Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vidarbha farmers back to Soyabean this season-TIMES OF INDIA

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Vidarbha farmers back to Soyabean this season

NAGPUR: For the last couple of years, cotton was the preferred kharif cash crop for farmers in Vidarbha. It fetched good price in the open market and farmers made a bounty last season when prices touched a record Rs 7000 a quintal on the back of stong global demand. This season, however, a large number of cultivators are contemplating a shift back to soyabean in a last minute decision.

Confirming this on Thursday, Amravati divisional joint director of agriculture Suresh Ambulgekar told TOI that brisk sales of soyabean seeds indicated there could be at least a 10% rise in area under this crop. "This was a surprise for us too," he said. Weeks before start of kharif operations, mainly in western Vidarbha's cotton belt of Yavatmal, Amravati, Akola, Buldhana and Washim they were clearly in a mood for repeating cotton, happy over the price it commanded last season. "We were expecting cotton crop to go up by a couple of lakh hectares in these parts," the official said.

"However, now it seems they are keen on soya. Two main reasons have been identified for this change of heart among farmers. For one, soya has a shorter crop cycle of 60 to 90 days unlike cotton. Farmers sowing cotton in June are stuck with the crop for six to eight months. After first harvest, they usually wait for second and third flowering to get more yield. But the main reason driving farmers away from cotton is the high labour cost," explained Ambulgekar.

"Unlike soya, which is now-a-days harvested by machines, cotton involves employing manual labour. Last year they had to spend up to 40% of total input on labour costs. The high labour rates directly cut into farmers' profit margins. Harvesters used for soya take less time and are cost effective," he added. So a soya farmer gets good returns and has ample time to take up a rabi crop further boosting his income. Thus a soya cultivator makes more money than those doing cotton.

"Cotton is a labour intensive crop. It needs hands at several levels after sowing like weeding, spraying insecticides, and finally at the time of harvesting. With assured work and wages available under government rural employment schemes, labour rates have shot up by 50%," said Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti. "This increased burden is not been factored in by Committee on Agriculture Costs and Prices ( CACP) while fixing the minimum support price. With all inputs ranging from seeds, fertilisers, labour, costing more, it costs nothing less than Rs 4000 an acre to cultivate cotton," claimed Tiwari. He also agreed that soya was now more lucrative in the prevailing situation of delayed monsoon and high labour rates.

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