Punjab demands central aid for struggling cotton farmers
IN AN attempt to quell the growing unrest among cotton farmers in Punjab, the state government has demanded the Centre’s assistance in the form of a special subsidy or a bonus over and above the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,950 per quintal of cotton. Punjab agriculture minister Sucha Singh Langah said the state would send a written communiqué to the prime minister in the interest of the cotton farmers. “Punjab farmers are facing discrimination from the Centre compared to farmers in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Cotton farmer across the state has been suffering and they should be given a relief measure in the form of a bonus above the current MSP of Rs 1,950 per quintal,” Mr Langah said. According to senior government officials, the cotton grown in Punjab was able to produce cotton yarn of length 27.50 mm and also have Mico power of 3.8 to 4.9 %. “Compared to this, the Gujarat variety- Shankar yarn length is 28 mm and Mico power varies between 3.6 and 4.8 % and farmer is getting an MSP of Rs 2,055 per quintal (which is Rs 95 more than Punjab MSP), “he said. With BT Cotton being grown in more than 86% of 6.48-lakh hectare under cotton scientist in Punjab Agriculture University and Agriculture Deaprtment officials informed that yarn from it was more than 28 mm, hence it was necessary to give a fair deal across the country. In a letter-drafted to the rime minster, the Bhariya Kisan Union has demanded to link the MSP to the wholesale price index (WPI) from this year itself. Punjab Mandi Board chairman and Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lakhowal) president Ajmer Singh Lakhowal said, “The MSP fixed every year by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) is inadequate and nonremunerative. The costs of production of wheat, rice and cotton are much higher than those considered by the CACP for determination of the MSP,” he said. However, East India Cotton Association president KF Jhunjhunwala contended that the farmers were getting a better price and a good yield this season. “I am not in favour of any subsidy or bonus to farmers. Quality should make a difference,” he said. The state agriculture department’s report on cotton performance this year has stated that cost of production is at least Rs 1,500 –2,000 higher per acre due to increased pesticide use to control Mealy Bug, Whiefly and Tobacco caterpillar. Apart form the increase in input cost of crop production cotton had been damaged in the southwestern districts of the state due to water lodging. “More than 11,417 hectare across the districts of Muktsar, Faridkot, Ferozepur and Sangrur has been affected. The maximum damage of 10,000 hectare cotton crop has been reported in Muktsar followed by 636 hectare in Faridkot,” said a government official.