After last year’s whitefly attack on cotton crop, the area under “white gold” at the end of the sowing season is only 47% of the government’s target.
In the cotton belt of Malwa, the fibre crop covers 2.39-lakh hectares against a target of 5-lakh hectares. In an embarrassment to the Punjab government, it’s not even close to the last year’s figure 4.5-lakh hectares. This dashes all the hopes of helping the cotton economy bounce back from a pest attack that devastated about two-third of the cultivated area.
The government compensated farmers and prepared for the pest attack this year, yet spurious pesticides and seeds have not helped rebuild the trust.
“Why would farmers risk another financial disaster?” said Bharti Kisan Union (Ugarahan) state general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri, adding: “The erroneous compensation policy and meagre relief have moved farmers to other crops.”
Punjab deputy director of cotton Sukhdev Singh Sidhu blamed the sorry coverage on the fear of the return of whitefly.
“We didn’t expect cover even this much area. The camps we organised helped take the figure to 2.39-lakh hectares,” he claimed. Blaming the irrigation department as well, Sidhu said in spite of repeated meetings before the sowing season, it had failed to release water into minors even till today.
“At least 35,000 hectares have been affected just because there’s no water in the Arniwala and Bhagsar minors of Fazilka district. About 25,000 hectares in Muktsar and 10,000 in Bathinda are dry for the same reason,” said Sidhu.