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Bt Cotton And Economic Drain
In Punjab

By K.Jayaram

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 from Gujarat.

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/- per acre.

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 bug).

K.Jayaram 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 Maharastra".


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