The National Highway 9 , which connects Delhi to the border town of Fazilka in Punjab, has a lesser-known distinction. The 403-kilometre-long carriageway, which cuts through four major districts of Haryana — namely, Rohtak, Hisar, Fatehabad and Sirsa — bifurcates the region broadly into two in terms of agricultural practices. While fields on one side of the NH-9 grow mainly paddy, those on the other are known more for growing cotton. “Over the years, there may be some changes with increased water availability, but this has broadly been the trend,” says a farmer leader based in Fatehabad.
Record cotton sowing The region, known as the cotton belt of Haryana, has assumed significance this year, as there has been a record sowing of cotton, on 6.3 lakh hectares, which is over a quarter more than the 5 lakh ha in the corresponding period last year. “More and more farmers are going for cotton this year and the official estimates project that the total area of cultivation would come to 6.53 lakh ha as against 5.7 lakh ha in 2016-17,” says Roshan Lal, a former professor of entomology at the Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar. “Many farmers who grew pulses, such as pigeonpea, and green gram or oilseeds, such as groundnut, are going for cotton as the cash crop fetched a good price last year,” In 2016, Haryana’s cotton growers had a bountiful yield after white fly attacks for three years in a row led to dwindling of the yield. “Farmers in the region were left with limited choice as many areas suffer from water scarcity and hence were not suitable for paddy,” says Chandrabhan, who grows cotton in Buthan Kalan village of Fatehabad district. According to statistics available from Fatehabad district officials, cotton is grown on over 72,500 ha out of 2.5 lakh ha of cultivable land. “For them, it is nothing but a roll of dice. The crop has become less and less remunerative over the years. They still do it because they know nothing but farming,” says Chandrabhan who is also a lawyer. While prices of seeds and inputs have gone up significantly, the price that a farmer gets has either stayed at what it was some 15 years ago or come down. For instance, he says, a quintal of cotton was priced around ₹5,500 in 2001, the best price available to a farmer last year was ₹5,000 per quintal.
High costs Even at a price of ₹ 5,000 per quintal, a tenant farmer sustains losses, he argues. He says a tenant farmer has to shell out ₹41,000 as rent, input costs, and labour charges. The best yield of 8 quintal per acre gets him only ₹40,000. Vijay Dukda, a cotton farmer in Dukda village, 18 km from Sirsa town, has another concern. He says he wanted to go for non-Bt cotton this time, but can’t get the seeds. “I wanted to go for it as Bt cotton growing was affecting the productivity of the wheat crop I grow following the cotton harvest,” he says. The country-wide kharif crop sowing data released by the Agriculture Ministry on June 30 actually shows that of a total area of 6.3 lakh ha under cotton cultivation, less than 1 per cent is growing non-Bt cotton.
Source: Business Line
Published on: July 19, 2017