During the past thirty years, dynamic changes in chickpea area and production have occurred in India resulting in a shift in the center of production away from the traditional growing areas in northwest and northeast India to central and peninsular India. Between 1965 to 2004 the chickpea area in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab and West Bengal declined from 4.3 million ha to 1.1 million ha while its production fell from 3.1 million t to 1.0 million t. In contrast, there has been expansion in the area under chickpea in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Maharashtra, from 2.2 million ha (1965-69) to 4.2 million ha (2004-05) and production from 1.0 to 3.2 million ha (Figure 1).
These changes are also observed at the more disaggregated district level. This is substantiated by the change in ratio of chickpea area between 1966 and 2004 (area in 2004/area in 1966) with area decreasing significantly in 119 districts (ratio<0.85), increasing in 69 districts (ratio >1.15) and remaining constant in only 11 districts (ratio 0.85 to 1.15). These changes also allude to greater specialization of chickpea area. For instance, in 1966 the top 50 districts accounted for 63% of chickpea area in India, while in 2004 the top 50 districts accounted for 73% of chickpea area indicating greater relative concentration.
The productivity of chickpea has not gone down despite being relegated to marginal and high-risk prone areas with shorter growth cycle due to terminal drought. On the contrary, it increased by 1.7% in the central and peninsular India and is now at par with the yield levels in the traditional growing areas (Figure 1). This was possible due to development of improved varieties of early maturing desi and kabuli chickpea cultivars tolerant to heat stress and with resistance to Fusarium wilt leading to higher and stable yields. However, managing the insect pest Helicoverpa (a pod borer) is essential to harvest reasonable yields. Also, chickpea breeding programs need to focus on the most preferred quality traits such as grain size, color, texture, type and cooking quality with a view to satisfy consumer preferences (hence market prices), which vary from region to region.