When most cotton growers have sold their produce, the price has crossed Rs. 5,000 a quintal.
This year, the cotton prices hovered around Rs. 4,200 a quintal but last week, jumped to a better average. "I have incurred a loss," said Farid Singh,a farmer from Haraj village of Muktsar district. He sold about 120 quintals of cotton for the previos price and now 24 quintals for Rs. 4,880 a quintal at Kotkapura.
Bt cotton, favourite crop of most farmers, is ready for first plucking in October. Farmers pluck it three to four times up to November. They cannot wait long to sell the produce, as they also have to attend to personal needs. Price rise at the end of the season is of no use to them, as most of them have sold the crop already.
"It has a negative effect on economy because farmers have less money to spend. They pay inflated price for commodities but are forced to sell their produce for lower price," said Jeet Singh, a farmer from Kotkapura. "On Friday last week, the price touched Rs. 5,100 in the Kotkapura market, when I had sold all my produce from 13 acres already. If I had kept it longer, its quality and dryness would have deteriorated post winter (in March), and prices are unpredictable."
Yadwinder Singh of Jhok Sarkari village also sold most of his cotton crop for about Rs. 4,300 a quintal and small quantity for Rs. 4,850 a quintal. "If the price we get is below expectation," he said, "it upsets the circle." "I still my produce stored," said Jarnail Singh of Behbal Khurd village, "but most of the farmers could not have waited till the end of the season."
The cotton price varies based on trends in the international market, and demand in the national and international markets. As no government agency purchases cotton because its market rate is higher than the minimum support price of the crop usually, the chances of price variation are aplenty. "Intensive purchase by some textile mills in the state might have upped the price over the past week," said Ashok Kumar Goel, secretary of the arhtiya (commission agent) association of Kotkapura. "Or it might be because of import by China."
The year before last, the price had even touched Rs. 7,000 a quintal, which had encouraged farmers to bring more area under cotton but last year, the price remained below Rs. 5,000 mostly. The labour input cost, chore of plucking, and uncertain yield and price decreased the area under cotton to only 15,110 hectares, while paddy alone covers 99,426 hectares in Faridkot district.
The minimum support price of cotton (fixed by the government), Rs. 3,800, is much below the expectation of the growers. "The rise in price might now encourage farmers to grow cotton next season," said Kaur Singh Dhillon, chief agriculture officer of Farikdot. "Basmati and paddy have not been much profitable for famrers who have inadequate irrigation water. Cotton is a good alternative."