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HindustanTimes Sun,13 Jul 2014

Sugarcane's sweet comeback

Bharat Khanna, Hindustan Times  Mansa, March 20, 2013
First Published: 23:22 IST(20/3/2013) | Last Updated: 23:26 IST(20/3/2013)

After more than 18 years and one huge bitter experience, Mansa farmers are all prepared to sow sugarcane crop once again.

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In the move towards diversification, the district agriculture department had found the crop suitable for the region. Farmers now will produce jaggery in their villages from their sugarcane produce.

Starting from Bhai Desa village of the district, the agriculture department gave away subsidised sugarcane seeds to 50 farmers over there with the help of Bhai Kanhayia Kisan Club, a private organisation. Besides aiding farmers with money to buy seeds, the club also helps them produce jaggery from sugarcane. The seeds of variety 88 given to farmers are ideal for this job.

Besides sugarcane, the department promotes cereals and guar. "Our target is to reduce the area under paddy by 50% this season," said chief agriculture officer Paramjit Singh Dhat. The Mansa deputy commissioner has also helped promote diversification.

Why it failed
In 1988, the state government acquired about 125 acres at Budhlada in this district to open a sugar mill, and in October 1994, closed it, leaving 397 workers out of job. The market for sugarcane collapsed in the area and farmers stopped growing the crop.

"The conditions in Mansa, including weather and soil, are suitable for the cultivation of sugarcane but since the closure of the Budhlada sugar mill and lack of marketing, the crop has lost its position in the region," said Dhat. "Each farmer given the seeds now will sow these over 1 kanal each. The club will make arrangements for the production of jaggery from sugarcane."

The advantages
The crop needs less water, manure, and fertilizers, which will save huge expenses to farmers. Along with sugarcane, they can also grow some vegetables to make profit. "Once sugarcane is popular again, we'll bring in new techniques of sowing and nourishing the crop," said the chief agriculture officer.

"We'll provide farmers with the paraphernalia to produce jaggery at the village level," said Nirmal Singh, president of the Bhai Kanhayia Kisan Club. "We'll do all we can to help them."

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