After the attack of whitefly, which has almost finished the cotton crop, low prices of cotton are another blow to farmers. Cotton prices are unlikely to shoot up due to the fall in prices of cotton in the global market.
Cotton has already started arriving, though in small quantity, in the Kotkapura grain market, but prices are a big disappointment to the farmers.
"Cotton is selling at around Rs 4,550 per quintal in the grain market and farmers are the worst affected. Three parties had entered the market to start purchasing cotton in Kotkapura, but as one of the buyers failed to clear his dues to commission agents for the last crop purchased by September 15, he has been debarred from making purchases by the agents till he clears the last dues and now only two firms are purchasing the crop," said Ashok Kumar Goyal, general secretary of the Aarhtia association, Kotkapura.
"In the Kotkapura market, only 235 quintals of cotton has arrived so far. The arrival has just started, but due to the whitefly attack, we expect the arrival to fall by 25% in comparison to last year's arrival of 70,000 quintal. The average price per quintal is about `4,400 per quintal. The minimum support price of cotton has been fixed at Rs 4,100 per quintal," said Kulbir Singh Matta, district mandi officer, Faridkot and Muktsar.
As the area under cotton has been constantly shrinking due to low prices and uncertainty of the crop, most of cotton-ginning mills have been converted either into rice mills or closed down permanently.
"In Kotkapura, there were about 33 ginning mills because Kotkapura was a leading grain market of cotton in the region, now only two of them are working on a small scale," said Matta.
The leading traders do not hope for any rise in cotton prices. "Prices of cotton in the global market have declined due to the entry of China in the export market. Earlier, China had bought a huge stock of cotton to protest its farmers from the fall in its prices. For some years now, it has started selling a large quantity of the piled-up stock, which has led to a fall in the prices of cotton. We do not think prices will go up this season, at lease till China exhausts its stock," said Navneet Grover, chief executive officer (CEO), Grospinz Fabs Limited, Muktsar.
"In India, prices of the crop also depend on the quality andproduction of the crop in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra besides some other states," said Goyal.
"Earlier, farmers were badly hit by the low yield of wheat and now whitefly has badly damaged the cotton crop. Most of the farmers could not afford to clear the six-monthly limits of bank loans during the wheat season and money- lenders had offered to bail them out the situation on a Rs 5,000 per lakh cut for some days," said Shaminder Singh from Surghuri village.
"We are estimating about 75% decline in the yield from the crop, which has partly survived the whitefly attack," said Sukhjinder Singh, a farmer from Niamiwala village.
Not only the farmers, but the labour class, which used to pluck the crop manually, had also been badly hit by the damage to cotton this year.