With the whitefly pest attack causing extensive damage to cotton in Punjab and Haryana, the combined output of this cash crop in both states is estimated to dip by 40%, industry experts have said.
Indian Cotton Association Limited president Mahesh Sharda said on Sunday here that the combined output of cotton in the two states was expected to be 22 lakh bales, down from 39 lakh bales last season. Punjab’s output is estimated to be 7 lakh bales against the production of 14 lakh bales last season. The production in neighbouring Haryana is likely to be 15 lakh bales compared with the previous season’s 25 lakh bales.
The impact of the whitefly attack on cotton is visible on crop arrivals in the grain markets. “So far, 85,000 bales, which includes cotton from Punjab, Haryana and lower parts of Rajasthan, has arrived in the mandis, compared with 1.35 lakh bales in the corresponding period last year,” Sharda said. “In Sirsa (Haryana), the current cotton arrival is 500 to 600 bales a day, while the figure in the corresponding period last year was 3,000,” said Haryana Cotton Ginners Association president Sushil Mittal.
In Punjab, whitefly has damaged crop on 1.36 lakh of the 4.50 lakh hectares under cotton cultivation. In Haryana, 3.06 lakh of the 5.83 lakh hectares are affected. The heavy damage has forced farmers to resort to rail blockades for putting pressure on the state government for higher compensation. Already, the government has disbursed Rs 644 crore to the affected growers as compensation, while in Haryana, special girdawri (revenue survey) has been announced to assess the damage.
Problems for growers may not end, as cotton prices are unlikely to remain on the higher side in view of the depressed prices of yarn and the poor health of spinning mills, industry insiders have said. Raw cotton fetches farmer Rs 3,475 per maund (37.32 kg) in Punjab as opposed to last year’s price of Rs 3,550 per maund. Last season, farmer got a crop price in the range of Rs 3,900 and Rs 4,600 per quintal, though they expected more than Rs 5,000 per quintal.