When cotton ginners in Maharashtra found out that cotton from Gujarat commands a higher price, they began to look inward to find ways to improve productivity in the state. What began as a fledgling effort is now gradually being scaled up to become a massive campaign to improve the lot of the farmers by bringing progressive farmers on board and practically going to the doorstep of the farmer to mentor him.
“Ginners at the Farmer’s door” is what the Khandesh Gin/Press Factory Owners Association is calling their effort.
“Productivity of our farmers is as low as 5 quintals per acre or 12.5 quintals per hectare. This is extremely low compared to that of Gujarat, who get Rs 2,000 per candy more than farmers in Maharashtra. This prompted us to look at reasons why farmers in Maharashtra are lagging. Interestingly, some progressive farmers in Maharashtra are able to get a yield of 28 quintals per acre,” Pradeep Jain, president of the association said. If the farmers producer better quality and quantity of cotton, the ginners stand to gain. The association visited the Ahmedabad Textile Industry’s Research Association (ATIRA) and Sircot in Mumbai. ATIRA is an autonomous non-profit association for textile research. It is the largest of its kind in India for textile and allied industries and has memberships of ginning, spinning, weaving, process houses and composite textile units.
After the visit, the association began to rope in experts and progressive cotton farmers in the Jalgaon region of Maharashtra where there is a high concentration of ginning units. These farmers will act as mentors and educate other farmers, Jain said. Around 13 talukas of Jalgaon district have been selected where 10-20 farm visits will be conducted. A team of 20 technical experts has been constituted by the association that would advise farmers from time to time about the seed quality, fertilisers, nutrients and pesticides. The cost per acre comes up to Rs 40,000 which will be borne by the association through sponsorships from which includes seed inputs, fertilisers, nutrients and regular visits to the fields to monitor the progess of the farmer.
According to Jain, members of the association had also visited China a few years ago as part of this effort to study the requirement for cotton. Jain said a team visited Chinese buyers, traders, ginners, warehouses and provided samples of their cotton which was tested by Chinese experts. This was followed by a visit to Jalgaon region by Chinese traders and ginners and visits to farms. China has been the biggest importer of cotton from India until now.
“The Chinese were impressed by our cotton quality and for the first time, we succeeded in getting better prices than Gujarat. We decided to continue our effort on a larger scale so that farmers benefit and in turn ginners benefit, too,” Jain said.
Jalgaon has some 4.5 lakh hectare under cotton and around 1,50,000 farmers cultivate cotton. Jain says if productivity improves by even 10-20% the effort will be a success. We can then reach out to more farmers and the farmers who have becme success stories can in turn become mentors to other needy farmers, he said. Maharashtra processes about 80 lakh bales annually. Around 60,000 labourers are working in these units and majority of the units are located in Marathwada region. Maharashtra has a capacity of producing 1 crore bales.The state has some 1100 ginning units.