After reports of the whitefly pest attacks on the cotton crops in parts of Punjab, the Union agriculture ministry on Wednesday constituted a five-member team which would visit the state to assess the damage to the kharif crops.
“A few pockets of Fazilka, Mansa and Bathinda districts are facing whitefly menace. The ministry of agriculture has constituted a five-member team which would visit affected areas within the next two days,” an official statement said.
The committee is being chaired by an official from the Department of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage, under the ministry of agriculture.
Last year, whitefly attacks had caused widespread damage to Bt cotton varieties in Punjab and Haryana. In Punjab, 1.36 lakh hectare out of the total 4.50 lakh hectare of cotton acreage had been impacted by whitefly attacks last kharif season which pulled down the output as well.
According to agriculture ministry data, due to whitefly attack, cotton area in Punjab this year has shrunk to 2.56 lakh hectare till last week as against t 4.50 lakh hectare reported last season.
Similarly, cotton-sowing area in neighbouring Haryana has declined by 14% to 5 lakh hectare this year as against 5.8 lakh hectare in 2015-16. Even in Uttar Pradesh, the cotton acreage has fallen by around 19% at 0.17 lakh hectare as against 0.21 lakh hectare in the said period.
Besides, the deficient rainfall in Gujarat till now has also pulled down overall cotton sowing. The cotton kharif sowing is down 22% from a year ago to 67.89 lakh hectare till last week.
According to an agriculture ministry official, more than 90% of farmers have sown Bt cotton seeds, the maximum retail price of which is being fixed by the central government from this year.