Agri Business

Telangana’s rising cotton acreage could spell trouble

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on May 19, 2020

Govt can do a pilot before launching it State-wide

The Telangana government’s call to farmers to grow cotton on 70 lakh acres as against the normal area of 40-45 lakh acres came in as a surprise to cotton industry watchers in the State.

Four years ago, the State launched a campaign ‘Patti Vaddu, Soya Muddu’ (Say no to cotton, say yes to soya), with a target to reduce the cotton production by 30 per cent when the State was growing the fibre crop on 40 lakh acres.

The government had then argued that there were no takers for cotton in the domestic and international markets. The farmers relented and cut down on cotton that year.

It, however, reached the peak levels of 45-46 lakh acres in the last few years as the crop offered the farmers decent returns.

But Monday’s statement by the Chief Minister asking the farmers to increase the acreage to 70 lakh acres, or by 50-55 per cent, came as a big surprise to farmers’ leaders.

Paddy or cotton?

After a record production of one crore tonnes of paddy this year, the government expected that the paddy area would jump to 70 lakh acres from the present 40-45 lakh acres as sumptuous availability of water from new irrigation projects coming in handy to farmers.

The shift in focus in favour of cotton may be aimed at discouraging farmers from increasing the water-guzzling paddy crop.

Excessive dependence on one crop could cause enormous problems if weather plays truant. Considering the huge investments required for the fibre crop, a failed season could leave farmers in severe distress. The prices are also linked to international demand, which is cyclical in nature, and could push them to losses if there are no takers.

Cotton, though assured minimum returns to farmers, has been a cause of concern ever since the area shot up after the introduction of GM cotton about 15 years ago. It led to acute farm distress, pushing farmers to severe financial crisis.

Farmers are not getting more than ₹3,000 a quintal, S Malla Reddy, Vice-President of All-India Kisan Sabha, felt.

Woes aplenty

Sudden increase in cotton acreage could also lead to severe shortage of seeds. Quality seeds are not something that can be procured in a short span of time, said Kanneganti Ravi, Convener of Rythu Swarajya Vedika.

Reddy argues that there has been no enumeration of soil health cards in the State. Without a proper assessment of the soil, there is no use bringing in a paradigm shift in the cropping pattern. Instead of going for a huge jump in cotton acreage, the government can experiment it in a few districts as it gets ready with a crop map for different districts. It should develop a model, with a reliable credit support system and a good post-harvest support structure, helping the farmers get good returns at the markets.

In the absence of a robust marketing support system, the excessive emphasis on one crop would not give confidence to farmers. The Government should discuss with the Nabard and SLBC (State-level Banking Committee) for additional credit support to the farmers.

Also, some other issues such as no mention of dryland crops such as millets, too, need to be addressed.

Published on May 19, 2020

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