As per an ongoing survey by the district agriculture department, Wardha, about 70 per cent of the surveyed crop is damaged due to pink bollworm infestation. And there is more to come, fear farmers.
Most pods have rotted or have worms in them, say cotton farmers. Photo: Gaon Connection
Tushar Gore, a 29-year-old farmer living in Salod Hirapur village of Wardha district in Maharashtra, 750 kilometres away from the state capital Mumbai, is devastated as his crop of cotton on a little more than five acres (two hectares) of land, was devoured by pinkboll worm and pinkboll rot. The young farmer who had harvested 88 quintals of cotton last year, has only managed to save 17 quintals of cotton this year.
“From seventeen quintals per acre last year, this year I have got no more than three or four quintals of cotton per acre,” Gore lamented to Gaon Connection. Gore’s crop was decimated despite the fact that he had sprayed pesticides six times, for the same crop he said. “Most pods had rotted or had worms in them. I had to mow my crops down,” said Gore adding he incurred a loss of close to two lakh rupees.
Other farmers in the nearby village of Muradgaon (Belsare) also suffered great losses. They too mowed down their standing crop, after harvesting the little they could, that will fetch them a very low rate in the market, they say.
The Marathwada and Vidarbha regions of Maharashtra accounts for nearly 4,400,000 hectares of cotton cultivation. Of this, Wardha district alone cultivates cotton on approximately 2,18,000 hectares. The region has had one cotton cultivation disaster after another. Not too long ago, it was unseasonal rains that had caused immense grief amongst the cotton farmers in the Vidarbha region in Yavatmal district.
“In ideal conditions, where the soil is fertile, the rainfall is adequate and there is enough water, etc., cotton farmers have even got as much as 20 to 25 quintals of cotton per acre,” said Gore. However this year, farmers like him have barely managed five or six quintals per acre.
According to Anil Ingale, district superintendent, agriculture, Wardha, so far, 85,000 hectares of cotton crop have been surveyed and of that 70 per cent is damaged by the pink bollworm. “The damage to cotton fields by the pink bollworm is still being surveyed, and the final tally could be a lot more,” Ingale, district superintendent, agriculture, Wardha, told Gaon Connection.
The 17 quintals of unspoilt cotton that Gore managed to save, are not finding a good price, he said. “Private traders are buying cotton at a price that is nearly fifteen hundred rupees lower than the minimum support price (MSP),” he added.
The MSP for cotton has been fixed at Rs 5,825 a quintal at the government procurement centre, where the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED) and Cotton Corporation of India (CCI ) of the state government usually begin procurement before Diwali which gives the farmers some money to spend during the festival. While the online registration for procurement of cotton from the farmers in the district began on October 7 and the last date for registration was October 31, the actual procurement has only just commenced. This forced several farmers to sell to private traders.
“I had no money in hand, and only 20 quintals of yield to sell as I lost everything else to the bollworm. Of that I sold seven quintals of cotton to private traders at four thousand two hundred rupees a quintal, incurring a loss of more than eleven thousand rupees,” Guddu Bhadoria, another cotton farmer from Salod taluka in Wardha district, told Gaon Connection.
Meanwhile, CCI has begun procurement in six of its centres in Wardha district. “As of November 22, twenty two thousand two hundred and eighty five quintals of cotton have been procured,” Gautam Walde, district deputy registrar, told Gaon Connection.