Farmers, however, blamed the loss on the state government’s advice on what crop to grow and the delay in announcing the minimum support price.

A farmer and his wife sitting on the roadside with their cotton harvest in Telangana
news Agriculture Wednesday, November 04, 2020 - 17:43

Sitting by the road that leads to Telangana’s Siddipet are Mirudoddi Rajaiah and his wife. Beside them are two heaps of cotton produce. One plastic sheet laid on the roadside has sparkling white cotton spread out to dry while another sheet has damp cotton that has turned pale after losing colour. Rajaiah and his wife are saddened by the outcome of this season’s harvest. Even while talking to TNM, they continue to segregate the few good strands of cotton from the affected ones. The incessant rains that Telangana received recently has adversely affected their harvest.

Rajaiah and his wife sitting beside their affected cotton harvest

“As per CM KCR’s instructions, we cultivated cotton this season. It cost more than Rs 50,000 per acre. We hardly managed to reap a yield of 6 quintals. It’d have been profitable only if the total yield was more than 12 quintals. Had the government not asked us to cultivate cotton, we would have chosen to cultivate either corn, yellow gram or maize, like the previous years,” Rajaiah tells TNM.

Hearing the conversation Rajaiah’s son Ravi steps out from their home. Ravi has completed his graduation and says he is not interested in agriculture. But because he couldn’t find a job, he is presently helping his parents with the harvest. Rajaiah says if Ravi had a job, they wouldn’t have been adversely impacted by the loss they have incurred in agriculture.

Speaking about the price at which he sold the produce, Rajaiah says, “We sold the produce for Rs 1,100 per quintal. After we sold it, the government announced a minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,850 per quintal. The government’s delay in announcing the MSP has caused us huge losses. The brokers are the ones who have made money.”

A cotton plant in Dubbaka, Telangana

While farmers like Rajaiah blame the government for announcing the MSP late, experts say that the MSP is decided by the Union government. Though the Centre announces MSP for 25-30 crops, their purchases are only limited to rice and wheat, that also only to a certain percentage. The state government has no responsibility to purchase, store or market produce. But many state governments, including Andhra and Telangana, are helping farmers. As far as rice is concerned, both state governments purchased the entire quantity from farmers. But the MSP mechanism is not in order, say experts.

Rajaiah points to a heap of corn that he had cultivated on a small portion of his land, which became infested because of the excess rains.

A heap of corn that got ruined due to the excess rains

In the last week of October, after a review meeting with agriculture officials, CM KCR had announced, “Farmers in the state are habituated to cultivating certain crops. This method should change. Farmers should cultivate crops that have a demand in the market. We’ve introduced a regulatory farming policy precisely for this. There’s a need to increase the extent of cultivation of other crops along with paddy and cotton.” The same note from the CMO also said, “Officers should advise farmers on which crops should be cultivated based on availability of water, nature of the soil and weather conditions.”

According to the Telangana government, because of the Regulatory Farming Policy being followed, the state stood second in the country in cotton cultivation. In the rainy season in 2020, cotton was cultivated on 3.19 crore acres in the country. Maharashtra stood first with 1.04 crore acres of cotton cultivation while Telangana stood second with cotton cultivated on 59.925 lakh acres. Gujarat stood third with 56.307 lakh acres. According to the Telangana CMO, until last year the state was in the third place, behind Gujarat and Maharashtra. In 2019, cotton was cultivated in 65.897 lakh acres in Gujarat while it was 45.948 lakh acres in Telangana.

A Cotton plantation in Telangana

However, while the statistics speak about the acres on which cotton was cultivated, it does not mention how much produce came from the cultivated cotton. Farmers like Rajaiah have suffered great losses despite cultivating several acres of cotton.

Another farmer in Dubbaka’s Lachapeta village says he suffered losses after he followed the government’s instructions to cultivate fine rice. He says, “Every year we cultivate normal paddy, this year as the government suggested fine rice we followed their advice. A large portion of our produce has gotten infested. Fine rice doesn’t suit our land, we have incurred huge losses.”

However, Chengal Reddy, Chief Advisor, Consortium of Indian Farmers, believes that whatever the CM suggested was in the interest of farmers. He explains, “The government can’t force farmers, they only suggest and advise. The situation we’re seeing today is not due to bad advice, but due to the excess rains that affected the crops. Farmers need to balance their production keeping in view the market conditions based on which the government is providing advice.”

According to experts, in the last few years, there has been excess crop because all farmers are growing the same crop. Reddy says, “The state government is providing water, fertilisers and credit at subsidised rates. The onus now lies on farmers to form farmer companies, they need to form commodity groups and do production and marketing themselves. They can’t permanently depend on the government.”

According to Reddy, fine rice is now seeing increased demand, with a lot of people preferring it for consumption. Fine rice is being preferred for mid-day meal schemes and government procurement also, so the Telangana government’s advice probably takes into consideration all these demand factors as well.

READ: Decoding Telangana's crop regulation system: Ambitious goal but farmers skeptical

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