Cotton And Economic Drain
31 August, 2007
The much hyped Bt Cotton and
increased yields, reduced plant protection costs were fall flat with
the Mealy bug infestation on Bt Cotton in Punjab. There is a huge economic
drain from Punjab due to cultivation of Bt Cotton. The honeymoon of
Bt Cotton was over and trouble started now.
I met some pesticide dealers,
farmers and the employee of a Pesticide Company (Nagarjuna chemicals)
during my last visit to Punjab to collect the data on pesticide sales.
I got some interesting data on pesticide sales in this year. Mealy bug
attack on Bt Cotton in Punjab is responsible for increased sales in
pesticides. Profenofos is the largest beneficiary out of this mealybug
incidence. Mealybug incidence is common in all the Bt Cotton varieties
and most devastation was observed in the Bt Cotton varieties brought
Profenofos, Acephate, Acitimoprid,
Imidocloprid, DDVP etc are using to control the Mealybug but Profenofos
is recommended by PAU and department of Agriculture. In Punjab there
are 12,729 villages and 10,249 fertilizer and pesticide shops, village
and chemical input shops ratio is 1.22. There are around 17 pesticide
companies marketing their products in Punjab. The maximum share was
contributed Novartis and Insecticied India limited.
I met a pesticide dealer
in Jaithu (Jaithu serves for 19 villages and around 20 dealers). According
to him he sold 10,000lts of Profenofos which costs about Rs.45, 00000/-.
The net profit for the dealer is Rs11, 50,000/- (this is only on Profenofos).
On each leter of pesticide there is a margin of Rs115/- for the dealer
(company price is Rs.335/- per lt and dealer price is Rs.450/-). According
to this dealer Novartis is not able to supply the demand and around
125Klt of indent for Profenofos was kept pending.
I met Khulabhusan bharathi,
a pesticide dealer at Bhatinda, according to him Bahtinda market serves
for 50-60 villages, last year he didn't sell even one liter of Profenofos
but this year he sold out 2,000lts, which means he got a net profit
of Rs.2,30,000/- . According to him "Our earnings have dramatically
increased. But excessive use of pesticide may damage the soil in Punjab'.
That would hurt his long-term business, but he's not sure if the government
is paying attention.
I met few farmers in Jajjal
and Chaina who are cultivating Bt.Cotton, according to them they sprayed
many pesticides but they failed to control the mealy bug. The number
of sprays varied from 17 to 34 times. These farmers told me that the
costs on pesticides to control Mealy bug varied from Rs3, 000/- to Rs.4000/-
There are many estimates
on pesticide trade (total pesticides) in Punjab the estimates ranges
from Rs.500 to Rs.800 crores. But my calculations stand at Rs.525crores
only to control Mealy bug. According to my estimation around Rs.700
crores were drained out of Punjab (for Bt seeds and to control Mealy
is an Agricultural economist working with Centre for Sustainable Agriculture,
Hyderabad based NGO, working for Sustainable Agriculture. He is presently
looking after "Establishing Ecological Agriculture in Punjab and
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