Bihar, with its bountiful natural resources of fertile soil, abundant water, varied climate and rich cultural and historical heritage is one of the most fascinating states of India. The farmers are intelligent and hard working. Therefore agriculture has been described as the core competence of Bihar by the Hon'ble President of India.
Agriculture is the vital source of wealth in Bihar. 76% of its population is engaged in agricultural pursuits. Bihar's productive contribution in food grain, fruit, vegetables, spices and flowers can increase manifold with improved methods and system management.
Bihar has a total geographical area of about 93.60 lakh hectare, out of which only 56.03 lakh hectare is the net cultivated area and gross cultivated area being 79.46 lakh hectare. About 33.51 lakh hectare net area and 43.86 lakh hectare gross area receive irrigation from different sources. Principal food crops are paddy, wheat, maize and pulses. Main cash crops are sugarcane, potato, tobacco, oilseeds, onion, chillies and jute and. Bihar has notified forest area of 6,764.14 sq km, which is 7.1 per cent of its geographical area.
Bihar is located in the eastern part of the country (between 83°-30' to 88°-00' longitude). It is an entirely land–locked state, although the outlet to the sea through the port of Kolkata is not far away. Bihar lies mid-way between the humid West Bengal in the east and the sub humid Uttar Pradesh in the west which provides it with a transitional position in respect of climate, economy and culture. It is bounded by Nepal in the north and by Jharkhand in the south. The Bihar plain is divided into two unequal halves by the river Ganga which flows through the middle from west to east.
Bihar with a geographical area of about 94.2 thousand square km is divided by river Ganges into two parts, the north Bihar with an area of 53.3 thousand square km and the south Bihar having an area of 40.9 thousand square km. Based on soil characterization, rainfall, temperature and terrain, four main agro-climatic zones in Bihar have been identified. These are: Zone-I, North Alluvial Plain, Zone-II, north East Alluvial Plain, Zone-III A South East Alluvial Plain and Zone-III B, South West Alluvial Plain, each with its own unique prospects.
The principal agricultural crops are rice, paddy, wheat, jute, maize and oil seeds. Cauliflower, cabbage, tomato, radish, carrot, beat etc. are some of the vegetables grown in the state. Sugarcane, potato and barley are some of the non-cereal crops grown. The entire agricultural operations is divided into two crop seasons Kharif and Rabi. The Kharif season starts from the third week of May and lasts till the end of October followed by the Rabi season.
Though endowed with good soil, adequate rainfall and good ground water availability Bihar has not get realized its full agricultural potential. Its agricultural productivity is one of the lowest in the country, leading to rural poverty, low nutrition and migration of labour. This road map is aimed to trigger processes of development in agriculture and allied sector.
The state is endowed with rich biodiversity. Agriculture provides ample supply of raw materials for the establishment of Agro based industries. Bihar is the third largest producer of vegetables and fourth largest producer of fruits in the country. It is the largest producer of Litchi, Makhana, Guava, Lady’s finger in India. The state already exports Litchi, Basmati rice and snow pea. It has competitiveness in maize, rice and fruit such as banana, mango, litchi and vegetables like onions, tomato, potato and brinjal. High, stable and regular supply of agricultural produce provides adequate opportunity for marketing and food processing industries.
Farmer’s willingness to accept modern cultivation technologies and contract farming practices provide encouraging trends for investment in Agriculture sector. Necessary legislative changes to promote contract farming and private investment in marketing are being undertaken. Agricultural growth in the state is supported by institutional infrastructure of Rajendra Agricultural University, Pusa (Samastipur) and its network of Krishi Vigyan Kendra, ICAR eastern zone complex at Patna, National Research Centres for Litchi, Makhana and Pan. Small Farmer’s Agri-business Consortium (SFAC) and Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA) are others institutions supporting Agricultural growth in the State. Public sector Agricultural extension system is creating enabling ground for Public–Private partnership for rapid Agricultural growth in the state.
Agri-clinics will be encouraged to carry standard seeds, fertilizers, agricultural information to the farmers. They will be the carrier of the public programs to the farmers. Extension system will forge relationship with agri-clinics for creating synergy of the extension efforts. The expert services of the agri-clinics will be gainfully utilized in conducting training/demonstration and their services will be treated at par with the services of agriculture scientists. To make the program of agri-clinics viable for the banking sector and to make them more attractive for agriculture graduates convergence of all programs will be created there. They will get preference in allocation of seed/fertilizer shops, outsourcing of block level soil labs, etc.
Krishi Vigyan Kendras will continue to receive prime attention in view of their utility as centre of excellence in spreading agricultural knowledge to the rural masses. They will also be encouraged to cater to post harvest handling of the agricultural products and develop entrepreneurial skill among the rural youth. The KVK’s will function in FIVE MISSION MODE, viz. on honey bee, seed production including seed villages, conservation agriculture, integrated farming and vermi-compost.
Extension reforms will receive attention through Agriculture Technology Management Agency. ATMA will be established in all the districts of Bihar. The objective of convergence, farming system, group extension approach and increased use of ICT in agricultural extension will be pursued. Sustainability of the agriculture extension will also be explored. Public-private partnership in agriculture extension will be encouraged. Effort will be made to bring every farmer into the ambit of agriculture technology training in 5-year period.
The strategy will be to reach information, technology and services to the farmers in the quickest possible time. The emphasis of ICT will be more on developing application software and providing useful services to the farmers in the villages. Farmer useful services will be integrated with information and non-agricultural services and emphasis will be laid on one point solution to the farmers’ problems.
Use of quality Seed. Seed is the most critical input in modern agriculture. It is the carrier of the modern technology. There is an apparent need to step up investment in both public & private sector .The prevailing seed replacement rate which is less than 10% in case of rice and wheat cannot sustain higher productivity growth rate. Therefore the objective of the seed production programme involve increase the seed replacement rate, promotion of hybrid seeds and crop varieties, which are new and adapted to the agro-climatic conditions of the state. Seed production on Government farms will be revived. Bihar Rajya Beej Nigam will be encouraged to undertake seed multiplication for recently released public sector varieties to make them timely available to the farmers at reasonable cost. Pusa Seed Society will be encouraged to improve supply of quality seed to the farmers. While the seed production under public sector will be revived, seed production through farmers’ direct participation under seed-village program will be the corner stone of the strategy during 11th’ plan. Bihar Rajya Beej Nigam and Pusa Seed Society will be encouraged to buy-back seeds produced under seed village and provide processing & marketing support. Private seed companies will be encouraged to ensure availability of latest technology to the farmers and also to ensure fair competition with public sector seed companies for the benefit of the farmers.
Marketing and Processing. Any target for production can be achieved only if the farmers get proper price for their produce. Hence the success of this agriculture development strategy is dependent upon taking appropriate measures in the fields of marketing and processing. Agriculture marketing has been in the public domain with explicit limitations. Therefore the Agriculture produce market committee act has been abolished. Private sector and cooperative sector will be encouraged to establish market, enter into buy-back arrangement and purchase directly from the farmers. Contract farming will be encouraged, particularly for fruits and vegetables. The expansion of market facilities and better realization to the farmers will be the core of the market reforms. Farmers will be organized along the enterprises to establish economy of scale and to act as collective voice to safeguard their interest. This will include excursions into processing and marketing centres of excellence in the country, formation of farmer interest group and federating them at the various levels. Co-operative marketing shall be encouraged in the area of fruits and vegetables on lines of milk or dairy. Efforts will be made to make farmers aware of the market demand of the agricultural commodities Extension will be made market oriented and efforts shall be made to make crop planning market oriented. Agriculture market information regarding price, arrival will be widely disseminated. Market yards and rural hats will be let to farmer groups for organized marketing in the state. Private sector participation in the development of modern and specialty market will be encouraged. Terminal market will be established in strategic locations.
Risk management. Agriculture is prone to natural disasters, particularly flood in north Bihar and drought in south Bihar. Risk of natural disasters will be minimized through use of appropriate crop technology and extending crop insurance to all farmers. Insurance cover will be extended to horticultural and cash crops. Seed bank will be maintained to quickly restore supply of seed material. Human resource will be developed to quickly react and restore normalcy in case of a natural disaster.
Seasons : Cold weather season (December to February), Hot weather season (March to May), Southwest monsoon (June to September) and Retreating southwest monsoon - October to November.
Soil : There are three major types of soil in Bihar i.e. Piedmont Swamp Soil - found in northwestern part of West Champaran district. Terai Soil - found in northern part of the state along the border of Nepal. Gangetic Alluvium - the plain of Bihar is covered by gangetic alluvium (both new as well as old).
Fertile Land : The topography of Bihar can be easily described as a fertile alluvial plain occupying the Gangetic Valley. The plain extends from the foothills of the Himalayas in the north to a few miles south of the river Ganges as it flows through the State from the west to the east. Rich farmland and lush orchards extend throughout the state. Following are the major crops: Paddy, Wheat, Lentils, Sugarcane, Jute (hemp, related to the marijuana plant, but a source of tough fibers and "gunny bags"). Also, cane grows wild in the marshes of West Champaran. The principal fruits are: Mangoes, Banana, Guava and Litchis. This is one the very few areas outside China which produces litchi.