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The Southern India Mills’ Association

Committed to Foster the Growth of the Textile Industry

How world’s biggest producer of cotton is now threatened by bollworms

Chandubhai Patel, 56, has a sense of satisfaction that both his sons are educated —the elder, Vijay, is an engineer and the younger, Ajay, is waiting to pursue a higher degree after graduation. Like many other well-to-do cotton farmers in Saurashtra, Patel too engages labourers on a yearly contract basis, allowing him to avoid the drudgery of being in the farm every single day. Once in a while, he visits his farm in Vadod, egging his sons to accompany him, first to educate them on the nuances of cotton farming but more importantly to instil in them a sense of their legacy. A little prodding and Patel tells you that he is not happy. Unreliable Bt cotton seeds, perennially low cotton prices, an uncaring political regime and, above all, the gulabi pest — the pink bollworm. To prove his point, he breaks one cotton boll after another to demonstrate the pink pestilence that has been the bane of his farming life. “Before the pink bollworm menace, we used to produce 800 kg per bigha (2.5 bigha is equal to 1 acre), now we produce only 500-600 kg,” says Patel, sipping cutting chai in his farm. In between, he instructs the workers clearing a part of his cotton field to sow chickpeas. “This is the first time I am experimenting with a crop other than cotton.”