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Cropping Pattern of North East India: An Appraisal

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AMERICAN RESEARCH THOUGHTS Volume 1 │ Issue 1 │ November 2014
ISSN: 2392 – 876X Available online at: www.researchthoughts.us

CROPPING PATTERN OF NORTH EAST INDIA:


AN APPRAISAL

Lh. Seitinthang

Research Scholar, Department of Geography, Manipur University, India

Abstract: The North Eastern Region is characterised with diversified agro-climatic condition,
different soil types, and irregular physical features and the region is also lagging behind in
development. Before the introduction of Green Revolution in India, the North Eastern Region is one of
the dominant supporters of the country’s foods production. But now the region is seeping down to the
bottom level and has started importing agricultural products from the main land of the country. The
agricultural practices of North East India are of two types- (i) Shifting cultivation, and (ii) Settled or
plains agriculture. About three-fourths of her population, depends on agriculture and other allied
activities. Rice and maize are the leading crops in both hilly regions and plain areas supporting food to
the populace. The modern agricultural inputs used in agriculture are comparatively low. The present
study explores the change of Cropping Pattern in the region based on secondary data.

Key words: North East India; Cropping Patterns; Crop Combination; Food grains; Physical
Factors.

INTRODUCTION

Agriculture is one of the basic sources of human life supporting foods, nutrients etc., of
their daily needs. Agriculture development is basically a function of six elements (6’I’s),
viz, institutions (including land tenure, R&D, training, marketing, credit, stock
exchange in agricultural goods, etc.), infrastructure (including power, irrigation, cold
storage, transport, etc.), investment, inputs (seed, fertilizers, etc.), incentives and
information (on technology, prices, costs, quality, etc.). Agricultural reform programme
should take into account these elements (Neog, 2006). Natural resource base wise, the
farmers in the hills and the plains of the region can specialise in mutually
complementary cropping patterns. In plain areas, which are better suited by the HYV
seed- fertiliser technology, intensive use of better inputs with improved water

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management can greatly enhance production of food grains. Hills, being endowed with
agro-climatic conditions for horticulture and other high value crops, can exploit the
potentials of such commercial crops. The challenge therefore is provision of the
infrastructure and the necessary organisational support, and putting in place the right
institutions for converting such technical possibility to a socio-economic reality
(Bezbaruah, 2008). India occupies 63% rainfed agriculture land, where agricultural
systems are complex, diverse and risk prone. National agriculture Policy 2000 of India
underlined the need for diversification in agriculture with the promotion of integrated
development of rainfed areas on watershed basis. Watershed based technology of land
use is highly significant in hill agriculture for sustained food production (Sonowal,
Bhatt, Satapathy and Baishya, 2006). Before the introduction of Green Revolution, the
North Eastern Region is one of the dominant supporters of the country’s food
productions. But with the coming of modern technology, Green Revolution, the region
seeping down to the bottom level is lagging behind and has started importing
agricultural products from the main land of the country.

METHOD

The present work is mostly based on the primary and secondary data collected from
diverse published and unpublished sources in a decade of 2001-2010. The cropping
pattern changes in North East India is tried to be netted from relevant analysis of
secondary data. The statistical techniques of Weaver’s method of Crop combination is
used for analysis. The measurement of crop combination is delimiting agricultural
region on the basis of multiple patterns. This method was first developed by J.C.
Weaver who recognised that in almost every farming system which has several crops
are grown in combination and rarely a single crop assume complete dominance. By
using the following three formulas;

Weaver’s Crop Combination (WCC) =

Mean ( ) =

Standard Deviation (SD) =

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STUDY AREA

The North East India excluding Sikkim consist of the Seven Sister’s States having an area
of 262185 Sq.km covered 7.9% of the total geographical space of the country with the
coordinates of 21.570N to 29.300N latitude and 880E to 97.300E longitude (Fig.1). Politico-
economically, it is a true frontier region of strategic importance for the country as nearly
90% of its borders form India’s international boundaries with over 2000 km of border
with Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. It is connected with the rest of the India
through a narrow corridor known as ‘Chicken’s neck’ in North Bengal.

Fig.1. Location Map of North East India.


Source: Prepared by Author.

Each state is a traveller’s paradise, with picturesque hills and green meadows which
shelters thousands of species of flora and fauna. Topographically, about 70% of the
region is hilly, and the topography varies within each state. While Plains of the region
are mainly made up of separate land masses- Brahmaputra valley and Barak valley in
Assam and the Tripura plains in the south, Imphal valley in the south-east of the region.

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Due to rapid changes in topography, the region has distinct and rapid changes of
climatic conditions within a short period. The plains of Brahmaputra and Barak in
Assam, the Imphal valley and Tripura plain have alluvial soil while in the hills have red
soil over lower altitudes, laterite soil over medium altitude and higher mountains have
mountain soils. About 54% of the total geographical area of the region is covered by
forests although there are inter-state variations.

CROPPING PATTERN

Agriculture condition in North East India is basically influenced by the physiographic


conditions having varied topography, different soil types and uneven distribution of
Temperatures and rainfall etc. About 70% area of the region is mountains and hills
having red soil, lateritic soil and mountain soil which cover mostly of Arunachal
Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Sikkim and half of Tripura, one-fifth of
Assam and nine-tenth of Manipur, while the plains of the region with alluvial soils are –
The Brahmaputra Valley of Assam, the Barak Valley and the Tripura plains in the south,
the Imphal Valley of Manipur comprising only 10% area of the state. Based on these
physical features the agriculture practices of the region are of two types- (i) Shifting
cultivation (Jhum), and (ii) Settled or plains agriculture (Fig.2). As a large part of the
region is hilly features settled by different tribal groups, shifting cultivation is the
utmost customary which is the rudimentary life supportive subsistence intensive
agriculture. Shifting cultivation is commonly practising in hilly red soil and laterite soil
region. They are mostly practise by tribal in all districts of Arunachal Pradesh, hill
region of southern Assam, mountain areas of Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland and Kukis
and Nagas in the hill regions of the Manipur. On the other hand, the plain or settled
agriculture is generally practise in fertile alluvial plains of Assam, plain areas of south
eastern Nagaland, Brahmaputra plain in southern Arunachal Pradesh, Barak Valley and
some plain areas of Tripura and the central Imphal Valley of Manipur.
About three-fourths of her population, on the average, depend on agriculture
and other allied activities and 40 per cent of Net State Domestic Product (NSDP) comes
from agricultural sector (Goswami, 2006). Since the region is dominated by the tribal
population, reference may be made to the tribal method of cultivation. 19.91 lakh
hectares (83.73%) of the land in the region is under shifting cultivation or Jhuming, a
practice once considered as a farmer friendly has now become an ecological menace (

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Dutta and Pradhan, 2006). The cropping pattern of North East India is not much similar
to the other parts of the country. About 70% of the area is a hilly region taking manual
based intensive agriculture, Crop combination in the region is mostly multiple systems
of rice, maize, wheat, and oilseeds which are the main crops in fertile alluvial plains of
the whole areas of the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam, southern parts of Tripura, Imphal
valley of Manipur and Barak valley.

Fig.2. Agriculture System in North East India.


Source: Prepared by Author.

The region produces nearly 5 million tons of food grains as against a demand of 6.7
million tons. This imbalance in food-security remains unabated due to slow growth in
production as well as productivity of major food grains (Barah, 2006).

Food grains
In 2001-02, there are two different types of crop combination system found in the region
having different crops in each state. The three (3) crops combination system of rice,
maize and potato are found in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland; rice, maize and
vegetables in Meghalaya and Tripura; rice, maize and oilseeds crop combination in
Manipur. While five crop combination systems of rice, maize, potato, vegetables and

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oilseeds is practiced in Assam, a combination of rice, maize, pulses, oilseed and


vegetables is found in Mizoram (Fig.3).

Fig.3. Major Crop Combination in North East India in 2001-2002.


Source: Prepared by Author.

Assam leads the whole North Eastern states by sharing 2755 thousand hectares and 67.6
per cent of food grains production. Tripura is the next largest state in area and
production of food grains with a share of 258.5 thousand hectares and 10 per cent of the
region’s Products. Nagaland follows Tripura with an area of 257.5 thousand hectares
while Manipur is the third largest producer with a share of 6.7 per cent to the region’s
product (Table.1). Influence by the application of modern tools and techniques, people
think not only for subsistence

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State Rank
2001 2010 2001 2010
Arunachal Pradesh 4 4 6 5
Assam 1 1 1 1
Manipur 5 5 3 4
Meghalaya 6 6 5 6
Mizoram 7 7 7 7
Nagaland 3 2 4 3
Tripura 2 3 2 2
Table. I. Rank wise area and production of food grains in
NER (2001-02 and 2009-10).

agriculture which depend only on manual family labour, they need surplus products
for commercial activity by applying modern tools and techniques, High Yielding
Variety Seeds (HYVs), chemical fertilizers and biocides, Meghalaya and Tripura state
become more specialised in 2009-2010 from three crop combination to two crop
combination of rice and maize while Assam and Mizoram state also practised from five
crop combination in 2001-02 to three crop combination of rice, potato, vegetables in
Assam and rice, maize and pulses in Mizoram respectively. In the same way, Manipur
and Nagaland are found change from three crops Combination to four crop
combinations of rice, maize, oilseed and pulses in Manipur and rice, maize, potato and
vegetables in Nagaland in 2009-2010 respectively (Fig.4). As the state of Arunachal
Pradesh is hilly terrains which lack the infrastructure facilities, the cropping systems is
not much change. Rice continued to remain the dominant crop in the region supporting
foodstuffs to the populace in the low lying plain areas and in hilly regions. It is mainly
grown in fertile alluvial plain areas in the system of Settled or Wetland cultivation in
Assam, Imphal Valley of Manipur, plain areas of Nagaland, Barak valley of Tripura and
Brahmaputra valley of Arunachal Pradesh and in the system of Jhuming in most of the
hill areas.

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Fig.4. Major Crop Combination in North East India in 2009-2010.


Source: Prepared by Author.

Rice is a three-season crop, viz, autumn (Ahu), winter (Sali) and summer (Boro) in
Assam. A notable change in rice production system is the introduction of Boro rice in
Assam. It is a low risk option with yield 30 to 40 per cent higher than the normal yield.
It has increased cropping intensity, leading to a situation of surplus production in
Assam (Barah, 2006). Maize is the next important crop for all the hill states except
Tripura and Assam having the character of fertile alluvial plain which has good soil for
growing crops like rice, wheat, oilseeds, and tea supporting the whole North Eastern
Region. As rice is one of the dominant and staple food crops in the region, it share with
the area of 3384.8 thousand hectares in 2001, which decreased to 3356.3 thousand
hectares and products of 5495.3 thousand tonnes in 2001, increased to 6002.9 thousand
tonnes in the year 2010. Among the North Eastern states, as Assam is the largest plain
area having most fertile alluvial soil occupying ninth tenth of the state and 70% areal
extent of the region. There are blameless means of transport and communication

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system, advantage of the application of new tools and techniques, chemical fertilizers,
biocides, irrigation facilities, marketing, huge and cheap manual labour and financial
facilities. They have noble climatic situation of required amount of precipitation and
temperature. The state rank top in area as well as in the production, as they have fertile
alluvial plains of Brahmaputra great plain, sharing 2537 thousand hectares ( 74.9 per
cent) in 2001 but decreased to 2495.8 thousand hectares (74.3 per cent) in 2010. The
production also increased from 3854 thousand tonne (70.1 per cent) in 2001 to 4335.8
thousand tonne (72.2 per cent) in 2010. The Tripura state having vast alluvial plains is
the next, shared the agricultural area of 7.2 per cent in 2001 and 7.1 in 2010 of area and
production of rice by 10.6 per cent, followed by Manipur shares 4.8 per cent in 2001 and
5 per cent in 2010 of area, and production by 7 per cent in 2001 which decreased to 5.3
per cent in 2010. Maize is the second most important and staple food crops in the North
Eastern region with the area of 130.1 thousand hectares in 2001 but increased to 163.7
thousand hectares in 2010, producing 175.6 thousand tonne in 2001 and increased to 199
thousand tonne in 2010. Nagaland is a hilly Tropical evergreen and deciduous climatic
state which is good for the growing of maize with red soil, huge atmospheric moisture
and humus content of the soil. It has the largest area and production of maize crops
sharing 30.7 per cent in 2001 and increased to 41.6 per cent to the region with 31.3 per
cent in 2001 and increased to 36.7 per cent of production in 2010. Arunachal Pradesh
and Meghalaya are the next major producing states in the region contributing 30.2 per
cent and 13.2 per cent respectively. Assam is synonymous with tea both at domestic and
global level. Tea as an economic venture has flourished in Assam since 1840 and has
been the most important aspect of revenue generation till date. Dibrugarh district has
the highest Production followed by Jorhat, Sibsagar, Tinsukia and Golaghat. Over 90%
of the gardens are located in these five districts (Chakraborty, 2006).

CONCLUSION

The Cropping pattern of North East India is tending towards specialisation of rice
cultivation in the Kharif season and wheat, maize and gram in the Rabi season. Rice and
Wheat are the two principle crops in the respective season (Saharia, 2006). Assam is the
most dominant producer of Wheat and rice while Nagaland is the largest producer of
maize. Since rice and maize farming is the mainstay of agriculture, no apparent
improvement (from 2001 to 2010) in land productivity. Environmental constraints and

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natural resources are dominant factors affecting crop combination with very low and
unequal distribution of modern infrastructures and facilities in the region. Cultural and
physical influences are responsible for the changes in North-East India. The region
needs infrastructural development- transportation, inputs, credit supply, irrigation,
storage, marketing and technological development for different agro-ecological
situations- upland, hill areas and flood affected areas.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
This paper is a slice of research work under the supervisor of Prof. N. Deva Singh,
Department of Geography, Manipur University funded by the Council of Scientific and
Industrial Research (CSIR). Human Resource Development (HRD), New Delhi. I wish
to thank Dr. H. Chongloi for his intellectual guidance and comments.

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