KARNATAKA

Cotton farmers in dilemma over imports

MYSORE, AUG. 1. Though farmers have increased the area under cotton cultivation in Mysore district, they fear that they may face loss in the wake of the availability of cheaper and better quality cotton imported from the U.S.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the area under cotton cultivation in the district has gone up to 72,000 hectares and the State produces four lakh bales a year. Though Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh produce more than Karnataka, the number of people employed in the industry makes Karnataka one of the important States in cotton production.

No change in demand

Vivek Cariappa, progressive farmer, said there had been no variation in the demand for cotton since 1995. The increase in acreage in the State this year was by 65 per cent.

Bumper crop

While the average production in Karnataka is four lakh bales (a bale is 170 kg of ginned cotton or lint), it came down in the past three years owing to drought. With the State receiving good rainfall this year, farmers have taken up cotton cultivation in a big way, expecting a bumper crop and good price. However, despite the increase in the area under cotton cultivation, the demand for the produce has not gone up. It has remained at 170 lakh bales a year in the country. Mr. Vivek Cariappa said that unaware of the conditions prevailing in the world market, farmers were expecting a bumper crop this time. They may face a crisis as production was expected to be more than 200 lakh bales. Traders were holding 25,000 bales, which they procured last year, and they would release it into the market. Moreover, nearly nine lakh bales would be imported from the U.S. On the reasons for increasing import of the produce, he said cotton from the U.S., which had minimum contamination, was not taxed. The highly subsidised cotton from the U.S. was cheaper than the local produce. Spinning mills preferred cotton from the U.S. as a 120-month credit was available to them. While imported cotton would cost Rs. 57.11 a kg, the price of Indian lint was Rs. 72 a kg.

Exploitation

Mr. Vivek Cariappa said farmers should be free from the menace of middlemen and exploitation by traders. Traders and mill owners should be made to buy the produce directly from agricultural produce marketing committees. Organic farming should be promoted among cotton growers.

Strengthen laws

If the trading laws were not strengthened and efforts were not made to help stabilise prices of cotton, the plight of growers would turn from bad to worse, he added.

He said producing good quality cotton by reducing contamination during harvest and selling the produce in groups would help farmers overcome the crisis to an extent. Awareness on cotton prices in other markets, modern cultivation practices and other aspects related to cotton would help farmers face the challenges posed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime.

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