Cotton cultivation no longer a soft option for Telangana farmers

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on January 27, 2018 Published on May 05, 2016

Telangana farmers meets State officials in Mominpet. KV KURMANATH

A poster urging Telangana farmers to diversify away from cotton

They are diversifying away from the water-intensive cash crop, with helpfrom the State government

Patti Vaddu, Soya Muddu (Say No to Cotton, Go for Soya) reads a poster pinned to a tree at the Mominpet panchayat office.

With cotton failing the farmers for the third consecutive kharif season last year, they are wary of continuing to cultivate the cash crop and are weighing the merits of going in for alternatives, as suggested by State government officials.

But farmers in Telangana don’t really have much of a choice, given that the State grows the fibre crop in 40 lakh acres, making it one of the top cotton-growing areas in the country. With losses mounting, however, they are being encouraged to look at options like soya, maize, red gram and millets, but doubts about the economic viability of venturing anew torments them.

Telangana has about 1.6 crore acres of arable land, but given the lack of water availability, only about 1 crore acres are being harnessed. Of these, only 40 lakh acres have assured water, with the remaining area being serviced by not-so-dependable borewells.

After three consecutive years of failed monsoon, the farmers are broke; the acute drought situation today, accentuated by a 50 per cent deficit rainfall in many places, has leaves them helpless.

Media and meteorological reports forecasting a normal monsoon bring no cheer to the farmers here. “They said the same thing last year. We got some early showers too, but that was followed by long dry spells,” Narsimhulu, a farmer in Mominpet village, about 85 kilometres from Hyderabad, told BusinessLine.

Against the State’s normal rainfall of about 850 mm a year (from the South-West and the North-East monsoons), Telangana received only about 650 mm last year. The distribution of rainfall was quite erratic, pushing a majority of the mandals (revenue divisions) into distress.

Worried, the State government has decided to reduce the area under cotton cultivation by at least 30 per cent this year. Last year, farmers grew cotton on 40 lakh acres, which accounts for 40 per cent of the crop area in the State.

“Farmers are seeing reason. They are asking questions on alternatives and crop management techniques for such alternative crops,” said Tejovati, Additional Director (Agriculture Department, of Marpally division in Ranga Reddy district. The division she represents has about 32,000 hectares under cultivation, all of it rain-fed. “We are organising awareness camps and distributing literature on alternatives. A good number of them are showing interest to know more,” she said.

Her claim is validated by farmers on the field. “I have three acres and have decided to grow soya and maize in two acres and cotton on one acre,” Narsimhulu said.

After taking stock of the grassroots-level situation at a recent District Collectors’ meet, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao asked farmers to diversify away from cotton, which may not yield them adequate returns this year. Prof M Kodandaram, Convenor of the Telangana Joint Action Committee (T-JAC), which spearheaded the movement for a separate State, has demanded that banks reschedule crop loans and has asked the State government to prepare a list of eligible farmers for loan rescheduling.

Published on May 05, 2016
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