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India - Hit with pests, cotton growers in Gujarat discontinue picking

A large section of cotton farmers in Gujarat have abruptly stopped cotton picking to switch over to other winter crops as a pest infestation has taken a toll on the yeild.

The dreaded pink bollworm disease had started showing its presence by mid-October hampering the crop prospects and reducing the estimated yield.

Rahimbhai Kadiwar in Vankaner taluka of Morbi found that after two rounds of cotton picking, the cotton plants on about 5 acres of land were infested with pink bollworms.

‘No point in picking’

“The menace is getting worse and impacting the yield. In the first picking I got about 2.5 quintal of raw cotton from an acre, which reduced to about 1.8 quintal in the second picking. There is no point continuing with such low yield and the pest in addition to it. So we have decided to remove the plants and go for winter crops such as wheat,” Kadiwar told Businessline.

Similarly, Ramesh Bhorania, a farmer from Rajkot stated that farmers have realised a cost advantage in switching over to winter crops in stead of continuing with latter pickings for cotton. “The costs for cotton picking wouldn’t match the price and ultimately it would result into a loss-making proposition for them. So farmers have realised this and are turning to winter crops such as wheat, mustard and chana,” he said.

In parts of Saurashtra, which has a total 15.35 lakh hectares of area under cotton across 11 districts many farmers have a similar story. Gujarat’s cotton sowing is projected at 22.79 lakh hectares, which is about 3.89 lakh hectares lower than last year.

However, trade body Cotton Association of India (CAI) has ruled out any widespread impact of pink bollworm on current cotton crop.

Atul Ganatra, President, CAI, said, “There is nothing to panic about the crop losses. We don’t see any major damage to the crop at this point. The arrivals have touched record in the first two months of the current season. By November-end we will have cotton crop arrivals of about 90 lakh bales (each of 170 kg) , which will be a record of the past many years.” This shows about 25 per cent of the overall projected crop will arrive in the first two months of the season. Generally, the quantum of arrivals in the first two months hovers between 15-20 per cent.

As per the national data, cotton arrivals on Monday were recorded at over 3 lakh bales including 55,000 bales in North India, 65,000 bales in Gujarat, 62,000 in Maharashtra and Telangana each, among others.

“This is indicating that the crop size is alright. The farmers were not selling their crop because the prices were hovering lower at around 4,000-5,000 per quintal for raw cotton (kapas), which has increased to about 5,000-6,000 now supported by overall bullish sentiment. Farmers are rushing to sell their kapas stocks as the prices are high,” Ganatra said.

Source – https://www.thehindubusinessline.com