Assam is the largest economy in the entire North Eastern region and more industrially developed than other North Eastern States. Primarily an agriculture based economy, the state has one of the most fertile stretches of land in India, along the Brahmaputra valley, which is suitable for the cultivation of a wide variety of cash and food crops on a commercial basis. The State is rich in natural resources like oil and natural gas, coal, rubber, minerals like granite and limestone, forests and water resources, tea and oil/ petroleum sectors. It is also renowned for its arts and crafts, associated with the cottage industries including handloom, sericulture, cane and bamboo articles, carpentry, brass and bell-metal crafts. Assam also produces varieties of silk like Eri, Muga, and Tassar. Besides, there is easy availability of qualified, efficient and skilled labour at reasonable costs. Also, attractive tourism potential exists in the area of nature tourism as well as cultural heritage.
AGRICULTURE AND HORTICULTURE
Agriculture occupies an important place in the economy of Assam. The principal food crop is rice and the cash crops are jute, tea, cotton, oilseeds and sugarcane. The State has an estimated 39.44 lakh hectares gross cropped area, of which net area sown is about 27.01 lakh hectares. The agro-climatic condition of the State favors the growth of varieties of fruits and vegetables including orange, banana, pineapple, areca nut, coconut, guava, mango, jackfruit, citrus fruits, ginger, turmeric, chilies and potatoes. Until recently, horticulture was a non-commercial activity in the state. However, with better quality of planting material, sufficient research support and better know-how, the State could easily be poised for a major boom in the fruit growing and food processing industry.
Assam is the largest producer of tea in India. Assam accounts for nearly 53% of the all India production and about 1/6th of the tea produced in the world. Around 80 million kgs of tea are exported annually from Assam. Assam tea is famous for its distinct quality, especially for its strong liquor, rich taste and color. Tea is grown both in the Brahmaputra and Barak plains of the State. Tea gardens are mostly found in the districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Nagaon and Sonitpur. For marketing the entire tea industry of North East, a Tea Auction Centre called ‘Guwahati Tea Auction Centre’, has been established. This is the world's second largest tea auction centre in terms of total tea. About 17 percent of the workers of Assam are engaged in the tea industry and thus, the industry contributes substantially to the economy of Assam.
Assam has the oldest oil refinery in the country set up at Digboi with the oldest and the longest cross country crude oil pipeline. Oil Exploration in Assam has the highest success ratio in the world. The state also accounts for one of the biggest pool of professional and skilled manpower engaged in the oil and petroleum industry. Thus, with the State’s inherent strength built over a century and with the future potential, Assam offers opportunities for exploration in the oil and gas sector. It has opened up the oil sector to private participants. Also, the declaration of the Brahmaputra as a national waterway has facilitated transportation of raw materials and project equipment for the growth of the oil sector in the state.
Assam is widely abundant in mineral resources. The exploitation of minerals in the State mainly comprises of petroleum (crude), natural gas (utilized), coal, limestone and minor minerals. Petroleum (crude) is the principal mineral produced in the State. Assam coal is friable in nature and has a high sulphur content which is mainly utilised by local railways, steamers and hydro power stations.
Limestone is also one important mineral found in the state which is used in the manufacture of cement, as flux in iron and steel production, and as raw materials for chemical industries. There are several opportunities for investment in this area. Natural gas is another valuable source of power and various other chemical by-products. In Assam, almost all the petroleum producing areas of the Brahmaputra Valley contains 'associated natural gas'.
Assam is endowed with granites of variegated colors, ranging from off-white to grey and pink. It is found in the central and lower parts of Assam.
The State of Assam is one of the most beautiful regions of India. Its natural landscape, rich flora and fauna, lush green forests and wildlife sanctuaries offer a wide choice to cater to the tastes of tourists. It is known for its historical monuments, pilgrimage spots, tea gardens and colorful ethnic festivals. Assam is one of the best destinations where one can encounter a great variety of rare and endangered wildlife species as well as enjoy sports like angling, trekking, rock climbing and mountaineering. But, the tourism industry of Assam is yet to be completely explored and there are many opportunities for those interested in this virgin land.
There is also immeasurable investment potential in Assam in the following industries:-
- Cane and Bamboo - Cane furniture of Assam is much sought after both in the national and international markets. Cane and Bamboo are used to make large varieties of domestic products. In case of bamboo and cane, the State Government of Assam has accorded priority to the sector as a key element responsible for the state’s development.
- Brass and Bell metal - Assam is famous worldwide for her strength, beauty and utility of brass and bell metal products. Brass-work being an important traditional handicraft of Assam, brass articles are produced not only for day-to-day use, but also for interior decoration. Bell-metal work is a traditional cottage industry of Assam. Gold, silver and copper also forms a part of the traditional metal craft in Assam.
- Sericulture and Handloom - Assam is the home of several types of silks as the climatic condition of Assam is well suited for the growth of this sector. Traditional varieties of silk cultured include eri, muga and mulberry. However, now a variety known as Tassar is being cultured on an experimental basis. The muga silk has contributed to the development of the muga culture in the State because Assam is the only place in the world where it is cultured. Assam has the largest concentration of handlooms and weavers in India. The number of looms in the State stands at around eight lakhs which works out to around 16 per cent of the looms in the entire country. Cotton, muga, paat (mulberry silk) and endi are the basic raw materials for hand-woven fabrics in Assam. The traditional handloom silks hold a prominent position in the world market and scores over factory-made silks in the richness of their textures, designs, individuality, character and classic beauty. With further contribution of capital and modern methods, the state of Assam can offers a tremendous potential for the development of large-scale industries based on silk.