For the first time, Maharashtra has officially admitted that cotton yield is likely to reduce by nearly 40%. Bt cotton failure in more than 4 million hectares of land has reduced cotton yieldfrom 3.5 million quintal to 2.2 million quintal.
A report sent by the state agricultural department to the Centre states that the estimate of the net direct economic loss to cotton farmers in the state will be nearly Rs6,000 crore, whereas accumulated losses are likely to cross more than Rs20,000 crore due to a steep rise in cultivation costs.
Farmers and activists in the state’s cotton belt say the rise in the prices of Bt cotton seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and labour since last year has had a huge impact. “The agrarian crisis sweeping through the state due to Bt cotton failure has only widened. Unlike when cotton crop failure was reported only from Vidarbha and Marathawada, reports of such crop failure are now coming in from Khandesh in north Maharashtra, too,” said Kishore Tiwari of farm advocacy group Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti.
National Crime Records Bureau reveals that the number of farmer suicides in Maharashtra are likely to cross 5,000 this year in comparison to the 3,500 last year. The figures last year were, in fact, the highest among all states in India.
This is the third year in a row that Bt cotton failure is being reported in Mahahrashtra. Last year, the state paid Rs2,000 crore to 4 million cotton farmers as compensation. Unlike earlier when dry land farmers were affected, even areas with adequate irrigation are facing a crop loss this year.
Ravindra Shinde, a farmer from Dhamane village in Dhule, had taken a loan like several others, and is now worried about repaying it. “I spent Rs50,000 per hectare this year but Rs30,000 last year. Now with crops failing, I don’t know what to do?” he said.
According to state records, Maharashtra grows Bt cotton in 4.2 million hectares of land. This is the largest among all cotton-producing states. Even thenit has been reporting lowest cotton yield of about 5 quintal per hectare since 2006. The latest official estimate says this is likely to fall to 3 quintal per hectare. “This means a net loss of more than Rs38,000 per hectare!” points out Tiwari, who plans to lead debt-trapped farmers in march to the legislative council on December 11 during the winter session at Nagpur.
“We demand a compensation of Rs20,000 per hectare and fresh crop loans for every farmer for the ensuing kharif season. We also want food security and free health education, along with the implementation ofland development, soil enrichment and watershed development under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,” he said.
He appealed to the government not to mock the farmers. “We hope the state relief packages actually help farmers this time instead of just benefiting contractors, politicians and multinational agro majors like it has in the past.”
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