Potato Productivity and its Determinants: A Case Study in Sonitpur District, Assam

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Potato Productivity and its Determinants: A Case Study in Sonitpur District, Assam​

- Maila Lama, Rimjim Bordoloi (Research Scholar, Rajiv Gandhi University)​

📚 time to read: 24 minutes

Abstract:-


In the predominantly agriculture based economy of Assam, Potato in recent
years has emerged as an important commercial crop. This paper examines the
determinants of potato productivity from a case study conducted in Sonitpur
district of the state. Understanding on the determinants is important as farm
productivity helps to augment income of the farm households as well as
employment opportunity. The results show that in the study area net income of
the farmers is positively related to productivity of the crop and thus indicates
the importance of raising productivity. The relationship between inputs and
output is estimated by applying Cobb-Douglas production function. The results
show positive influence of certain inputs in case of this crop. Certain issues
which need attention are inadequate availability of HYV seeds, high costs of
inputs, lack of credit and storage facilities.

I. Introduction:-
Potato is one of the important crops which contribute to food and nutritional security.
This tuber crop also has industrial and medicinal uses. As potato has high demand and
market in developing countries like India, cultivation of this crop plays an important
role to ensure returns to the cash starved rural households. This crop is not indigenous
to India, but penetrated as a consequence of the colonial expansion of European
countries. It was introduced in the country by early 17th century probably by British
missionaries or Portuguese traders.
Potato now has emerged as the foremost important crop in India after rice, wheat and
maize; and the country has emerged as the second largest producer of potato in the
world. In 2010-11, India produced 42.34 million tonnes from 1.86 million hectares of
cultivation with an average yield of 22720 kg/ha. In India, during 2005-06 the share of area under potato was 0.75 per cent of the gross cropped areas which rose to 0.79
per cent in 2010-11 (Economic Survey, 2011-12). Potato is an important crop in the
north eastern region of India too. Agro-climatically the region is highly suitable for the
cultivation of tuber crops (potato, sweet potato, carrot etc.) and the people in the hill
areas of the region are accustomed of growing these crops. Tuber crops are not only
cultivated in the hilly areas of the region but also in the plains of Assam and Tripura.
These crops do not require much attention and no serious disease or insect attack are
observed. These crops often get preference as risk aversion crops in this difficult region
having shortage of food grains supply. Among the tuber crops, potato is grown in all
the states of the region. The northeast region accounts for 6.6 per cent of the total area
under potato in the country.1
Among the states of the north east region, Assam with a share of 4.7 per cent area and
1.6 per cent of total production in India occupies prominence. In Assam, total production
of potato was 975.27 thousand tonnes and area under it was 99.77 thousand hectares
with a yield of 9770 kg/ha in 2012-13 (GoA, 2013-14). The average yield of potato
in the state however is very low compared to average of the country (22724kg/ha
during 2010-11), and demands an improvement. NITI Ayog also identifies increasing
agricultural productivity as one of the ways to improve the income and living conditions
of farm households (Chandrasekhar and Mehrotra, 2016). As there are not ample
literature to study the developments of this crop in the state, this paper is an attempt
to understand the nature of potato cultivation, trend in productivity and impact on farm
income and employment opportunities taking few production pockets of Sonitpur district
of Assam as an area of study.
Sonitpur district now occupies a prominent space in potato production in Assam with
6.8 per cent share of total potato production during 2012-13. Newspaper reportage2
indicates how little known places of the district have come to prominence with emergence
of hundreds of potato farmers. For example in a small place called Gingia, near Biswanath
Chariali town, farmers are now cultivating potatoes on plots which ranges from 2 to
more than 50 hectares.
II. Approach of the Paper:-


Data for this paper are derived from a primary survey. In addition to the primary data,
secondary data from various government sources are used to supplement the analyses.
A questionnaire was designed to collect information on area sown, output, inputs used,
cost of inputs, quantity sold and prices fetched. The field data was collected through
a multi-stage random sampling. In the first stage, four development blocks namely,
Sakomotha, Baghmara, Biswanath and Naduar of Sonitpur district were selected on the
basis of distance from the district headquarter. From each block two villages were
selected purposefully on the basis of distance from the block headquarters, with one village located near the block headquarters and the other at a distance. In each village

15 farmers were randomly selected for interaction.
The Cobb-Douglas production function is applied to estimate the elasticity of output
with respect to the inputs. The Cobb-Douglas type production function has been widely
used in analysis of agricultural production for its simplicity and reliability (Dutta,
2003).

III. Cropping Pattern and Potato Production in Assam:-
An analysis of cropping pattern in the State revealed that since the turn of the century
the pattern has not changed significantly. In 2001-02, food grains accounted for 79.4
per cent of the cropped area which marginally declined to 77.9 per cent in 2013-14.
This was mainly due to fall in area under rice and wheat by more than 1 percentage
point. The area under rice fell from 73.3 per cent in 2001-02 to 72.0 per cent in 2013-
14. During the same period area under wheat fell from 2.08 per cent to 0.89 per cent.
But the share of area under maize and pulses increased marginally during this period
(Table 1)  

Table 1: Changes in cropping pattern in Assam (Area is in %)

 

Crops

2001-02

2013-14

Rice

73.32

72.03

Wheat

2.08

0.89

Maize

0.58

0.69

Pulses

3.41

4.32

Total Food grains

79.39

77.93

Oilseeds

9.25

9.35

Potato

2.31

2.82

Onion

0.20

0.20

Fruits & vegetables

4.88

5.90

Other crops

3.96

3.80

Total Non-Food grains

20.61

22.07

Source: Statistical Handbooks Assam (2004; 2015)

During the same period, the area under non-food crops increased marginally from 20.6
per cent to 22.1 per cent. This was on account of increase in the share of area under
fruits and vegetables by more than 1 percentage point and increase in area under
potato. The share of area under potato increased from 2.3 per cent in 2001-02 to 2.8
per cent in 2013-14. While the share of area under oilseeds marginally improved, the
share of area under onion remained stagnant. The share of area under other cash crops
declined marginally. An analysis of cropping pattern indicates that over the years it is
changing gradually in favour of cash crops.
Assam accounted for 2.02 per cent of total food grains production in the country
during 2011-12. Among the food grains, the state contributed 4.84 per cent of rice production in the country (GoA, 2013-14). During the same year, the state accounted

for 1.65 per cent of potato production in the country. The share of rice and potato in
total production of the country shows importance of the state in terms of agricultural
production. However, the poor productivity of the crops in the state is an area of
concern
3. For instance, yield of rice in Assam was 1780 kg/ha in 2011-12, lower than
the country average of 2393 kg/ha. The yield of wheat was 1147 kg/ha which was
much lower than the country average of 3177 kg/ha (Basic Statistics of North Eastern
Region, 2015). All these imply that that state requires attention to raise agriculture
productivity. This paper tries to understand the determinants of agriculture productivity
taking potato as a case.
Growth of area, production and yield of Potato:-


An analysis of growth of area, production and yield shows that area under potato
cultivation in Assam has increased from 81 thousand hectares in 2000-01 to 105 thousand
hectares in 2012-13. The compound annual rate of growth (CAGR) of area was 2 per
cent during the period 2000-01 to 2012-13. During the period 2000-01 to 2006-07,
however there was fall in area under potato. The CARG of area during this period was
(-) 1.4 per cent; but during the period 2007-08 to 2012-13 the area under potato
registered a high CAGR of 6.9 per cent (table 2).
  

Table 2: Trend and growth of area, production and yield of potato in Assam

 

Year

Area

Production

Yield

2000-01

81

677

8254

2001-02

80

621

7752

2002-03

75

590

7815

2003-04

78

543

6972

2004-05

73

589

8058

2005-06

70

354

5079

2006-07

78

505

6493

2007-08

75

521

6926

2008-09

78

516

6585

2009-10

83

600

7263

2010-11

85

658

7735

2011-12

98

683

6978

2012-13

105

806

7675

CARG ( 2000-01 to 2012-13)

2.00

1.3

-0.4

CARG ( 2000-01 to 2006-07)

-1.4

-6.9

-5.4

CARG (2007-08 to 2012-13)

6.9

9.2

2.3

Note: Area in ‘000 Hectare, Production in ‘000 Tonnes & Yield in Kg/Hectare Source: Statistical Handbook of Assam (2001-02 to 2013-14)

 

During the period 2000-01 to 2012-13 total production of potato increased from 677
thousand tonnes to 806 thousand tonnes. The CARG of potato production during this
period was 1.3 per cent. The potato production during the period 2000-01 to 2006-07,
however declined sharply with an annual decline of (-) 6.7 per cent; but, during the
period 2007-08 to 2012-13 production of potato in the state increased sharply at an
annual rate of 9.2 per cent4. It was observed that during the period 2000-01 to 2012-
13 productivity of potato in the state declined from 8254 kg/ha in 2000-01 to 7675 kg/
ha hectare in 2012-13 at an annual rate of (-0.4 percent). This fall in productivity
during the period 2000-01 to 2006-07, however was much sharper at (-) 5.4 per cent.
Later in the period 2007-08 to 2012-13, potato productivity increased significantly with
CARG of 2.3 per cent.
The decline in productivity of potato during the entire period is a cause of concern and
calls for attention. There is need to identify the causes and make necessary efforts to
improve productivity and ensure improve well-being of the farmers.
IV. Input Use, Costs and Returns:-


An attempt was made to measure the quantity of various inputs used in production of
potato and estimate the costs and returns assuming the role of inputs in raising
productivity of the crop. The principle inputs used in potato production in the study
area are; seeds (HYV as well as local variety), chemical fertilisers, organic manure
(cow dung and oil cake), labour, machinery (tractor and sprayer) and irrigation (pump
sets with diesel). The farmers are using both HYV (Punjab Pokhraj, Punjab jyoti,
Mohendra Jyoti, Super S1) as well as local seeds. But because of high cost of HYV
seeds, farmers also found using local variety of seeds5. Field visit revealed high difference
of average prices of HYV (Rs. 62/kg) and local seeds (Rs. 20/kg). Regarding fertiliser,
farmers were found to be using mainly Di Amino Phosphate (DAP)6. Along with DAP
they were using Urea, Potash and Super in limited quantity. The price of DAP was Rs.
27/ kg, Urea Rs. 9/ kg, Potash Rs. 18/kg and Super Phosphate at Rs. 9/kg. Farmers were
found to be using enough quantity of locally available cow dung and oil cake. The
estimated quantity of seed, fertiliser and manure used per hectare is presented in table 3

Table 3: Quantity of seed, fertiliser and manure used by the farmers

 

Block

Seed (in kg/hectare)

Fertiliser kg/hectare

Manure in kg/hectare

Baghmara

2050

400

673

Biswanath

1950

300

2730

Naduar

2038

320

1417

Sakomotha

2100

240

2247

Source: Field Survey, 2015

Relatively lesser quantity of seed was used per hectare in Biswanath block. This is
because to the fact that farmers in this block used HYV seed in greater proportion than
other blocks. The quantity of HYV seed required in a given area is reported to be less
than the local variety. Use of chemical fertiliser used per hectare was the highest in
Baghmara block (400 kg per hectare) and lowest in Sakomotha block (240 kg per
hectare) and it appeared that low use is complemented by use of organic manure.
Overall it appears that use of locally available organic manure is the priority among the
farmers. Field survey revealed that the high use of manure in Biswanath and Sakomotha
blocks was mainly due to the availability factor; this was not the case in other two
blocks. On the other hand there was less variation in the use of chemical fertiliser in
the study blocks. Here emerge two issues. One, along with the availability factor of
manure, there is need to test the conditions of soil to assess the quantum of manure or
fertiliser required to be supplemented. Two, variation in potato productivity would
indicate that there is need to assess the soil conditions and accordingly make provision
to nourish the soil. In case there is no significant difference in productivity, looking at
the variations on the quantum of chemical fertiliser and organic manure applied, it
would imply that farmers in the study area are rational in application. This however is
not the case as it appears from the field data that high potato productivity in Biswanath
and Sakomotha is largely correlated to use of manure in higher quantum; and in
Baghmara and Naduar block limited use of fertiliser and manure has affected potato
productivity. Moreover, one area requires exploration to what extent price of fertilisers
and capability factor of the farmers inhabit application.
Potato crop is affected by fungal disease called ‘blight’. It is also affected by various
insects. Farmers in the study area use primarily Indofil M-45 and Cutter Pillar to
control diseases and infections. The price of Indofil M-45 was Rs. 440 per kg and the
price of Cutter pillar was Rs. 800 per litre. The quantity of chemical used per hectare
is given in the table 4.

Table 4: Quantity of chemical used per hectare by the farmers

Block

Indofil M-45 (in kg/hectare)

Cutter Pillar(in litre/hectare)

Baghmara

5.33

1.94

Biswanath

6.93

1.97

Naduar

4.64

1.85

Sakomotha

8.83

7.33

Source: Field Survey, 2015

 

 

The table 4 shows that there are variations in use of Indofil M-45 used per hectare in
the study blocks. Field interaction revealed the variations is due to capability factor to
purchase the chemicals as well as limited availability. Other inputs used in potato
production were labour, machinery and irrigation. Labour use in potato production has
been measured in terms of number of labour days. Machinery used has also been
measured in terms of number of days used. Irrigation used was measured in terms of
hours the pumps run for providing water. The level of use of these inputs is presented
in the table 5.

Table 5: Labour, machinery and irrigation used by the farmers

Blocks

Labour

(in days/hectare)

Machinery (in days/hectare)

Irrigation

(in hours/hectare)

Baghmara

150

10

20

Biswanath

147

11

19.5

Naduar

168

13

18

Sakomotha

140

10

18

Source: Field Survey, 2015

 

 

 

Labour use data indicate that cultivation in one hectare provide opportunity for one
person to get engaged for half of the year. Man days spent in other inputs indicate that
potato cultivation in the study area is labour intensive. It is however noticed that
intensity of labour use (Table 5) and productivity of potato (Table 6) have no association
in the study area. All the surveyed households were found using privately procured
boring and electric pumps to supply water in their fields. Irrigation is necessary as
potato in the area is grown only during the winter.

Table 6: Yield rate of potato in the surveyed farms

Blocks

Yield (in kg/hectare)

Biswanath

25600

Sakomotha

20150

Baghmara

19700

Naduar

18775

Source: Field Survey, 2015

 

The survey found that yield of potato in the study area is much higher than the state
average and comparable to the country average. The high yield rate of potato in
Biswanath and Sakomotha blocks can be attributed to extensive use of organic manure.
On the other hand, in case of non-availability of organic manure in adequate quantity,
the farmers supplement the requirements with chemical fertiliser. However, the price of
chemical fertiliser price acts as an impediment, as reported by the farm households.
The size class of operational holdings of the sample potato farmers indicate that that
most of the farmers in Biswanath and Sukomotha blocks have medium (4 to 10 ha of
size) and large holdings (more than 10 ha). In Biswanath block two third of the farmers
have medium and large holdings and in Sakomotha block 60 per cent of the farmers
have medium and large holdings. On the other hand in Bagmara and Naduar blocks 43 and 37 per cent farmers respectively have medium and large holdings. It appears that
larger size of holdings help the farmers to intensify inputs use and obtain high yield.
The yield rate of potato was found to increase with increase in the size of holdings
(Table 7).

Table 7: Yield rate of potato by size of holdings

 

Size of holdings (in Hectares)

Yield (in Kg/hectare)

Small (1-2 hectares)

19800

Semi-medium (2-4 hectares)

20113

Medium (4-10 hectares)

20781

Large (10 and above hectares)

21053

Source: Field Survey, 2015

 

 

The farmers in the study area produce potato primarily for market and sell through
middlemen at wholesale price. It was estimated that about 95 per cent of produce goes
to the market. The average price of potato received by the farmers varied from Rs. 9.5
in Naduar block to Rs. 7.6 in Sakomotha block during the time of field survey7 (Table
8).

Table 8: Gross revenue per hectare

Blocks

Average price per kg (in Rs)

Quantity sold per hectare (in kg)

Revenue per hectare (in Rs)

Biswanath

7.91

23177

183326

Naduar

9.53

18156

173029

Baghmara

8.07

19267

155483

Sakomotha

7.63

19648

149913

Source: Field Survey, 2015

 

 

 

The gross revenue per hectare is dependent on yield rate and price8. The cost of
production per hectare of potato helps to estimate the net revenue. Table 9 indicate that
there is less variation in input costs across the study blocks, but there is productivity
led variations in net revenue. We also find indication that higher yield is associated
with use of fertiliser and manure.

Table 9: Net revenue per  hectare

Blocks                                Total revenue per hectare (in Rs.)

Total cost per hectare (in Rs.)

Net Revenue per hectare (in Rs.)

Biswanath                                     183326

130155

53171

Naduar                                          173029

120838

52191

Baghmara                                     155483

117835

37648

Sakomotha                                    149913

114222

35691

All Total                                       165438

120763

44675

Source: Field Survey, 2015

 

 

The table 9 reveals that net return per hectare of potato cultivation varies with the yield (the case of Biswanath block) and the price received at market (Naduar block). The costs of production on the other hand vary with the amount of inputs used. Overall it reveals that to enhance the income of the farmers there is need to raise the yield and have a system to ensure remunerative price for the crop9.

 

V.     Determinants of Potato Productivity

 

An analysis of determinants of potato productivity is important to understand relative importance of various inputs. The farmers in study area use seeds, organic manure, chemical fertilisers,, labour, machineries as inputs to produce potato. This analysis however uses only the variables indicated in Table 10 to understand the determinists.

 

Specification of the model

 

The Cobb- Douglas type production function is used to estimate the relationship output and inputs used. The function is specified as below:

 

Y = A.Fb1.Mb2.MUb3 SCb4 FSb5

.            .

Where, 

Y = Output per hectare (kg), F = chemical fertiliser per hectare (in kg), M = manure  per hectare (in kg), MU = machinery use per hectare (in days), SC = seed cost per hectare (in Rupees) and FS = farm size (in hectare). ‘A’ stands for technological parameters.

 The Log-Linear form of the above function may be written as:

 Log Y = a + b1log F+ b2log M + b3log MU+ b4  log SC + b5log FS+ µ…………………….. (1)

Here, µ denotes the disturbance term that is assumed to follow the classical assumptions
of OLS estimation. The intercept term captures the effect of excluded variables. The
regression coefficients represent output elasticity with respect to the explanatory variables.
Results and Discussion:-


Initially, the regression was run with seven variables. But correlation between the
variables labour and machinery was found to be positive and significant. Similarly,
there was a positive correlation between chemical cost and fertilisers. Hence, to avoid
multicollinearity, variables labour and chemical cost were removed and finally five
explanatory variables were considered for the analysis. The result of the regression
analysis in equation 1 is presented in table 10.  

Table 10: Regression result for determinants of potato productivity

Dependent Variable: Log of output (Y) per hectare

Independent Variables

Co-efficient

SE

t-value

p-value

Log Fertiliser (F)

0.35

0.122

2.905***

0.004

Log Manure (M)

0.23

0.038

6.059***

0.00

Log Machinery Use (MU)

0.29

0.124

2.405**

0.018

Log Seed Cost (SC)

0.076

0.051

1.503

0.136

Log Farm Size (FS)

0.037

0.039

0.952

0.343

Constant

3.89

1.134

3.434

0.001

R-Square

0.35

 

 

 

Adjusted R Square

0.32

 

 

 

Note: *** and ** indicate significant at 1 and 5 per cent level respectively.

The results show that the coefficients of manure and fertiliser are positive and significant
level. However the output was found to be more elastic to fertiliser than manure. The
coefficient of machinery is also positive and significant. The coefficients of seed cost
and farm size are also positive but not statistically significant at any critical level. Thus,
it is seen that, among the five explanatory variables output is more elastic to fertiliser
followed by manure and machinery use. The relationship between farm size and
productivity in case of potato was positive but not significant. Hence, positive relationship
between farm size and productivity could not be confirmed. The sum of the coefficient
in Cobb-Douglas production function indicates returns to scale. The sum of the coefficient
was found to be 0.98 which indicated decreasing returns to scale in potato production.
Thus, it can be concluded that potato production is highly elastic to inputs like fertiliser,
manure and machinery. Application of seeds and farm size though were not found to
be significant at any critical level its’ positive co-efficient indicates that it has a direct
relation with level of output of potato. It can be suggested to encourage judicious use
of chemical fertilisers and organic manure along with HYV seed to raise productivity
of potato.

VI. Conclusion:-


An assessment on the condition of the soil and subsequent requirement of inputs for
nourishment appear as prime tasks to sustain agriculture productivity in the flood
ravaged state of Assam. In this state food and nutritional security to a large extent is
being ensured by cultivation of Rabi crops. In this context access and provisioning of
organic manure and fertiliser, quality seeds and irrigation are appearing as prime
contributing factors of productivity. The access factor of inputs also leads to the discussion
on agriculture credit and, input and farm subsidy to attain larger goal of sustainable
rural livelihood.
As revealed from the field survey there is production boom in the study pockets. Here
the concerns are to prevent post-harvest losses, ensure storage facilities10 so that
remunerative price for the farmers can be ensured. One positive indication inferred
from the field survey is preference for the use of organic manure over chemical fertiliser.
This is to an extent being ensured by the availability factor at village level. Concern
is also there to address the negative externalities of chemicals in rural areas. Steps are
also needed for ensuring a direct link between farmers and remunerative markets to
sustain the enthusiasm of the farmers.

References:-

Bara B C (2006) Agricultural Development in North- East India Challenges and Opportunities, National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, New Delhi

Chandrasekhar S and N Mehrotra (2016) Doubling Farmers’ Incomes by 2022: What would it take? Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. LI, No. 18, pp. 10-13

Deka K C, S B Mukhopadhaya, S Kumar (2014) “Constraints in Potato Cultivation in Assam: Farmers’ Experiences”, International Journal of Agricultural Sciences, Vol. 10, pp. 488-492

Dutta K B (2003), Theories of Share Cropping: Evidence from North- East India, Mittal Publications Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi

Government of Assam (2013-14), Economic Survey of Assam, Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Planning and Development Department

Government of Assam (2014) Statistical Hand Book, Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Government of Assam

Government of India (2012) Economic Survey of India 2011-12, Ministry of Finance, Government of India

              Government of India (2015) Basic Statistics of North Eastern Region 2015, North Eastern Council, Shillong

              Kumar P, S Mittal (2006) Agricultural Productivity Trends in India: Sustainability Issues,

Agricultural Economics Research Review, Vol. 19, pp. 71-88

Kumar S, Uma Sah, N K Pandey (2006) SWOT Analysis of Potato Cultivation in East Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya: Farmers’ Perception, Potato Journal, Vol.33 (3-4), pp. 144-148

Lal H, K D Sharma (2006) Economics of Potato Production in Lahaul Valley of Himachal Pradesh, Potato Journal, Vol. 33 (3-4), pp. 139-143

Pandey S K, D Sarkar (2005) Potato in India: Emerging Trends and Challenges in the New Millennium, Potato Journal, Vol. 32(3-4), pp. 93-104

Sah Uma, S K Dubey, J P Sharma (2011) Potato Marketing in North East Region of India: A Diagnostic Study, Community Mobilization and Sustainable Development, Vol. 6(2), pp. 194-  201

Saikia M, R Helin,  K C Thakur, P S Naik (2007) Evaluation of Potato-based Crop Sequences  for Upland Cultivation in Assam, Potato Journal, Vol. 34(1-2), pp. 113-114

Saxena Rani, P Mathur (2013) Analysis of Potato Production Performance and Yield Variability in India, Potato Journal, Vol. 40 (1), pp. 38-44

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