Running behind schedule, the Punjab agriculture department finally has started efforts for sowing cotton, the second biggest kharif (summer sown) crop of the state. Water has been released in almost all distributaries (water channels) barring some areas in Fazilka district. The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has been directed to provide uninterrupted power supply and seed companies have been asked to provide inuts to farmers at their doorsteps.
The department is mulling the option of making announcements from the public address systems of gurdwaras in villages about the availability of seeds.
The state government has set a target to bring about 5 lakh hectares under cotton this season, from 3.90 lakh hectares in 2019 season. Ideal time for cotton sowing is considered from the first week of April to May 15 as the crop sown after that is prone to pest and disease attack.
The sowing was much delayed due to late harvesting of the wheat crop and various restrictions in place to stop spread of coronavirus. All factors in mind, the agriculture department is all out to achieve the ambitious target though some officials feel it is a herculean task.
“After four years, the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) made purchases in marketing season, and the produce fetched Rs 5200-5350 per quintal in open market, near the minimum support price of Rs 5450 per quintal for long staple of 27.5-28.5 MM. Thus, more farmers are expected to return to cotton from water guzzling paddy,” said an agriculture department official. Bhatinda, Mansa, Fazilka, Muktsar are four districts with over 90% of the sowing. It is also sown in small stretches in Faridkot, Moga, Sangrur and Barnala. To achieve the target of sowing in 5 lakh hectares (12.5 lakh acres), 25 lakh seed packets of 450 gram each are needed. The state government has arranged 21.5 lakh packets and the rest are in transit. Each packet of Bt Cotton Bolgard II costs Rs 730.
“All arrangements for smooth cotton sowing and to achieve target has been put in place. Canal water has been released in various water courses, power availability has been ensured and seed companies have been asked to reach out to farmers. Now, the weather also seems favourable. We hope to get near the target in the middle of May or by the end of May till when crop can be sown,” Punjab agriculture director Sutantar Kumar Airi said.