Updated on 21 May 2012
Also, cost of cultivation is taking a toll on farmers. Labour is scare. The cost of cultivation for a farmer ranges between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 per acre. This excludes land rentals. Labour for picking and weeding takes 60 percent of the cultivation cost. "The seed packet prices might have gone up but that consitutes just seven-to-eight percent of the total cultivation cost," says Dr Shukla. Bringing in technologies that can control both sucking pest and weeding can significantly reduce cultivation costs.
Market price hurdle
Industry experts are unanimous in the view that though the increase in the price of Bt cotton seeds has not had any impact on the yield, but the price or returns they get from the market will affect it. Fluctuations of cotton prices in the international market over the last one year has greatly affected the prices procured by Indian farmers. "The price hike in Bt cotton seeds have not shown any adverse effect on cotton cultivation in Gujarat, but the fluctuating of market price of seed cotton during last two cotton trading season may affect cultivation of Bt cotton in the next kharif season," says Dr Shah.
Industry experts say if not given any certainty on returns, farmers may shift to other crops from Bt cotton. "If cotton prices go up by 20 percent then we can see the area under Bt cotton cultivation to remain the same, but if it continues to remain in the current level, then we will see a shift to other crops, such as soybean or maize," informs Dr Shukla.
The government should constitute a policy regime where it can maintain a fine balance between commodity price for cotton and price that farmers procure in the market. New technologies can make a difference. The benefits of Bt cotton have been realized and it is time to move to the next level. "The country has procured all the benefits of Bt cotton. Whatever improvement has to happen has taken place. It is time that we move to other technologies, which will improve yields. For example, sucking pest or drought-resistant technologies that many companies are working upon," says Mr Dhiren N Sheth, president, Cotton Association of India. "All stakeholders should sit down together and then come out with a common consensus."