Maharashtra farmers rue losses as drought damages crops
A year after the pink bollworm crisis, which ravaged cotton fields across the state destroying17.25-lakh hectares in Marathwada, farmers are staring at yet another year of loss here. This time it’s not just cotton that is the casualty. Their entire kharif yield, including cotton, maize, moong, urad, has been hit owing to deficient rainfall, leaving farmers with little income to survive until the 2019 harvest.
As HT visited Aurangabad and Beed districts of Marathwada — all tehsils there have been identified as drought affected —we came across stunted cotton fields, dried-up maize and burnt sugarcane stalks. “By this time of the year, the cotton shrub is usually at a height of 5 feet. Today, it’s less than 1.5 feet. Last year, even with pink boll worm, I had managed to get 30 quintals from my sown area of 7 acres. This year, I have ended with one quintal. The sugarcane I planted for its assured price is wilted and fit for cattle fodder,’’ said Amol Tipale, sarpanch of Hirapur village of Georai taluka in Beed district. Tipale said that it’s largely the same story in his entire village. “Farmers have no money to return the loans taken for fertilizers, seeds. Next year’s sowing will be impossible without government assistance. Those who got a loan waiver are likely to get indebted yet again,’’ he added.
Similar to Tipale, Shaikh Shiraz, a farmer from Kamkheda village, managed only 10 quintals as yield from his 11-acre cotton fields. Last year, despite the bollworm, he had a yield of 110 quintals.
“I spent additional money on a second sowing for cotton in the hope of better rains. That’s also gone. The maize I had planted has not even sprouted kernels. Today, I have no money to pay off my debtors and I am thinking of pulling out my son from private school,’’ said Shiraz.
Bhausaheb More, a farmer from Katpura village in Aurangabad district, got a quintal of cotton from his 3 acres and the tur he had planted on 2 acres remained unsprouted. “This year is ‘Ram bharose’. If government gives some compensation, sowing is possible next year,’’ said More.
In none of the villages HT visited, farmers had the resources or water to sow for rabi crop. The preliminary estimates of kharif yield losses by the district collectorates in Beed and Aurangabad seem to second farmers accounts. While Beed district collectorate has estimated a 50% loss in its average khariff yield; Aurangabad district collectorate estimates of losses are in the range of 25 to 30%.
“Barring pockets where there is protected irrigation close to the river, the kharif crop has been damaged to around 50% of the average yield,’’ said Chandrakant Suryavanshi, resident deputy collector of Beed. Uday Chaudhari, district collector of Aurangabad, said, “We have calculated losses to the tune of 25% for three crops — moong, urad, maize.’’