India: Poor rainfall leaves cotton farmers writhing in agony


50 per cent of the crop on 23,237 hectares in Perambalur lost due to drought.

The impact of drought on cotton in Perambalur district, which normally contributes 4.8 lakh tonnes, accounting for 30 per cent of the State’s total production, is likely to leave a gaping hole in the overall State cotton production. The normal cotton coverage in the State is about one lakh hectares.

Being one of the most backward districts in the State, it is maize and cotton that have been contributing to the agrarian economy of the district considerably, thus making a significant mark on the gross domestic product of the district.

Almost 90 per cent of the 5.64 lakh population of the district are dependent on agriculture. While 50 per cent of them are dependent on maize, at least 40 per cent are engaged in cotton cultivation.

The normal cotton cultivation area in the district is 17,140 hectares. This shot up to 26,291 hectares in 2011-12 and declined to 23,650 hectares in 2012.

Collector Darez Ahmed announced in the recent agriculturists’ grievances day that of the total cultivated area of 84,317 hectares in the district, as much as 78,285 hectares had been indentified to have suffered loss of more than 50 per cent because of the drought.

According to official sources, even the Nilam cyclone that battered several districts did not shower even a single millimetre of rainfall in Perambalur district.

As per the annevari certificate issued about a fortnight ago, of the total cotton area of 23,650 hectares, as much as 23,237 hectares have suffered over 50 per cent crop loss.

Rajachidambaram, general secretary, Tamilaga Vivasayigal Sangham, who hails from the district, laments cotton farmers are facing a crisis because of poor rainfall.

Official sources admit that as against the normal rainfall of 791 mm, actual receipt is only around 660 mm.

N. Selladurai, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangham, says he has lost as much as Rs.1.35 lakh by raising cotton in seven acres. “I spent Rs.1.75 lakh and what I have harvested could fetch me only around Rs.40, 000 which has just been enough to meet the wage component.”

While farmers lament that acute water scarcity has devastated several acres of cotton, Kolathur C. Rajendran, another cotton farmer, says cotton is a six-month crop but could be raised only once a year.

“The maximum that we will be able to produce is 8-10 quintals per acre. But this year, it is hardly four to five quintals because of poor rainfall.” Cotton is dead in areas such as Sirugambur, Ailur, and Ayakudikadu, he points out. He said cotton was quoted at Rs.6,000 per quintal in 2009-10 when cultivation cost was Rs.30,000.

Now the cultivation cost has shot up due to spiralling cost of labour and prices of fertilizers and it works out to Rs.45, 000 to 50,000 per acre. But cotton is now quoting around Rs.3,000 per quintal. “We will be ruined if we are to sell at this rate.” “Unless we get at least Rs.10,000 a quintal, we will be in deep trouble” he added. Official sources said the minimum support price for cotton has been hiked by almost 30 per cent in 2012 (for medium staple from Rs.2,800 to Rs.3,600 and for long staple from Rs.3,300 to Rs.3,900).

Source: Business Line