Maharashtra:Massive shift likely from cotton to soya this year
NAGPUR: Having burned their fingers in cotton because of crop loss and bad market conditions last year, the cotton cultivation area could shrink this year by 20%. Vidarbha farmers are now preferring the other favourite cash crop - soyabean - this year. Low demand for cotton seeds as well as fertilizers clearly indicates this, agriculture input traders said on Tuesday.
Maharashtra traditionally has the largest area under cotton mainly in Vidarbha, Marathwada and some parts of Khandesh. Last year cotton crop area saw a huge jump because of unprecedented rates of Rs 7000 per quintal that ruled in the preceding year. But the last kharif season was a big let down. Prices tumbled to as low as Rs 3500. As a result, income shrunk and farmers could barely recover investment. Now, with costs of fertilizers, pesticides and labour having gone up further, farmers think soyabean offers a better alternative.
"Soyabean needs lesser application of fertilizers and spraying of pesticides, insecticides as compared to cotton. The crop duration is shorter by almost a month compared to cotton and it needs lesser care and labour being a hardy crop," explained Bablu Gupta, a farm inputs trader from Yavatmal.
What makes it even more attractive is that after a soya crop, a farmer can immediately take up a crop of gram (chana) or groundnut. This is not possible after cotton which is almost a year-long crop in rain-fed lands of the region.
Gupta confirmed that demand for cotton is poor this time while it's picking up for soyabean. "The sowing pattern may differ in every taluka and district. But there are clear indications that cotton crop area may come down by over 20% this time. Making farmers more inclined to soya is the high market prices ruling currently. Soya which got barely Rs 1800 to Rs 2200 a quintal at start if last year climbed steadily and is now commanding between Rs 3500 and Rs 4000," said Gupta.
Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti's Kishore Tiwari also confirmed that the shift from cotton to soya is decisive this time. "Normally this shift is of below 10%. But this kharif it could exceed 20%," he said. "There are chances of the total land area under cotton shrinking from 42 lakh hectares of last year to little over 30 lakh hectares this time. Last time farmers found their costing had gone haywire. There was no match between investment, yields and returns. With government's policy flip flops on exports dealing further blows to farmers suffered huge losses. Cotton is likely to be shunned now," he added.
Tiwari said farmers should also consider taking up food crops and pulses instead of soyabean as the country faces huge shortage in pulses which are met with imports.