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Expectations of bumper cotton crop in Telangana raises spectre of chaos

LiveMint logoLiveMint 05-09-2017 Yunus Y. Lasania

Hyderabad: Telangana is bracing for chaos in its agricultural market yards, as expectations of a bumper cotton crop revive memories of a similar chilli harvest in May that depressed prices and sparked farmer unrest.

Nearly half of total crops sown in Telangana this year is cotton, as farmers took to it on expectations of good returns. So far, it has been sown on nearly 18 lakh hectares, much higher than 12.36 lakh hectares in 2016-17.

Cotton enjoys minimum support price (MSP), but officials at the state’s agricultural marketing department said if farmers’ expectations are not met, it might lead to a situation like the one in May when chilli farmers ransacked an agricultural market yard in Khammam as excess production caused a price crash.

“There has been unprecedented sowing of cotton by farmers,” conceded a senior official of the department, who asked not to be identified. He said the government is preparing an action plan for the time produce starts arriving at the yards. “We need to control the arrivals,” he added.

Another government official said MSP for cotton in 2016 was Rs4,160 per quintal, and that the crop was sold for anything between Rs4,900 and Rs5,500 in agricultural markets. In 2017, the MSP has been set at Rs4,320, she added, requesting anonymity. “Thankfully, the price won’t suddenly crash like last year. But farmers have gone for the crop expecting a higher price. We don’t know what will happen if they are again unhappy,” she said, hinting at the incident in May.

The crops begin to yield after the kharif season, which goes on from June to mid-September, from October onwards. “The government will purchase cotton from them at MSP only, but the farmers have gone for it because of last year’s prices, thinking it is safer,” she said.

The violence at Khammam was a result of chilli production touching nearly 7 lakh metric tonnes in 2016-17, compared to the 6.151 lakh metric tonnes in 2015-16. The price per quintal of produce had dipped to Rs3,000 to Rs5,000, in comparison to Rs10,000 to Rs12,000 in 2015, due to over-production.

Saraswati Kavula, an organic farmer and member of the Rashtriya Kisan Samanvay Samithi, said that the state government needs to form a policy to direct farmers with regard to each year’s sowing. “This is a flop in policy. Lots of people in my village have gone for cotton this year as well. You must encourage local markets,” she added.

Kavula, who has a farm about 70km away from Hyderabad, felt that it is the state government’s job to plan the crop-sowing based on climatic conditions and nature of the soil in different areas to avoid situations of over-production. “The agricultural department must decide the crops which based on areas suited for them,” she added.

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