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Prasanna Mishra

India, world’s largest cotton producer, grows cotton in 122 lakh ha (8.74% of the country’s net sown area) and produces now over 361 lakh bales of 170 kgs. While the yield rate varies from state to state, Gujarat’s average yield is high- over 700 kg/hectare. Maximum production is from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana. The crop is grown in Rajasthan, Haryana, Karnataka, Andhra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tamilnadu and Odisha as well.

Cotton in Odisha can be viewed as a significant force that has edged out less remunerative crops like Suan, Gulji, Arhar, Ragi and local upland Paddy grown on highlands in the western and southern parts of the state- a noteworthy silent though slow revolution brought about not by government initiative but by proactive companies in the business of seeds. A major non-traditional commercial crop, it is presently grown in 1.69 lakh ha, that is, 2.73% of the state’s total cropped area and 5.8 % of the state’s total highland under crop. Present production is 4.65 lakh bales of 170 kg each —1.38% of the country’s production – and productivity is 495 kg/ha (98.80% of the country’s productivity). Most cotton is grown in Kalahandi, Bolangir, Rayagada and Nuapada though it’s grown to some extent in Ganjam, Sonepur, Gajapati, Boudh, Bargarh, Phulbani and Koraput as well. Most cotton growers are small, marginal farmers and lack resources to improve farming quality. The crop is wholly rain-fed.

While these developments had been happening, Government should have been more than a disinterested onlooker. Bt cotton, which is resistant to bollworms, is yet to be officially allowed for cultivation in Odisha. A large number of hybrids are cultivated lacking fibre quality information. Absence of an appropriate policy for cultivation of Bt cotton in the state has been a constraint on legal action against delinquent seed sellers. Regional Research and Technology Transfer Station (RRTTS) of OUAT at Bhawanipatna, the only research centre for cotton in Odisha, in operation since 2001, came out with a new variety BS 279 that has been released in 2019 for cultivation. For a high-density planting system, variety BS 30, is to be soon released. There is a need for speedy action by the government for seed production to ensure wide availability of these new seeds.

Drip irrigation would help farmers and the crop. A tailor-made policy with adequate subsidy to small and marginal farmers should be put in place soon. It’s high time for a holistic view of the Textile sector in the state. Spinning Mills set up years ago during the last Congress Government are now in a shambles. Existing Ginning Mills aren’t adequate enough. There is a need for oil extraction facility as well.

Districts like Sundargarh, Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar provide ideal soil and climatic conditions for cotton. Cultivation should spread to these areas. Intercropping of pulses like red gram, black gram and oilseeds like soybean in cotton will increase the area of these pulses, improve soil health and reduce the risk for the cotton crop.

A well thought out road map is the need of the hour. That should comprise policy towards Bt Cotton; seed multiplication of new varieties released by OUAT; expansion of cotton cultivation to six lakh hectares; drip irrigation facility; ginning mills, spinning mills and oil extraction facilities.

Cotton holds out decent livelihood opportunity for six lakh small and marginal farmers of the state who presently struggle with less remunerative crops in uplands – an opportunity we can ill afford to miss.

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(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. The author can be reached at lonewalker.1942@gmail.com)

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