Cultivated area has been reduced by 5,000 hectares this year, says official. There is a sudden increase in the labour and transportation costs.

The widening gap between input costs and returns on sugarcane crop has forced farmers to switch over to other crops in East Godavari district. In the last three years, the extent of sugarcane cultivated area has been reduced by 5,000 hectares. The downtrend is still continuing as the farmers are not evincing interest in cultivating sugarcane that needs huge investment.

Of the two sugar factories in the district, the one at Chelluru has completed sugarcane crushing for the year after purchasing 3.24 lakh tonnes of yield from the farmers. Crushing is still going on at Samalkot, where the officials have estimated that the total yield would cross 4 lakh tonnes. “Sugarcane has been cultivated in 17,000 hectares in 2011-12 and the same is registered as 16,000 hectares in 2012-13.

‘Common trend’

In the current year, the extent has been reduced to 12,000 hectares and there is every possibility of further drop in the extent for the next year,” observes V. Venkata Rao, Assistant Commissioner (sugarcane). He, however, says that fluctuations are very common in commercial crops like sugarcane.

The farmers have different issues to highlight. Steep increase in labour cost, which they are attributing to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, rise in the cost of fertilizer and transportation are the issues that are bothering the farmers continuously. “There is always a gap between input costs and expenses. Three years ago, we sought a price of Rs. 2,500 per tonne and got only Rs. 2,000. Now, the price per tonne is Rs. 2,500 but the input costs are about Rs. 3,000 per tonne,” says Muppana Surya Prakash, president of the Samalkot Sugarcane Growers Association. “There is a sudden increase in the labour and transportation costs. Unless the employment guarantee scheme is extended to the sugarcane crop, it is going to be tough for the farmers to opt for this crop,” he observes.