KARNATAKA

Area under Bt cotton to touch two lakh hectares in State

Nagesh Prabhu

A large number of farmers are opting it



Sowing operations have commenced in several districts

Centre yet to come out with a minimum support price for cotton



BANGALORE: With the timely onset of monsoon and improved market price, the area under Bt cotton in the State is all set for a quantum jump to touch two lakh hectares of land in the ensuing kharif season — an increase of nearly 50,000 hectares.

With a large number of farmers opting for Bt cotton across the State, the area under Bt cotton crop is likely to touch two lakh hectares in the 2008 kharif, which would form 50 per cent of the total area under cotton. The area under Bt cotton was 1.46 lakh hectares in the last kharif season. The total area under traditional and hybrid varieties of cotton was about four lakh hectares in 2007-08, according to officials of the State Agriculture Department.

The country had the largest area in the world under Bt cotton in 2007 with the crop planted on 62 lakh hectares of land. The project area under the crop is expected to touch 64 lakh hectares in this season. Bt cotton was planted on 40 lakh hectares in the U.S. and 38 lakh hectares in China in 2007.

In 2007, Maharashtra topped in the area under Bt cotton (28 lakh hectares), followed by Andhra Pradesh (11.9 lakh), Gujarat (8 lakh), Madhya Pradesh (five lakh), North Zone (Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan – 5.92 lakh), Karnataka (1.46 lakh), and Tamil Nadu (70,000), according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.

The official said sowing operations had commenced in several districts and sowing of cotton would continue till July-end. The State tasted high yield in Bunny and Mahyo varieties during the last couple of years and it was hoping to increase their production from eight lakh bales to over 10 lakh bales in the ensuing season.

Enthusiasm

There is widespread enthusiasm among farmers to switch to hybrid variety owing to higher market price in the last couple of years. A quintal of produce fetched Rs. 3,000 in the 2007-08 season. Aggressive marketing by private agro-business firms motivated farmers to plant Bt cotton in districts such as Bijapur, Gulbarga, Belgaum, Mysore, Hassan, Raichur, Haveri, Shimoga and Dharwad districts. Seed manufacturing firms have opened their outlets in district headquarters and involved in convincing the farmers about benefits of Bt cotton.

The Union Government has provided funds to the State under “Mission for Cotton” and has been promoting hybrid variety crop. An integrated pest management programme was launched a few years ago to educate the farmers about benefits of Bt cotton, the official said.

However, small and marginal farmers’ demand to provide seed subsidy to them has not been met. The State Government, in the last kharif season, had instructed the firms to fix the price of Bt cotton seed at Rs. 750 for a 450 gm packet as against the Monsanto Bt Cotton India Limited’s Rs. 1,450 for the same quantity of seed.

The Centre has also not yet come out with a Minimum Support Price for cotton, a factor which will considerably influence the area expansion, the official said.

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