After the failure of cotton, they have been demanding revival of sugar factories in the region

Having concluded that cotton cultivation results more in misery than prosperity, a section of farmers in Adilabad have begun thinking in terms of an alternative commercial crop. Their quest has made them zero in on sugarcane, which despite the inherent handicaps, is known to be free of the risks involved in cotton farming.

“Sugarcane, now cultivated only by a handful of farmers, can replace cotton if jaggery manufacturing units are promoted in the proximity. The government needs to promote industrial manufacture of jaggery in small scale for consumption of local produce,” demands B. Goverdhan Reddy, a senior farmer leader in Adilabad, who proposes to take up awareness programmes on cultivation of sugarcane.

Sugarcane was an important commercial crop in the western parts of Adilabad district until about three decades ago. The closure of Khandasari sugar factories following decontrol of sugar in the late 1970s had forced farmers divert to other commercial crops, particularly cotton.

Good returns

Farmer Abdul Rauf Khan of Dongergaon in Gudihatnoor mandal is one among those who favours alternative crops such as sugarcane for the economics involved. He says, the crop requires an investment of not more than Rs.1 lakh initially which diminishes drastically in the subsequent years.

“The cane yield will be in the region of 80 tonnes per acre, which will eventually yield about eight tonnes of jaggery. At the going rate of jaggery at Rs.3,000 per quintal, the returns will be handsome for the farmer,” Mr. Khan calculates.

“Though the black cotton soils in the district are conducive to sugarcane, it can be farmed only in fields that have irrigation facility as the crop requires huge amounts of water. Another impeding aspect is the availability of skilled labour,” points out farmer B. Govind Rao of Mannur who like Rauf Khan, has experience in sugarcane cultivation.

“The need for skilled labour can be surmounted in just one year by importing a few from neighbouring Maharashtra,” Mr. Govind Rao says. “There is however, a need to improve irrigation in the area is sugarcane farming is to be converted as a viable alternative to cotton,” he argues.