Heavy rain last year has led to the decline in area under cotton. From about 92,000 hectares last time cotton is expected to be grown on nearly 76,000 hectares this year, while area under basmati has doubled from about 36,000 hectares to the expected 72,000 hectares this year in Muktsar.
Despite decline in the area under cotton, the shift has been more towards basmati instead of paddy. Surprisingly, the area under paddy in the district is expected to be nearly 55,000 hectares, which is less than that for cotton and basmati.
"We wanted to bring in diversification and we are satisfied that the farmers have not increased area under paddy. Instead of paddy, area under cotton and paddy has gone to basmati. Basmati helps arrest declining level of sub-soil water and needs less input costs," Beant Singh, chief agriculture officer, Muktsar, said.
But farmers believe that diversification was not on the mind of many. "Heavy rain played havoc on the cotton crop last year and it was badly damaged on a large area. So most cotton growers, too, chose to transplant bamasti instead of paddy because basmati fetches much better prices last year. As cotton takes more time to mature and is a labour-intensive crop, basmati was the only option before farmers," Sukhdev Singh, a farmer from a Muktsar village, said.
More area would have gone under basmati if the agriculture department had not warned farmers of glut this year. Many farmers changed their mind just before the sowing of basmati.
Now paddy is expected to be grown over about 55,000 hectares while both basmati and cotton are expected to be on 75,000 in Muktsar district. The area under paddy has come down to nearly half from about 1 lakh hectares in the last two years.
While the area under basmati doubled in Muktsar, it is expected to go up three-fold in Faridkot, from about 8,000 hectares last year to about 21,000 this year. But cotton is expected to remain on the same area in Faridkot district.
The low prices of cotton against the surprisingly higher rates of basmati have also kept farmers away from growing cotton. "Farmers continued to wait for months that the price of cotton would increase as rain had spoilt the crop on most of the area in the region.
The cotton price, however, remained `5,000 per quintal on average. But on the other hand, the prices of basmati increased to about `4,500 per quintal from the usual price of about `2,500 per quintal previous years," Jagga Singh, a farmer from Niamiwala village in Faridkot, said. It led most farmers to opt for bsasmati over paddy or cotton.