing workshops have also come up to meet the demand of the gardens. Many roads have also been built up in the areas of tea plantations to link the gardens with commercial places and transport termini. Besides, many commercial centres like Doom Domma, Tinsukia, Nazira, Dergaon, Biswanath Chariali, Dhekiajuli, Tongla, etc. have come up as tea towns or service centres to the benefit of all.

Some Horticultural Products :

Potato : Potato is indigenous to South America. The Spaniards and the Portuguese who had occupied that continent in the 16th and 17th centuries, found the Red Indians of South America using it as food. They subsequently introduced it in Europe. It is said that the Portuguese traders introduced potato in India, However, Captain David Scott , an Agent of the Governor General introduced potato in 1830 in North East India and got it cultivated at Nongkhlaw in Khasi Hills at an altitude of 1000 m. It grew well and its cultivation quickly spread to other parts of Meghalaya Plateau and rest of North East India. The growth of potato in Meghalaya was so good that by 1881-82 khasi Hills along could export 4700 tones of it.

Potato grows well on fertile sandy soil . It needs only occasional rainfall during the period of its growth. It is therefore, grown in North East India between October and February. While in the hills it is grown on red sandy soil with enough of humus, in the plains silted flood plains support rich crops of potato.

North East India grew 6.6 lakh tonnes of potato over 89,800 hectares of land in 1990-91 .Following table shows the production of and area devoted to potato in North East India.

Potato in North East India, 1990-91


Area Devoted (ha)


Arunachal Pradesh
























Source : Basic Statistics of NER, 1992

The production of potato in North East India has been increasing although the region is not at all self -sufficient. In 1980-81 the region produced 424,300 tonnes of potato over 65,800 ha of land. These slightly increased to 544,800 ha in 1990-91.

Assam produces the highest quantity of potato in North East India. In 1990-91, the state produced 427,600 tonnes of potato of potato over 59,100 ha of land. The production of this crop has been increasing in recent tears. In 1970-71 the state produced 110,700 tonnes of potato over 24,500 ha of land. In 1980-81 the corresponding figures rose to 223,400 tonnes and 38,200 ha. These increased further in 1990-91 to the above mentioned figures. Potato is grown in Assam mainly on the silted fertile flood plains with sandy soil. The districts of Dhubri, Goalpara, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Kamrup, Darrang Marigaon and Nagaon produce the bulk of the potato of the state,. As stated earlier, potato is a rabi crop grown in winter. But in the hills of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar summer variety of potato is also grown. It should be noted that the potato grown in the state falls far short of requirement. Hence Assam has to bring in several crore rupees worth of potato every year.

Next to Assam comes Meghalaya in potato production. It is an important crop of the West Khasi Hills, East khasi Hills, Ri Ghoi and Jaintia districts of the state. The crop is grown on the gentle hill slopes. In West Khasi Hills districts along as much as 82,000 tonnes of potato in grown over 10, 203 ha of land. But it is noticed that the production of potato has slightly decreased in the state during the last decade.

In 1980 -81 Meghalaya produced 121,00 tonnes of potato over 17,300 ha. of land. The corresponding figures rose slightly to 149,400 tonnes and 19000 ha in 1985-86, but came down to 109900 tonnes and 175,00 ha in 1000 -91. It is said that various types of blight and insects have adversely affected the crop in recent years.

Tripura is the third important producer of potato in North -East India. The lower slopes of its hillocks having sandy loamy soil produces good crops of potato. Its production has been increasing from 35,500 tonnes over 2,434 ha in 1980-81. In 1990-91 the corresponding figures rose to 60,300 tonnes and 3,300 hctatares

Manipur produced 21,900 tonnes of potato over 3,600 ha of land in 1990-91. Most of its potato is grown in the flat Manipur Basin, while the hill areas grow mainly sweet potato in the jhum fields.

Nagaland has many areas with red sandy loam that are suitable for potato production. Hence there has been an increasing trend in potato production in the state. In 1990-91 Nagaland produced about 12,000 tonnes of it over 1,200 ha of land.

Arunachal Pradesh produces potato on the gentle slopes of the lower hills bordering the Brahmaputra Valley. The production of the crop here also has been increasing in recent years. In 1990-91 the state produced 31,200 tonnes of it over 4.800 ha of land.

The production of potato in Mizoram is very little so far.

Banana : Banana is an important fruit of North East India. It is grown as a orchard crop in the compound of almost every homestead in the plains and foothills. There are many varieties of banana in the region. Assam , Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur produce abundant banana . However, Assam is by far the most important producer of it. Although almost all the plains district of the state produce banana, Goalpara and Kamrup district are leading producers of good varieties of Banana. The area west of Chhaygaon in the south bank of Kamrup district upto Agia of Goalpara district and the adjoining Garo foothills is traditionally famous for a variety of banana called ‘malbhog’ which is highly priced. In fact, Dhupdhara and Daranggiri are very important centres of banana collection and distribution. Everyday scores of truckloads of banana move out from these two centres to different parts of Assam, North West Bengal, eastern Bihar and Nepal. In 1990-91 Assam produced 444,000 tonnes of banana and the whole of North East India produced 552,960 tonnes (including Assam).

Areca Nut : North East India is famous for areca nut. Almost each family in the rural areas grows areca nut plants in the homestead Areca nut with betel leaf is not only universally chewed by the indigenous people of North East India, these are together used in many social and ritual occasions also by the communities of all castes and creeds. North East also has a tradition of growing areca nut plants and betel creepers together by allowing the betel vines creep on the areca nut tree. The most important producer of areca nut in North East India is Assam, followed by Meghalaya, Tripura , Manipur and Mizoram. In 1990-91, the region produced 78, 100 tonnes of areca nut.

Tobacco : Although tobacco is traditionally grown in North East India, it is done so in very small quantity by the farmers for domestic use. Smoking and chewing tobacco is a common habit of the people of this region and these two varieties , i.e. smoking tobacco and chewing tobacco, are grown both in the hills and plains. However its production has been on the decline . In 1978-79 total production od tobacco was 5,000 tonnes and area devoted was 7,900 hectares. The corresponding figures were 4,200 tonnes and 6,800 ha in 1985-86 and 3,000 tonnes and 4, 700 ha in 1990-91. The following table shows the production of and area devoted to tobacco in the region.

Tobacco in North East India 1990-91


Area devoted in ha

Production in tonnes

Arunachal Pradesh


















Source ; Basic Statistics of NER, 1987& 1992

Assam produces the largest quantity of tobacco in North East India. In 1990-91 it produced 1400 tonnes on 2,600 hectares of land. Dhubri, Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Nalbari and Kamrup districts produce tobacco, especially the smoking variety, on the fertile riverine flats. In the eastern part of the Brahmaputra Vaalley chewing tobacco is grown by some farmers. The Phulaguri area south of Nagaon town was once famous for the flavour and taste of chewing tobacco. Similarly, Namati Mauza near Tihu was also once famous for this variety of the crop. The two hill districts of Assam also grow some quantity of the tobacco However, the production of this crop has been declining in the state In 1966-67 Assam produced 8,000 tonnes of tobacco on 10,000 ha land As shown above, the present production is one -sixth of that year.

Meghalaya was also an important producer of tobacco in the past. The Garo Hills districts were famous for the crop. But in 1990-91, the state produced only 500 tonnes of tobacco on 700 ha of land.

Mizoram (700 tonnes and 800 ha), Tripura (300 tonnes and 700 ha) and Arunachal Pradesh (100 tonnes and 100 ha ) also produce some quantities of tobacco. However, with the easy availability of cheap ready made cigarettes, the production has been declining everywhere in the region.



Plants and animals sustain human life. Ever since man appeared on the surface of the earth, he has been living mainly by exploiting the plant and animal resources both directly and indirectly. Direct dependence on plant animal resources is the mainstay of economy. Rearing animals along with cultivating small patches of land has, therefore, become an important activity of the farmer of this region.

Of animals reared in North East India cow, buffalo, goat pig and poultry are the main. Besides, sheep and horse are also reared, though to a lesser extent. In some hill areas especially in Arunachal Pradesh, bison, mule and yak are also reared in small numbers. Cow is traditionally the most important draught animal in North East India. Oxen are almost invariably used to draw plough and cart in the plains while the female ones give milk. On the other hand, cowdung is the only traditional source of manure in the region for crops, especially orchard and vegetable crops. Next in importance as draught animal comes buffalo, which is used to till the lowlying muddy land in the plains. Female ones supply a very good quality of milk in large quantities. Buffalo and oxen are also used to draw carts way to slaughter houses for local consumption. Pig is commonly reared by almost all the tribes both in the plains and hills This animal is raised party for sale and partly for sacrifice in the religious and social occasions, are ultimately used for human consumption. Horse is kept as a draft animal mainly in the urban and suburban areas both in the hills and plains. In Manipur, however, there is a local variety of sturdy horse which is used for games and as a means of transport. Sheep is not an indigenous animal of North East India. It has , of late, been introduced to the region , especially, to its hill areas in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. Among the poultry, while duck is reared by every rural family in lowlying areas, hen is traditionally raised everywhere by rural folk except those Hindu belonging to some castes.

These animals are kept in small numbers by the rural families with little capital investment. A family may have 6 to 10 cows (both male and female), 3-8 goats, 20-25 birds. It is only some families in lowlying areas that each keep a few buffaloes for draught. Large flocks of buffaloes used to be kept earlier for milk in the grassland areas, especially by the Nepali graziers. This practice has been abandoned as the grasslands have disappeared by and large. The number of pigs, reared by those families who raise it., is also small, ranging between 4 and 12 heads, on the average.

The following table gives a general idea about the distribution and number of seven important domestic animals of the region :

Domestic Animals in North East India

( in ‘000)

State (year of census)








Arunachal Pradesh (1985)








Assam (1988)








Manipur (1984)








Meghalaya (1981-82)








Mizoram (1982)








Nagaland (1984)
















Source : (I) Basic Statistics of NER, 1984 1985 & 1992

(ii) Statistical Hand Book of each state, 1984-1991

Although North East India has a large population of domestic animals, their quality, except that of buffalo, is not good. The indigenous cow is small, weak and often sickly. The female ones give but a little quantity of milk (often about half a liter). The goats are small and emaciated Pigs are also sickly. The local varieties of hen and duck are small and each female gives hardly a score of eggs. The hot and humid climate of the region provides breeding ground for many types of germs, viruses and insects which attack these domestic animals and make them sickly. Secondly, enough feed and fodder are never supplied to them by those who rear them. Thirdly, whatever grass and feed are available naturally, are not nutritive because these are deficient in mineral salt, calcium and phosphorus. Fourthly, while in the dry season there is deficiency in grass in the rainy season either the grazing lands are inundated or the animals often cannot move out for grazing due to incessant rain.

Nothing much was done for the development of animal resource in the region in the past. In 1897-98 , an effort was made for the first time to develop hybrid cow by setting up a breeding farm at Upper Shillong. In 1910 some bulls of Siri Breed were brought into Assam to develop hybrid cow. Subsequent to that Tailor Breed, Sindhi, Haryana, Holstein, Friesian etc. various types of better stronger and larger varieties of cow were introduced into the region. But the climate prevalent and the fodder naturally available were not found suitable for the exotic varieties. It turned out to be an expensive proposition to maintain such cows.

However with the increasing demand of milk products on the one hand and efforts made by the State and Central Governments and North Eastern Council on the other , there has been somewhat significant development in animal husbandry. especially in dairying Two Intensive Animal Husbandry Schemes were taken up in 1986- one at Dimow in Sibsagar District and the other at Khanapara (Guwahati)- for artificial insemination , so that hybrid cows resistant to local environmental conditions and yet with better productive capacity, could be developed. Under these two main centres there came up seven regional centres at Sibsagar, Jorhat, Bokakhat, Jagiroad, Guwahati ,Nalbari and Barpeta Road . Subsequently , more Jersey bulls began to be brought in and several other cattle farms were established in the region for artificial insemination. The North Eastern Council has set up five cattle breeding centres in the region from producing hybrid and bulls.

Various schemes have also been taken up develop piggery, sheep farm and poultry by the state governments and autonomous bodies of the region .

From the view point of sheer number of various domestic animals Assam is most important among the state of North East India. In 1988, the state had about 7.3 million cows , 0.62 million buffaloes, 2.1 million goats, 0.64 million poultry, besides 67310 sheep and 13492 horses. However , all the animals are small weak and less productive, Hence hybrid varieties of cattle has to be developed which can adapt to local conditions and become more productive. It is said that by 1985 as many as 56 lakhs of hybrid cow has been bred. The state has now taken up Extensive Cattle Development Projects . One such project is located at Chandkuchi in Nalbari districts. Such a project breeds hybrid cows through artificial insemination and also produce nutritive grass. Another scheme taken up by the state is Indo-Australian Cattle Breeding Scheme . This scheme supplies bulls of more productive variety, some machinery for artificial insemination and seeds of nutritive varieties of grass.

There are a few buffalo development centres also in Assam. Such centres were started at Barhamaputra (Nagaon), Silanijan and Gahpur The Gahpur farm was started with the help of the World Bank.

Assam has more than half -a - million pigs. This animal is reared with least care and in primitive manner. But there is a great demand for pig and its meat in North East India . As this animal is traditionally raised by the tribal communities , the number of pig is more in Kokrajhar Karbi Anglong. North Cachar and Dhemaji districts. Efforts have been made in recent years to raise pig in modern methods. With this end in view, some model pig farms have been started. One such farm is located at Khanapara and the other at Diphu. More productive and larger varieties of pigs, such as Hampshire, large White Yorkshire, Middle White Yorkshire etc. have been brought to Assam to produce hybrid pig. Hybridisation centres have been started at Mangaldai and Marigaon. Besides ,a National Piggery project has been taken up at Joyhing in Lakhimpur district.

Although Assam has more than two million goats and although the animal has great demand in the local markets (which is the major source of meat),it is raised in a very primitive way. No feed or fodder is provided to it . The goat is left to itself to find out its food. But with the increasing pressure of population there is hardly any grazing left. The animal has to, therefore, remain underfed.

Efforts have been made in recent years to feed and fodder for animals in the state. A fodder production unit at Sangsari and grass production farm at Bamundi in Kamrup district have been started. These not only supply their products to the farmers, but also act as model units.

Assam has more than 11 million hens and ducks. Like other animals, poultry is also raised in a primitive manner. Although the birds are raised party for domestic supply of meat and eggs and partly for sale, no capital is invested on them. Assam has very favourable physical environment for poultry ,especially duck. The state has many large and small water bodies with many small plants and animals which form good feed for duck. Besides, the demand for egg has been increasing every year . In spite of these situations poultry has not come up in Assam to the required level. It is found that local varieties of birds have lesser number of egg which are also small in size. Efforts have therefore, been made to introduce more productive and larger varieties of white leghorn, Khaki Cambel, Cambel and Rhode Island ducks and broilers (chicken). In each of Goalpara and Kamrup districts, 3000 families have been helped with necessary materials -cash and kind -to raise poultry farms scientifically. Besides, centres have been started at Kaliabar, Khanapara, Hajo, Jorhat, Sibsagar, Tezpur, Dibrugarh and Silchar to develop better breed of ducklings and chicks for sale among the poultry farmers. Assam needs yearly about 500 million eggs. If these efforts come into fruition, a substantial part of the demand shall be domestically met.

The dairy industry in Assam is very poorly developed. It is estimated that for 25 million people of Assam, the state needs 2500 million liters of milk. But the present production is hardly one-fourth of that. Hence the people have to depend largely on canned and powdered milk. Efforts have been made in recent years in the areas around large towns to produce more milk and collect and distribute it in a more organised manner. Financial help has come forward from the government and banks to organise "milk villages," which will concentrate on milk production and supply the same to market. As many as 18 such milk villages were organised during the seventh Five Year Plain. Besides , Town Milk Supply Schemes have also come up at Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Tezpur and Silchar . The Guwahati (Khanapara) unit of this Scheme bottles 25000 litres of milk every day for supply to the city. In the last few years some milk producers co-operative ventures have also come up. One such unit, called Western Assam Milk Producers Co-operative Limited, is situated at Panjabari Guwahati. This unit bottles and packs milk, cream butter , ghee etc , under the trade mark Purabi. It has 520 primary milk producers’ Co-operative under it . This unit has establishments for artificial insemination, grass and fodder production and cattle care . Over and above these ,some other milk producing units have also come up in the state in the last few years. At panikhaiti near Guwahati, a milk chilling plant has come up that chills 5000 litres of milk every day . It is supported by 120 primary milk producers co-operatives. A model dairy farm has been established at Belimara near Naharkatiya. Two new patterns of milk co-operatives , one pattern at Jorhat and an Anand (of Gujarat) pattern at Tezpur have recently been taken up. There are milk producers’ co-operatives also at Baragaon neaar Barpathar in Golaghat and at Senchowa near Nagaon.

The efforts made in the state as described above, have only marginally improved the milk supply situation. The main cause of backwardness of the state in respect of dairying are the following.

1) Indigenous cattle gives very little quantity of milk 2) They suffer from various diseases . 3) There is a lack of care by the farmers towards cattle 4) Grazing land and nutritive feed are inadequate. 5) Frequent flooding inundates the grazing grounds and thus render the grasses unfit for consumption for many days. If these problems are solved , Assam can prosper in dairy industry . 1) Artificial insemination 2) proper care of the cattle, 3)intensive production of grass and fodder, if necessary with the help of irrigation and 4) development of proper marketing facilities will go a long way in improving the milk production and dairy industry of the state.

Next to Assam , Manipur comes in animal resource. The state in 1988 had 0.75 million cows, 138000 buffaloes, 369000 pigs and about 1.5 million poultry. The cows of Manipur are the best in North East India . They are of bigger size and stronger and sturdier than those of other states. The buffaloes of Manipur, especially the female ones, are considered as prized possession because they give large quantities of milk. Besides, the horses of Manipur are famous throughout India and South East India, because they are although smaller in size, swift , strong and climb hills. Therefore , the horses of Manipur are often used by military and paramilitary forces in the region.

In order to develop the animal resources of Manipur a number of schemes have been taken up in recent years. A farm for producing hybrid buffalo breed and local breed is expected to produce more milk. Another farm to produce better quality of horse has been started at Lamphel Pat in Imphal district. Besides, a farm for raising broiler has also been started at Parampat. Four more farms are projected in the state to further develop the animal resources.

Tripura has in 1986-87 about 680,000 cows 16000 buffaloes 343000 goats and 103000 pigs As its indigenous animals are not strong and productive, efforts have been made to develop hybrid varieties. Five such schemes were implemented in the state in 1985 . The North Eastern Council the set up an Exotic Cattle Breeding Farm in the state for crossing the local cows with those from Khairpur. A few urban milk supply schemes have also been taken up in Agartala , Dharmanagar and Kailasahar towns.

Meghalaya has the third largest cattle population among the states of North East India with 550,000 cows and 29,000 buffaloes in 1981 -82 . It also had 186,000 goats and 207000 pigs in that year. The Meghalaya Government has undertaken a number of schemes to develop the states domestic animal resource. It has established a few artificial insemination centers including one at Upper Shilliong under the Indo-Danish Project for animal development. Meanwhile thousands of local cows have been injected for artificial insemination . Moreover exotic bulls have been distributed among 100 villages of the state for producing cross breed with the local cows. As Meghalaya has cool climate and grasslands, the state can profitably rear sheep also. Two model sheep farms , one at Jowai and another in the East Khasi hills, have also been set up recently. Shillong also has an urban milk supply scheme. There is a milk freezing plant at Nayabungalow , 20 km north of Shillong. The Dairy Extension Centre at Jowai produces butter, cream and ghee. Cream and ghee are processed also at Tura and Rongrem in Garo Hills A model poultry farm has been started at Kirdemkalai 25 km away from Shillong . A model pig breeding centre and a fodder production centre have also been started here.

The states of Arunachal, Nagaland Mizoram are not very rich in domestic animal resources Arunachal had 168000 cows, 12000 buffaloes, 20,000 goats,76,000 sheep and 213000 pigs in 1985. During the last few years these numbers have increased. The Arunachal Government has started training programmes for the farmers for scientific rearing of animals. A farm for growing winter grass for the animals has been set up at Dibang Valley. A bison breeding centre has also been strted at Sagali in Lower Subansiri district .

Nagaland had in 1984 about 151000 cows, 9000 buffaloes, 61000 goats 224800 pigs, besides 11000 bisons. Efforts have been made to develop the animal resource of the state. A cow breeding centre has been started at Januki. A national bison research center has been set up at Paruwa in Phek district. The first and the only Dairy Processing Plant has been set at Seventh Mile model village in Dimapur with 10, 000 litre per day capacity. The project is being managed by Kohima District Co-operative Milk Producers Ltd. (Komul)

Mizoram had in 1982 about 50,000 cows, 4300 buffaloes, 29000 and 81000 pig. In order to raise cattle scientifically the state has opened several veterinary hospitals including one each at Kawanpui Lungchew. and Changlaw. A scientific pig breeding centre has also been started at Thingdui with the financial help of the Central Government.

Domestic animal resource that North East India has, can contribute to the economy of the region, if it is properly developed. There are large demands for milk , milk products, meat and egg, besides draught animals. If the projects taken up to develop cattle , pig, goat and poultry resources materialise the region’s economy shall improve to a larger extent.


Fish is a popular item in the major meals of the people of North East India. This , in fact is the main source of protein to them. Fish contains vitamins A and D, besides protein, calcium and phosphorus. Fish is also used in social functions and rituals by some communities of the region. This is because three states of the region, viz Assam Manipur and Tripura have many water bodies and swamps which are natural habitat of many varieties of fish. Abundance of fish on the one hand and relative absence of the animals yielding acceptable meat has made fish popular as a source of protein. But of late. the natural conditions in respect of the habitats of fish have changed. The beels and swamps have been largely silted up while the rivers have changed their courses following the earthquake of 1950 and wanton destruction of trees leading to heavy soil erosion. On the other hand, population has been increasing by leaps and bounds resulting in increasing demand of fish. This has led to indiscrimate fishing throughout the year (even in the breeding period).

North East India is now in deficit supply of local fish. It is estimated that in the year 1989-90 the region could produce per capita only 2.8 kg of fish. While the region needs about 48,00,00 tonnes of fish, it could produce hardly 100000 tonnes a year. The region also imports about 100000 tonnes of fish from outside, especially from West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. Following table shows the production of fish in the region in 1989-90 ;

North East India

Production of fish : 1989-90


Production in ‘000 tonnes

1. Arunachal Pradesh


3. Manipur

4. Meghalaya


6. Nagaland











Source : Basic Statistics of NER, 1987, &1992

The above table shows the fish production figure in the year 1989-90. Efforts have been under way to increase its production in all the states of the region,. Since the natural habitats of fish are in the way of depletion, many people have started rearing it in their own ponds and tanks. As the river fishery and beel fishery have shown declining production of late , culture fishery (ponds and tanks) and reservoir fishery have registered an increasing production. It is however, important to note that with the depletion of the natural habitat, a large varieties of indigenous fish are on way to extinction . While the rivers used to support many varieties of carps of including Rau, Pithia , Bahu , Mali and Nadani and many other like Ari, Barali, Chital, Gagal etc. the beels used to harbour swamp fishes, such as Sal, Sol, Magur , Kawai, Kandhuli, Singi, Magur, etc. But with the change of course of the rivers and silting of beels on the hand and indiscriminate fishing on the other , the fish population has decreased abnormally. In fact, some varieties of fish are found to have become rare now.

Among the North Eastern state Assam is by far the most important in fishing as it has numerous rivers, swamps and other water important in fishing as it has numerous rivers swamps and other water bodies However, because of deterioration of the ecological conditions in which fish prosper, the production of it from its natural habitat has decreased, although production of cultured fish has been slightly on the increase. In 1992-93 Assam altogether produced about 140,000 tonnes of fish, which is far less than the requirement, needing the state to import fish from outside.

It is estimated that there are about 700 registered fisheries in Assam covering an area of 593,000 hectares. Of these the rivers and streams cover 450,000 hectares, beels 100,000 hectares, cultured tanks 85000 hectares, natural pond and tanks 10,000 hectares, swamps 20,000 hectares and water bodies in the reserve forests 5000 hectares. The beels alone can produce a huge quantity of fish, catering the demand of the local markets and improving the economic condition of the fishermen.

Considering the above potentiality the Government of Assam in 1977 set up the Assam Fishery Development Corporation. The main aim of this Corporation is to develop the swamps and beels to enable them to be productive fisheries, whereby the fishermen will benefit. It has taken over about 30 swamps and beels for development, of which the following are important:

Dhubri district, Sateswar and Dhir , Bangaigaon district, Tamranga Daloni , Asila and Kumri , Barpeta district Kapla, Kamrup district Garhja Bulatjan Dipar and Ghorajan, Nagaon and Morigaon district, Samaguri, Mer, Marikalang-potakalang Sivasthan Saran, Haribhanga, Barmanaha , Kujibali Patti, Deora, Jugijan and Warijedeng Kenduri, Jorhat district : Kakrikata and Gango Chauladubi,, Darrang district Saktola , Dibrugarh district ; Larowa.

North Eastern Council has also come up to help reclaim some of the swamps to make them productive fisheries. It has taken up a pilot project of reclaiming the 62 hectares of Samaguri Beel and 20 hectares of Marikalong Beel of Nagaon district. The Scheduled Castes Integrated Welfare Scheme of Assam has also stressed on fishery development in the state because most of the fishermen of Assam belong to Scheduled castes who are economically weak. Two beels viz . Tamranga of Bangaigaon and Sivasthan-Potakalang of Nagon have been developed under this scheme. The National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) has also advanced capital for development of Merbeel of Nagaon into a viable fishery. An international organisation, The World Food Programme Authority, a subsidiary of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has also come forward to develop island fishery in Assam. It wants to develop the tributaries of the Brahmaputra and some swamps into productive fisheries .

Efforts have been made to develop fisheries in the state by many agencies. For example there are Fish Farmers Development Agencies which stress on development of rives and swamps into fisheries as also on growing local varieties of small fish in the paddy fields along with transplanted paddy . A Regional Fishery Training Centre has been set up at Amranga in Barpeta district and a Fish Seed Farm has been started at Jalukanibari in Jorhat District. This farm aims at producing 500 million fish seeds of improved quality for distribution among the fishery owners of Assam and other surrounding states.

Tripura has lesser number of large or medium river nor has its swamps. The state therefore, has to depend mainly on ponds and tanks for fishery development. These water bodies, along with a few production of the state, account for 4800 hectares. The total fish production of the state, is enough to meet local demand . In 1990 Tripura produced about 18000 tonnes of fish. Efforts have been made to increase production in the state. The North Eastern Council has intiated a Fish Petuitary Gland Bank in Tripura. The state government , apart from aiding the development of tank and river fisheries , have completed a scheme of raising turtle and tortoise at a place called Gongkira in Udaipur sub-division . The rearing ground here covers an area of 23 hectares. The North Eastern Council has also finalized to set up an air breeding fish seed farm in Tripura . This is likely to help the production of such fish grown in the state within a short period.

Manipur has many swamps and lakes in its central basin. The total area of such swamps and lakes stands at about 16500 hectares. Although the lake Loktak was traditionally famous for fish, it has become slowly depleted due to siltation and human occupation. The state’s present average annual production of fish is only around 7500 tonnes, although its total demand is about 14000 tonnes annually.

Efforts have been made to increase fish production in the state. As back as in 1977-78 , the state government took up 10 schemes in the plains and 8 schemes in the hills for fishery development. But these schemes have so far not been able to reach their target. The state government has also undertaken scheme to preserve the locally famous Pengba fish of Manipur. A carp seed farm has been started at Lam Leipat It also has a Chinese hatchery . Besides as many as 100 seed and general fish farm have been started at Waithou near Imphal for Production of big carp, common carp and silver carp.

Mizoram has been able to increase it fish production from a mere 240 tonnes in 1975 to more than 2800 tonnes in 1990. Besides it has now about 5000 small fisheries in the form of tank and ponds and the state produces more than 3 million fishlings for distribution to the fisheries of the state. The Mizoram government has also started at regional fish seed farm at Tuipui in Lunglei district.

The production of fish in other states of North East India is nominal. All these states, however, have made efforts to be self-sufficient in fish.




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