Farmers in Punjab and Haryana opt for more cotton acreage over labour-intensive rice

They anticipate labour shortages without migrant workers; State governments are also advising them to opt out of water-guzzling rice

Updated - May 21, 2020 07:46 pm IST

Published - May 21, 2020 06:08 pm IST - CHANDIGARH

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have sown more cotton this kharif season as against the corresponding period last year on account of a possible labour shortage in future. Both governments have discouraged farmers from growing rice, officials told The Hindu .

Director, Punjab Agriculture Department, Sutantar Airi, said, “Cotton has already been sown in nearly 3.6 lakh hectare, which is around 10,000 hectare more than the corresponding period of last year.”

In neighbouring Haryana, farmers had sown cotton in 5.11 lakh hectares till May 19. Last year, the area under cotton cultivation up to the same period was 4.2 lakh hectares, according to government data.

‘Luxury of choice’

“Cotton is a less labour intensive crop than paddy (rice). Farmers are currently sowing cotton as they are apprehensive about the return of the migrant labour by June-July, when the sowing of rice commences. Labourers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have expertise in planting paddy but with many of them having returned to their native places, farmers here, who have the luxury of choice between crops, are going for cotton,” said Rakesh Rathi, former president of India Cotton Association Limited (ICAL).

In Punjab and Haryana, Bt cotton is sown in over 95% of the total area under cotton cultivation, the remaining 5% of cultivable area usually has indigenous ( desi ) cotton varieties. Cotton is usually planted from mid-April to till late-May in most parts of Punjab and Haryana.

“Farmers are preferring to sow cotton wherever its feasible. Paddy is a labour intensive crop in comparison to cotton and hence farmers don’t want to take a chance. I am sure the area under cotton cultivation will increase this season,” said Gun Parkash, Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Haryana unit president.

‘Crop diversification’

Jagraj Dhandi, Joint Director, Haryana Agriculture Department, said, “The area under cotton has increased as the government is discouraging sowing of water-guzzling rice and going for crop-diversification this year. Also, labour shortage is another reason that farmers are planting more cotton as many would want to mitigate risks to the minimum.”

The State Agriculture Department’s Mr. Airi said that the government was providing thrust to crop-diversification, and hence the area under paddy will fall, and the area under other crops will rise.

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