A fall of about Rs 1000 per quintal in the rates of cotton this year may leave many cotton growers in the lurch with fewer takers for the crop.
Both the rates and arrival of the crop in the grain market of the district are considerably low as compared to the last year.
"Cotton was sold at a rate ranging between Rs 4,500 and Rs 5,100 per quintal last year, while this year, it is selling at Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,500 per quintal. The decline in cotton prices is nearly Rs 1,000 per quintal," said Kulbir Singh Matta, district mandi officer, Faridkot.
According to him, the arrival of the crop has also seen a sharp decline this year compared to the previous year. This year, only 2,770 quintal of cotton produce has arrived in the market so far while last year, the figures were about 4,700 quintal.
The cotton prices had not crossed the average rate of Rs 5,500 per quintal last year too while many farmers had stocked their produce till March, waiting for the rise in prices as cotton had been badly damaged by the rains.
"The low prices are also hitting hard the idea of crop diversification. If cotton sells between Rs 6,000 and Rs 7,000 per quintal, it can attract farmers. However, due to its low rates, farmers prefer to sow either paddy or basmati. The basmati is also being purchased by private traders and has no minimum support price. So there is only paddy left with certain and sure purchase at MSP," said Gurlal Singh, a farmer from Kotkapura.
Only those farmers are growing cotton who have limited sources of irrigation.
While the Faridkot district mandi officer termed the low prices a result of fall in international prices, Atma Singh Sidhu, Faridkot's chief agriculture officer attributed it to the bad quality of cotton and absence of the CCI (Cotton Corporation of India) in the markets.
"To an extent, rains have damaged the quality of plucking and second, the cotton is being purchased by the private traders alone. The prices may become stable after the CCI enters the market," he said. Commission agents say CCI does not enter the markets and most of the produce is procured by private traders.
The state government also plans to promote cotton by helping farmers replace the manual picking of cotton by mechanical picking with special machinery and seeds.