By admin       2017-12-28

The plight of cotton farmers might have cost the BJP quite a few seats in the just-concluded Gujarat Assembly polls. The issue may return to haunt the Congress Government in Karnataka in the Assembly polls in May. Plummeting prices of cotton in international markets and destruction of crops in several parts of the country have given nightmares to cotton growers. The cotton price in Gujarat came down by 60-70 per cent from the maximum support price fixed by the Centre ahead of the Assembly polls. It’s believed that cotton (kapas) cost the BJP more than PAAS (Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti ) in Gujarat. In the Saurashtra-Kutch region of Gujarat, farmers destroyed their crops due to crash in prices. The plight of cotton farmers is set to be a big issue in poll-bound Karnataka, where 35 out of 224 Assembly seats fall in the cotton belt. Karnataka stands fourth in cotton-growing States in the country. Farmers are already up in the arms against the Mahadayi water share dispute between Karnataka and Goa. The cotton growers are distressed due to crashing prices, poor quality of seeds, and uneven climatic condition. Many of the farmers shifted to this high income-oriented crop, but now they are forced to destroy their standing crops, which are hit by pink bollworms. As per reports, cotton growers of Raichur, Yadgir, Bellary and Bagalkot districts have destroyed their crops due to crash in price and poor quality of seeds that damaged the crops. Cotton growers have been demanding compensation from the State Government. The issue has already taken a political colour. As per the Agriculture Ministry data, cotton growing districts are Haveri, Davanagere, Bijapur, Bagalkot, Dharwar, Kamrajnagar, Shimoga, Koppal, Chitradurga, Belgaum, Bellary, Gadag, Mysore, Raichur and Gulbarga. Farms distress will impact at least 35-40 Assembly seats in the State. Cotton has been sown in 4.170 lakh hectare in 2017 as compared to 4.640 lakh hectare last year. Binod Kumar Pandey, who is a member-secretary of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, told The Pioneer that the prices offered to cotton is far below the support price. He also said that the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) has not purchased cotton from farmers, claiming that their yield has about 12 per cent of moisture. “Private traders are paying farmers anything between Rs 1,500 and Rs3,000 against the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 4,320 per quintal, knowing that the latter is left with no choice,” he said. Pandey further stated that farmers who shifted from pulses and edible oilseeds to sow cotton for better realisation would certainly get disappointed with a possible decline in their income this year due to the price crash. “Hundreds of farmers have committed suicides in cotton growing areas in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Telangana due to high debt caused by crop failure despite the bumper harvesting of kharif crops this year,” Pandey said. He also demanded that steps must be taken to put an end on the sale of spurious cotton seeds in the country. A Congress leader said on the condition of anonymity that Congress will have to face several bottleneck ahead of Assembly polls next year. The State Government should resolve the farmers’ issue at earliest; otherwise it would harm the Congress. There have been some cases of pest attacks (pink bollworms) in several parts including Karnataka and Telangana which saw less output by about 20 per cent. According to Agriculture Ministry data, the cotton production is estimated at 375 lakh bales of 170 kg each for the year 2017-18 as compared to 337.25 lakh bales last year. The area of acreage under cotton has also registered over 120 lakh hectare in 2017-18 as compared to 101 lakh hectare in 2016-17. The increase in crop estimated for 2017-18 is on account of the higher acreage under cotton than compared to the previous year. The acreage under cotton during 2017-18 is estimated to be more by about 19 per cent than that of the previous season. The cotton production had touched a record of over four crore bales in 2013-14, fell to 386 lakh bales in 2014-15 and declined further to 338 lakh bales in 2015-16, the lowest in last five years. The domestic consumption is estimated at 320 lakh bales while the exports are expected to be about 63 lakh bales.

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