Lack of rains renders 15 lakh hectares of cotton fields in state useless

Jul 07, 2014, 07:15 IST | Varun Singh

Farmers are complaining that they have sowed the seeds but the delay in the onset of monsoon has prevented them from germinating; they want state to intervene and help them re-sow crops

Nearly 15 lakh hectares of cotton plantation in Maharashtra have dried up and gone to waste. Farmers claim they had sowed seeds in June, like every year, but the lack of rainfall means the seeds have not germinated.

Farmers spend nearly Rs 30,000 on growing a hectare of cotton. They now want to re-sow seeds of pulses to make up for their losses. Representation pic/Thinkstock
Farmers spend nearly Rs 30,000 on growing a hectare of cotton. They now want to re-sow seeds of pulses to make up for their losses. Representation pic/Thinkstock

Farmers claim the seeds are now completely useless. “In the past, we used to count rainfall in inches in the state. But now, we are measuring the same in centimetres. In Maharashtra, cotton farming is carried out on 44 lakh hectares of land, but this year cotton was sown on only 20 lakh hectares.

Even in this, most of the planted seeds haven’t germinated because there were no rains,” said Kishore Tiwari, founder of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), an NGO that has been monitoring issues affecting the farmers’ community in Vidarbha.

The state agricultural commissioner, Umakant Dangat, also took the same line. “We already are late by a month, which means the yield will be adversely affected. Also, if we sow the seeds late, the plants become prone to pests and other diseases. However, I am hopeful that the rains will surely come and we will be able to get the productivity desired,” said Dangat.

No more cotton
But, it seems Dangat is unaware that farmers in rural Maharashtra have already given up hopes on cotton farming, at least for this season. “Farmers want to carry out re-sowing but not of cotton, because the time for cotton farming is gone now. They want to re-sow other crops such as pulses.

But, that’s possible only if they get help from the government, as they have already spent money on cotton farming and unless the state government provides farmers with some sort of subsidy, they cannot invest in re-plantation,” said Tiwari.

Tiwari believes the condition is grim for farmers in parched Vidarbha cotton being the cash crop that brought in the most money for them. He expects yields to drop by 50 per cent. He estimates it costs about R30,000 to cultivate the crop on a hectare of land, and that farmers have no money to bear the costs of another round of planting seeds of another crop, unless state authorities lent a helping hand.

However, the state feels some of the plantation can still be saved. As per Dangat, nearly 3-5 lakh hectares of cotton farms are safe, as these fields have access to drip irrigation. Yet, this, too, is largely dependent on the monsoon.

“I am hopeful that farmers will come up with some innovative steps and the government shall help them in every possible manner, with schemes and policies available with us from the central and the state government,” said Dangat.

An official from the department of agriculture told mid-day that the state produced 95.3 crore kg bales of cotton, with each bale fetching nearly Rs 35,000, last year.

As per the recently released National Crime Record Bureau, Maharashtra witnessed 3,146 farmer suicides in 2013 a total of 60,768 farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra since 1995 to 2013.

95.3 crore kg
Total bales of cotton produce in the state in the year 2013

How much it costs
>> Rs 30,000: Cost it requires to grow cotton on a hectare of land
>> 5 bags of cotton seeds are required per hectare
>> Rs 900: Cost of each bag of cotton seeds
>> 450 grams: Weight of each bag of cotton seeds

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