Reported by Ranjan Rath
Rayagada, Dec 13:
Cotton farmers in Odisha’s Rayagada district, which has the reputation of producing high quality cotton, are in a soup this as not a single procurement centre has been opened in the district so far though the procurement is well and truly on.
To make matters worse for them, the prices on offer have been considerably lower than last year.
“While the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of cotton was Rs 4500 last year, the competition price ws around Rs 4900. The Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) used to procure cotton from farmers directly and the traders had to compete with CCI thus pushign the prices higher. But this year, only CCI has been asked to procure the cotton and MSP has dropped to Rs 4050,” said Gaira Chandra Patnaik, Secretary of Gunupur regulated market committee (RMC).
“Cotton has been cultivated in 25000 hectares of land in the district and a production target of 50000 metric tonnes has been set this year. However due to lack of visiting traders the demand is low and farmers are losing up to Rs 850 per quintal,” said cotton farmer Suresh Chandra Gamang.
Rayagada is famous in Odisha as the district of white gold for its success in cotton cultivation. “The cotton produced in Rayagada is considered of very high quality due to its staple length of 30-33 mm and less moisture. This is a favourite for export markets and generates revenue of Rs 400 crores directly and indirectly,” said DDA Krishna Chandra Singh.
But the absence of procurement centres, coupled with diminishing government support, has made things difficult for farmers this year.
A large number of farmers from places such as Gunupur, Padmapur, Gudari, Ramnaguda, Bisham katak, Muniguda, Chandrapur, Kolnara, Kalyansinghpur and Rayagada have cultivated cotton on a large scale. However, the profitability of this cash crop has been on a steady decline over the years.
“In the absence of government encouragement for cultivation and sale, the cotton traders of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu exploit the tribal farmers to procure cotton at very low prices by helping them with advance payments at the time of plantation and harvest,” said Meria Shabar of Tambasara village.
The farmers in Gunupur, however, are in a silghtly better position than their counterparts elsewhere.“We have already set up procurement centres at all RMC yards in Gunupur and have offered CCI all possible infrastructures and cooperation,” said Gaira Chandra Patnaik of Gunupur RMC.
Patnaik attributed the low MSP of cotton to falling international prices.