Area under cotton cultivation has increased by 50 percent in Punjab. It has been sown on 3.82 lakh hectares this year against 2.57 lakh hectares last year.
The last year’s dip was attributed to farmers switching to paddy after the whitefly attack that destroyed over 60% of the cotton crop. Also known as the cotton belt of Punjab, it caused an estimated loss of Rs 4,200 crore in Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar and Fazilka districts.
Director, Agriculture, JS Bains said awareness camps and high prices between Rs 6,000 and Rs 6,500 per 100kg for their produce last year encouraged more farmers to go for sowing cotton this year. “Per hectare yield in 2016 was 756kg as compared to 197kg in 2015. We held training sessions for farmers on preventive practices to avoid whitefly attack,” he added.
“Our surveillance teams kept us updated about the growth of cotton sowing area. We had familiarised farmers about the preventive techniques like yellow trap which kept the whitefly away from the field,” he said, adding that the cultivable area is likely to increase to six-lakh hectare by the next year.
Cotton farmers say they have bought seeds and pesticides prescribed by the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana and expect better yield this year.
The government wants to revive cotton production to end the wheat-paddy cycle, he said, adding the area is not suited to paddy cultivation due to depleting water table.The Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) also attributed better prices to increased cotton acreage. CCI Bathinda branch manager Brijesh Kasana said, “The average price offered for cotton was Rs 5,500-Rs 5,600 a quintal and last year it jumped to Rs 6,500. The farmers realised this and they have sown the crop expecting similar dividends this year too.”
“The input cost of growing water-guzzling paddy is more than cotton,” said Ram Singh of Behnibagah village in Mansa. Cotton cultivation needs less water and thus involves no fuel cost for running submersible pumps, he added. “The choice to grow cotton is more of a compulsion than choice due to poor supply of canal water,” said farmer Joginder Singh of Makha village, adding that the underground water is not suitable for the cotton crop.