Cotton area in Punjab and Haryana has declined 27% to 7.56 lakh hectares in the 2016-17 crop year as farmers shifted to other crops after incurring huge losses due to whitefly pest attack last year.
These two states had planted cotton in 10.3 lakh hectares in the 2015-16 crop year (July-June).
“Sowing of cotton in Punjab and Haryana has been completed. Total area is down as farmers were scared to grow cotton, fearing whitefly pest attack that had damaged the crop massively in these two states last year,” a senior agriculture ministry official said.
These states had advised cotton growers to complete the sowing operation timely before May 15 to avoid any whitefly infestation again. Farmers did not opt for cotton despite prices ruling high in the market at present.
Instead, farmers have shifted to pulses, paddy and other crops in these states, the official added.
As per the latest data, area planted to cotton in Punjab is lower by 43.11% at 2.56 lakh hectares in the 2016-17 crop year, from 4.5 lakh hectare in the previous year.
Similarly, cotton area coverage in neighbouring Haryana fell 14% to 5 lakh hectares this year as against 5.8 lakh hectares in 2015-16.
Even in Uttar Pradesh, the cotton acreage is down 19% at 0.17 lakh hectares as against 0.21 lakh hectares in the said period.
The official said the sowing of cotton in northern states is almost over, except in Rajasthan, where total acreage was higher by 43% to 2.61 lakh hectares so far this year from 1.83 lakh hectare in the year-ago period.
More than 90% of farmers have sown Bt cotton seeds, the maximum retail price of which is being fixed by the central government from this year onwards.
The country’s total area sown to cotton remained lower by 45% at 19.07 lakh hectares so far in 2016-17 compared with 34.87 lakh hectares in the year-earlier period.
Late onset of monsoon is one of the reasons for less coverage in central and southern region, where planting is still in progress even as farmers are scared to sow cotton after last year’s pink bollworm pest attack.