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In Saurashtra, farmers face a bitter harvest of debt

RUTAM VORA | Updated on January 27, 2018 Published on May 13, 2016

A farmer in Naranka village in Rajkot district prepares his field in the hope of a good monsoon DEEPIKA GANDHI

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But crop insurance cover provides some relief

Rajkot: For three months now, the Saurashtra region, the heartland of groundnut and cotton cultivation in Gujarat, has turned totally dry, with no water available for agriculture and cattle.

The region’s worst-affected districts account for over 85 per cent of the area under kharif groundnut and 70 per cent of the sowing area under cotton.

The quantum of rainfall last year was 20 per cent lower than the three-decade average of 797 mm. An attack of pink boll-worm in the cotton crop compounded the farmers’ misery.

Given the inadequate water and the low remuneration realised from the poor quality of cotton (owing to the pest attack), farmers fell heavily into debt.

“Many farmers have been affected by the crop damage,” said Ramesh Bhorania, a farmer in Rajkot district. “However, despite the water scarcity, farmers are sticking to groundnut and cotton for kharif sowing – mainly out of hope of a good monsoon this year,” he added.

The extent of water shortage in key growing regions can be deduced from the summer sowing data released by the State government. As on May 11, only 77 per cent of area was covered as compared to last year. The State's total summer sowing stood at 7,58,600 hectares this year, against 9,73,900 hectares for the same period last year.

Changing cropping pattern

Interestingly, due to water scarcity in the growing regions, some farmers have made changes in the crop selection. Sowing of pulses has gone up significantly, along with onion. Area under urad increased to 9,000 hectares, over 3.5 times last year’s 2,500 hectares.

“The selection of crop is important in times of scarcity,” says Bhorania. “Last year, many farmers burnt their fingers due to cotton price volatility. This year, the impact of the scarcity is severe. Farmers are already burdened by debt.”

Crop insurance

In some of the scarcity-hit regions of Saurashtra, the State government has extended crop insurance cover up to 88 per cent of the loss, providing relief to farmers, who have taken on farm loans but secured inadequate returns from the crop. Farmers typically have a loan burden of ₹1-2 lakh each. In Jamkhambhaliya taluka in Devbhumi Dwarka district, farmers have taken on over ₹500 crore in farm loans, which is covered by crop insurance.

APMC Chairman Pratapsinh Jadeja welcomed the move, but expressed concern about disbursement of insurance claims. “The government and the banks have made it compulsory for claims resolution to be made online, but many farmers are not equipped to use technology. At least 70 per cent of the farmers may fall through the gaps,” says Jadeja, who is also a Congress leader.

“The impact of water scarcity, and the failure to complete irrigation schemes in time is adding to the farmers’ distress,” says Praful Senjaliya, a farmer leader from Amreli.

Published on May 13, 2016
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