By admin       2019-03-28

Bathinda, March 27, 2019 - After falling short by over 25 per cent last year, the Agriculture Department has set a target area of 3 lakh hectares for cotton cultivation in the state this year. The area under cotton had touched 2.84 lakh hectares last year as against the target area of 4 lakh hectares. Experts attribute the shortfall to various factors like canal water shortage in the sowing season, constant threat of diseases to the crop, lack of “remunerative prices” and no purchase by government agencies. Ashok Kapur, former president, North India Cotton Association, said, “The cotton prices have crossed the Rs 6,000 per quintal mark at the fag end of the season, which is benefitting only a small section of farmers who had the holding capacity. A vast majority of the farmers sold their produce when the prices were hovering between Rs 5,000 and Rs 5,500 per quintal. The farmers expect better yield and prices every year. However, they get disillusioned when the prices don’t increase in proportion to their input costs.” He said the cotton farmers were also deprived of the assured prices nowadays, as the government agencies were keeping away from the market for the last couple of years. In this scenario, they were left at the mercy of private traders, he added. Farm experts also feel that the farmers no more see cotton as a “paying crop”, as it is fraught with the risk of pest attacks and rate variation. Besides, it is highly dependent on the weather conditions. They say there is every possibility that a section of cotton farmers may shift to basmati, which recorded a good yield and fetched remunerative prices last year. They say they have even appealed to the farmers not to go for basmati in large numbers, as the move may backfire too. Farmer leader Shangar Singh Mann said the canal water shortage in sowing season took a toll on the area under cotton cultivation, forcing farmers to opt for paddy. He said the government must ensure proper canal water supply, the availability of seeds and assured prices of crop to the farmers, if it intended to increase the area under cotton. On the other hand, Parminder Singh, Joint Director, Agriculture, said he wasn’t aware of the last year’s target area, but they always made an effort to increase the area under cotton cultivation. He claimed that the crop witnessed a good yield and the farmers got remunerative prices of their produce last year, while expressing hope that the crop would find more takers in the coming season. The Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) had offered to make direct purchase of cotton last year, but the farmers were reluctant to bypass the arhtiyas with whom they share a long-time association. The farmers chose to sell cotton to private traders instead of the CCI at a price below the MSP of Rs 5,350 per quintal.

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