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Nearly 50 per cent cotton crop under pest attack

With official estimates of losses pegged at a whopping Rs 15,000 crore nearly 50 per cent of the cotton crop in the state has come under pest attack. A total of 42 lakh hectares is under cotton and nearly 20.36 lakh hectares spread across 18 districts has been affected with pink bollworm a major cotton pest.

Officials of the state agriculture department say there have been complaints of Bt cotton seeds failing for the last two to three years, the magnitude of the attack and losses are unprecedented for this year. So far around 80,000 farmers had applied for compensation with the agriculture department. But field inspection of only 2,188 farms has been completed.

The cost of insecticides and pesticides, which constitute nearly 40-45 per cent of the total cost of production, was also projected to come down through use of Bt seeds. On the basis of these claims, companies manufacturing the seeds were charging farmers a higher sum. This year 160 lakh packets of Bt seeds each costing Rs 800 were sold bringing in business of Rs 1,280 crore for companies and nearly 96 per cent farmers in the state use Bt seeds.

Chandrakant Patil, Minister for Relief and Rehabilitation says the state cabinet has given permission to conduct inspections of affected area. Compensation will be given to the farmers either through state disaster relief fund or the national disaster relief fund. The first two picks have yielded more cotton than last year. The pest attack has only affected the third picking.