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With last year’s unsold groundnut stocks, Gujarat farmers turn to cotton

The oilseed was once the backbone of farming in the State but is losing ground
Groundnut sowing in Gujarat is set to dip this kharif season as last year’s crop lies unsold and rains are delayed.
Nafed-led agencies procured over 8 lakh tonnes (lt) of groundnut at the minimum support price, but a negative sentiment prevails. A 25 per cent decline in acreage as compared to last year’s 16.61 lakh hectares (lha).
“Farmers have suffered heavy losses. As against the cost of ?8,000-10,000 per `bigha’ (about half of an acre), we got a market price of ?3,500 per quintal on a yield of three quintals.
Also, there are chances of crop failure in groundnut due to pest and climate conditions. Hence, most of the farmers in our region have decided to turn to cotton or other short-duration pulses crop,” said Lalitbhai Vagadiya, a farmer from Mithapur in Junagadh District.
But there is a section of farmers who prefer groundnut crop for this kharif season. Jagdish Rangaliya of Halvad in Morbi district asked, “What else can we sow? Chana didn’t fetch remunerative prices. For cotton, it is difficult to get labourers for picking.
There is no crop that earns well for us. At least we are accustomed to groundnut crop and it doesn’t affect the soil even if cultivated repeatedly.” Rangaliya, plans to continue with groundnut on his 15 biga (about 7 acres).
“Groundnut was the backbone for farmers and for Gujarat’s economy too. There was a complete ecosystem around it.
But after surge of cotton, there were political interests linked to it.
Hence groundnut was ignored, which led to its decline and also the allied sectors,” said Vitthal Dudhatra, president – Gujarat Pradesh of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS).
According to Gujarat government data, groundnut area had peaked to 20 lha in 2003 with production of 44.77 lt, which fell to as low as 12.85 lha in 2013 with production dropping to 7.62 lakh tonnes. Similarly, during same period, cotton acreage increased from 16.47 lha in 2003 with production of 46 lakh bales (each of 170 kg), to 26.91 lha 2013 with production of 112.8 lakh bales.
Dudhatra further stated that cotton, being a global commodity had multiple factors supporting it, hence cotton market remained robust even in the slack period.
Groundnut, however, failed to create such acceptability due to its limitations on consumption.
With tepid response to groundnut oil consumption and step-motherly treatment meted to groundnut exports has left groundnut growers into despair.
Rangaliya said, “There is no hope from farming. I had two of my kids in a private school near Halvad. But I can’t afford it anymore. I got my son transferred to a village school and kept daughter in the private school.”