Cotton output in Punjab set to fall

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, Sep 18 | Updated: Sep 19 2007, 05:39am hrs
Cotton output in Punjab, the major producing state of north India, is likely to fall due to the incidence of mealy bug.

The Punjab state agriculture director, BS Sidhu told FE that incidence of mealy bug has occurred largely in the Malwa region consisting of Bhatinda, Muktsar, Faridkot and Ferozpur districts. The farmers in Punjab opted for Bt cotton cultivation in a big way with the hope of earning better returns. Their hopes are belied with the largescale incidence of mealy bug, he said.

According to Sidhu, cotton output in Punjab is slated to fall to 2.5 million bales this year despite the increase in area under Bt cotton. In the previous year the state produced 2.698 million bales of cotton.

Sidhu said that the farmers took to use of chemical pesticides like organophosphates and carbamates, but the situation could not be fully controlled. According to him, the farmers incurred a loss within the range of Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 per hectare.

Sidhu is in Delhi to attend the national conference on agriculture convened by the central government to discuss and strategies for the upcoming winter crops.

The conference is deliberating on the performance of summer (kharif) crops in different states and is slated to finalise the production estimates on September 19.

The director of Agro Chemicals Policy Group, RG Agarwal said, Had the government promoted the use of pesticides in the right time, the loss could have been avoided.

The biotech seed industry is, however, confident that the incidence of mealy bug on Bt cotton in Punjab would only marginally affect the prospects of cotton production on the national level.

The executive director of All India Crop Biotechnology Association, RK Sinha said, This year the area under Bt cotton has increased to about 550,000 hectares from 380,000 hectares in the previous year. About 17 million packets of Bt cotton seeds have beensold this year, he said.