The cotton acreage in the state has doubled in the last one decade while area for food-grain production has come down, shows state agriculture department’s data. Almost 33 per cent of total 89 lakh hectares is under cotton cultivation. This year’s cotton acreage is a little above 30 lakh hectares.
According to experts, the cotton cultivation is expected to go up further next season if the recent decision of the Central Government to allow export under the open general license (OGL) is allowed to continue.
Both the Congress and the BJP are pressing for continuation of OGL for cotton as the December 2012 Assembly elections in the state is approaching fast.
The officials in the state agriculture ministry said the main reason for the increase of acreage under cotton was the availability of Bt cotton seeds as these are “resistant to pests and insects, and increase the productivity and better prices”.
Bt cotton’s resistance to attack of pests and insects also brings down the cost of production as farmers need not spend much on pesticides to protect the crops, experts said.
State Agriculture Minister Dileep Sanghani claimed that extension of irrigation facilities like taking Narmada water to the farmers’ fields in districts like Vadodara, Anand, Kheda and Surendranagar, and similar facilities developed in some of the areas in north Gujarat districts further encouraged farmers to go for cotton cultivation.
However, officials in the state agriculture department said good monsoon in the last one decade coupled with water conservation projects helped growth of agriculture in the state.
The monsoon water stored in reservoirs was used by the progressive farmers of the state to go for cotton cultivation, officials said.
So, it was no wonder that the acreage under cotton saw constant increase from 16 lakh hectares in 2001. It went up to 17.5 lakh hectares area in 2002, 19 lakh hectares in 2005, 20 lakh hectares in 2006, 23 lakh hectares in 2007 and 24 lakh in 2008.
However, it went down to 23.64 lakh hectares in 2009, but again saw an increase to 24.64 lakh hectares in 2010 and 26.30 lakh hectares in 2011.
In 2012, the state witnessed the maximum increase and acreage under cotton cultivation which is over 30 lakh hectares.
The districts where additional areas were brought under cotton cultivation are Bharuch, Vadodara, Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Patan, Banaskantha and all the districts in Saurashtra region.
However, switching over to cotton hit the cultivation of other crops in the state. According to Deputy Director (Agriculture Statistics) J H Suthar, it was generally the acreage under wheat and groundnut that was affected by farmers’ new infatuation with cotton crop.
He said wheat cultivation went down to 13 lakh hectares from 15 lakh hectares earlier, and the area under groundnut cultivation also went down by almost 2 lakh hectares.
With the groundnut prices witnessing a rise now, the farmers might again switch over to groundnut cultivation, he further said. But ex-general manager of Cotton Corporation of India, Shafi Ahmed Shah, said Centre’s decision two days ago to bring cotton under OGL might retain the interest of Gujarat farmers in cotton cultivation.
Rashtriya Kisan Dal secretary H K Thakar said farmers in the state were switching over from food-grain production to cotton because of the high profit.