Low yield, prices hit Haryana cotton farmers

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Rajinder Singh of Fathepuria Niyamat Khan village in Sirsa district is quite perturbed. His cotton crop this year has betrayed him. All he managed to get from his five-acre field was 10 quintals of cotton, which is barely enough to meet the cost of cultivation. What prompted Singh to go for cotton as kharif crop again this year was the bumper harvest he reaped last year. “My yield last year was 100 mun (nearly 40 quintals) of cotton. But the harvest this year is not even enough to cover my input costs let alone labour and other (crop-related) expenses,” said Singh.

He is still to figure out what had hit him. “Weather wasn’t very bad. I think there was some problem with certain packets of seeds I bought. And also I am not sure about the quality of pesticides I bought from the market. Despite their use, much was lost to insects,” Singh said. Satyawan Singh Nain of Jandli Khurd village of Fatehabad district was not as unlucky as the cotton farmer from the neighbouring district. But, still, Nain’s cotton yield was down by one-third this season. “I got 18 mun (7.2 quintal) per acre this year as compared to 28 mun (11.2 quintal) during the last season. Besides, the prices are down in the market,” said Nain who sold half his produce already and is holding on to the rest hoping for a better price in the future.

A good crop and better prices last year prompted farmers in Rohtak, Hisar, Fatehabad and Sirsa districts — collectively known as the cotton belt of Haryana — to take to cotton farming in a big way. Needless to say, the area under cotton cultivation during the kharif 2017 went up by a substantial 27 per cent to 6.56 lakh hectares from 5.16 lakh hectares in 2016. But it now turns out that a large number of cotton farmers in the State have to be satisfied with a below par crop. “Our hunch is that average yield is low this time. But I can’t put a number to it as we are still compiling the data,” said an official from the district agriculture office in Fatehabad. The damage is mostly suffered by farmers who went for a late sowing as there was a whitefly attack subsequently, he added.

However, sources at the Cotton Corporation of India office in Sirsa said the corporation has set a procurement target of 23 lakh bales (of 170 kg each) as against the previous season’s 20 lakh bales. “We have so far procured 12-13 lakh yarns and are hopeful of meeting the target,” they said. The average yield is still down considering that the expected increase in yield is 10-15 per cent whereas the area of cultivation has gone up by 27 per cent.

Rohit Bansal, a trader at the Fatehabad mandi, said the cotton prices are down 15-20 per cent compared to last year. For most farmers, the good yield and better prices that paddy fetched have offset their losses from cotton. “Most rice varieties grown by farmers around Fatehabad have attracted on an average 1000 or more per quintal this time,” he said. The number of farmers who have grown only cotton may be a small minority, said Bansal.

Source: The Business Line

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