Updated April 19th, 2024 at 16:42 IST

Climate Resilient Crop, Primary Feedstock For Ethanol: Why India is Prioritising Maize Cultivation

Cultivation of maize is being emphasised as it requires less water and is also a climate resilient crop, which easily grows in changing climates and soils.

Reported by: Abhishek Tiwari
Maize cultivation in India | Image:Representational

New Delhi: As the world grapples with the severity of drinking water shortage, the cultivation of crops remains another crucial concern amid the growing crisis of drinking water. The escalating deficiency of water has pushed the world to choose cultivation of crops that require less water and Maize is one such crop, which is extensively grown throughout the world. As per the reports, another important aspect of Maize cultivation is that it has overtaken sugarcane to become one of the primary feedstocks for ethanol in India amid the Government of India's push for the alternative fuel.

Cultivation of maize, also known as corn, is being emphasised for its climate resilient tendency, which allows it to easily grow in changing climates and soils. Less water requirement for cultivation is another driving factor for increasing cultivation of Maize. Not only this, experts say that the inclusion of maize in mixed cropping systems can also lead to improved soil health and pest management. Amid push for ethanol in India, let's know why the cultivation and production of maize is being prioritised.


Maize cultivation has increased in India in last few years, says data

India's maize production has continuously increased in the last few years owing to various government initiatives such as the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) and the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), along with the use of modern upgraded technologies in the cultivation, making the country a leader in the global maize market. The crop reportedly is cultivated on about 10 million hectares of land across the country with major maize-producing states such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh.


Talking about the maize production in India and the challenges it face, farming expert, Dr Mamtamayi Priyadarshini, while citing data, stated, “According to recent data, India's maize production reached 28 million tonnes (MT) in the financial year 2021-2022, and it rose to 34.61 million tonnes in the 2022-23 financial year (July-June). As per NITI Aayog, given the increasing demand for ethanol in India, the Indian government aims to increase the production of maize from the current 3.5 MT per hectare to 6 MT per hectare through the adoption of improved agricultural practices, hybrid seeds, and mechanization.”

“According to a report, India's maize production is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 1.34 percent this year, which is slower than the pace of growth in consumption, which is expected to grow at a CAGR of 1.82 percent during 2021-31. Moreover, the share of maize used in animal feed is expected to increase from the current 51 per cent to about 54 per cent by 2031,” said Priyadarshini.


According to a report, market prices of maize have increased by 20 per cent from Rs 22,000 per tonne to Rs 26,500 per tonne in the last 3 months due to increasing demand from the poultry industry and the government's focus on ethanol production.

“Today, maize prices are ruling above the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 2090 per quintal for the current crop year (2023-24), as the poultry sector is witnessing an annual growth rate of around 8 per cent. The production does not match the demand. The Government of India has set a target of blending 20 per cent bioethanol into petrol and diesel by the year 2030 and in order to achieve it, the requirement of food grains for ethanol production will be around 165 LMT. Globally, corn is a primary feedstock for ethanol production because it consumes less water and is easier to produce,” the farming expert added.


What is Genetically Modified Maize?

Apparently, due to the increasing demand for maize and the pressure of higher production, today the discussion about genetically modified (GM) maize is gaining momentum, which are engineered for insect resistance and related trait value. Moreover, genetically modified corn is expected to play an important role in overcoming the agricultural challenges of maize. However, the cultivation of GM crops may face a myriad of problems such as biosafety, environmental impact, farmer autonomy, and consumer preferences. Hence the commercialization of GM maize continues to be a matter of debate among experts in India. 


Published April 19th, 2024 at 02:21 IST