Whitefly wipes out farmers’ hopes of profit

  • Raghbir Singh Brar, Hindustan Times, Muktsar/Faridkot
  • Updated: Sep 26, 2015 20:59 IST
The cotton crop of Faridkot’s Jagseer Singh and his brother was wiped out by the whitefly attack. (HT Photo)

Only a small number of cotton farmers in Punjab can expect `8,000 per acre as compensation for their fully damaged crop that could have earned them Rs 45,000 from each acre. Thousands of others would receive even less, as their crop is not even assessed to be 100% damaged.

Instead of getting any returns, the farmers had to spend up to `15,000 per acre on trying to save the crop until whitefly became unstoppable. Most of the crop is damaged completely but there is no time to sow another, since a few remaining bolls on the dead plants have kept farmers from ploughing their fields. Distress plucking has yielded only a few kilograms from each acre.

Jagseer Singh, a young farmer from Khara, lost all his cotton grown on 8.5 acres. He had spent Rs 15,000 per acre on seeds, fertilisers, tilling and repeated sprays of insecticides. He has ploughed 4 acres already and is trying to pluck something from the remaining 4.5 acres. “We are two brothers relying upon this land alone. The crop was damaged fully but no one from the agriculture department or the seed company visited us to give us any advice,” said Jagseer.

He estimates his loss to be Rs 3.40 lakh, as the expected yield per acre was about 10 quintals and the expected price Rs 4,000 per quintal. The worst-hit are the farmers who grew cotton on the land secured on annual lease. “I got 10 acres on lease and paid Rs 50,000 for each. On 4 acres, I sowed cotton. I have ploughed 1.5 acres of it already but I expect little yield. My loss is Rs 65,000 per acre, including Rs 25,000 half-yearly rent for land,” said Resham Singh from Bhilaiana village in Gidderbaha subdivision of Muktsar district.

At Haraj village, sarpanch Gurpiar Singh said cotton on 600 of the 700 acres under the crop had been damaged.

“Most of the crop is still standing but farmers expect not much out of the almost dried plants. Farmer Mohinder Singh of my village had taken about 12 acres on annual lease for `50,000 per acre but had to plough it all. He tried to sow moong crop but whitefly ruined that, too,” he said.

Even from the PAU-recommended BT cotton varieties, the average yield is only 10 quintal per acre. With the crop selling for about Rs 4,500 per quintal, farmers can make up to `45,000 from each acre with a input cost of about Rs 15,000.

All crop on about 400 acres was damaged in Faridkot. “We have distributed a compensation of `32 lakh among farmers — at Rs 8,000 per acre. Crop on 14,222 acres has 70 to 100% damage, and we have raised a requirement of `11 crore to compensate the rest of the farmers,” said Faridkot deputy commissioner Malwinder Singh Jaggi.

“We have received Rs 10 crore to compensate farmers for 5,000 acres they had to plough. We had cotton sown on 72,000 hectares in Muktsar and most of it has been damaged. We are reassessing the compensation amount, a process that will take a couple of days,” said Muktsar DC Jaskiran Singh.

cotton farmers, crop, whitefly, farmers, seed company

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