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Updated: December 1, 2012 13:22 IST

Cotton farmers in deep trouble

G. Sathyamoorthi
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A farmer looking at his stunted cotton crop in Perambalur district. Photo: M. Srinath
The Hindu
A farmer looking at his stunted cotton crop in Perambalur district. Photo: M. Srinath

State doesn’t even have one direct procurement centre for cotton

Thousands of cotton farmers of Perambalur district are in deep trouble. The district contributes 4.8 lakh tonnes of cotton, accounting for 30 per cent of the State’s total production.

Almost 90 per cent of the 5.64 lakh population of the district are dependent on agriculture, and maize and cotton are the major crops.

The normal cotton area is 17,140 hectares. This shot up to 26,291 hectares in 2011-12 and touched 23,623 hectares up to October this year.

Kolathur C. Rajendran, a farmer involved in raising both crops, says while 50 per cent of the population are dependent on maize; at least 40 per cent are dependent on cotton.

Rajachidambaram, general secretary, Tamilaga Vivasayigal Sangham, who hails from the district, says cotton farmers are facing a crisis thanks to poor rains.

Official sources admit that the normal rainfall is 791 mm up to this month end. But actual receipt is only 634 mm, a shortfall of 156 mm.

While farmers lament that acute water scarcity has devastated several acres of cotton, officials are confident that if the region were to get some rains in the next few days, most of the crops could be salvaged.

Mr.Rajendran says it is a six-month crop but could be raised only once a year. “The maximum that we will be able to produce is 8-10 quintals per acre. But this year, not even five quintals look possible because of poor rainfall.”

Cotton is dead in areas like Sirugambur, Ailur and Ayakudikadu and there is absolutely no chance of saving the crop, he asserts.

He points out that cotton was quoted at Rs.6,000 a quintal in 2009-10 when cultivation cost was Rs.30,000. Now the cultivation cost has shot up due to spiralling cost of labour and prices of fertilizers and it works out to Rs.45, 000 to 50,000 per acre. But cotton is now quoted around Rs.3,000 per quintal. “We will be ruined if we are to sell at this rate.”

“Unless we get at least Rs.10,000 a quintal, we will be in deep trouble” he added.

Official sources said the minimum support price for cotton has been hiked by almost 30 per cent this year (for medium staple from Rs.2,800 to Rs.3,600 and for long staple from Rs.3,300 to Rs.3,900).

They admit that mere hike alone would not help farmers if there is no marketing intervention on the part of any governmental agency like the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI).

While the CCI has opened 35 direct procurement centres (DPCs) in Andhra Pradesh and an equal number in Karnataka, they wonder why not a single DPC has been planned in Tamil Nadu.

They say the State government has responded immediately to the representation of the district administration and has written to CCI to open DPCs here.

Sources say the regulated market at Perambalur has been of immense help to producers as it helps them store their produce for some time and sell at remunerative rates. Farmers are unhappy with insurance companies insisting on firkha level insurance. They demand village level insurance which can save them from total ruin.

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