In spite of efforts by the government, the diversification of crops is failing to take off in the region. Even if farmers go in for a crop for diversification, they soon come back to the old wheat-paddy pattern.
One of the reasons is the confidence of the farmers that these crops would sure be lifted by government agencies at the minimum support price (MSP) fixed by the government. The MSP of many other crops is also fixed by the government, but they are not purchased by the government agencies and farmers have to depend on private traders, and most of them do not get even the MSP for these crops.
The government fixes the MSP of about 27 crops, but only paddy and wheat are lifted by the government agencies while the others are mostly bought by the private traders. The fluctuation in prices and uncertainty of procurement keeps farmers away from other crops Even MSP of some crops is not encouraging.
The MSP of long staple cotton was fixed at Rs 4,100 per quintal, but it was much lower than the expectation of the farmers.
"If all input costs of cotton are taken into account, the price of cotton should be at least Rs 6,000 per quintal to attract farmers to grow it. The price of cotton remained around Rs 4,500 per quintal last year, which is very discouraging," said Sukha, a farmer from Faridkot village.
"There were about four cotton-ginning mills in the town when cotton was grown as a major crop, but they stopped functioning years ago and now there is none. There is no flour mill and factory to process pulses in the town also. There are only rice mills now and if the farmers try some other crop, they face the problem of marketing also," said Mohinder Kumar Bansal, a commission agent from Faridkot.
"In the '90s, there were about two dozen cotton-ginning factories in Kotkapura town alone as it was one of the largest markets of cotton, but last year only one was in a working condition, while most of others were converted into rice mills," said Ashok Kumar Goyal, general secretary of the commission agents association from Kotkpaura.
The area under cotton had substantially come down due to repeated attacks of bollworm in the nineties, that led to many crop failures, lower prices and rising cost of labour.
This year, cotton is expected to cover 13,800 hectares while paddy and basmati are expected to cover an area of 1 lakh hectares in Faridkot. Only moong is expected to be on around 1,000 hectares.
During the rabi season, wheat was grown on 1,16,000 hectares in the district while barley and oilseed crops covered only 500 and 700 hectares respectively. A small area was under beat root and potatoes.
"The farmers are ready to grow any crop if they are confident that it will be lifted at profitable rates and fetches income more than wheat and paddy. Even potato growers had to suffer huge losses this season," said Jaswinder Singh, a farmer from Ghania village.
"The farmers are inclined to grow other crops like maize and pulses. But, they are not sure that they would be lifted in time and at reasonable rates. Hence, paddy and wheat remain major crops as farmers are confident that they would be procured by the government at the fixed rate,' said Kulbeer Singh Matta, district mandi officer, Faridkot.