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Maharashtra’s cotton farmers hit by bollworm attack, unlikely to get relief

Although the state government has announced compensation of Rs 30,800 per hectare to cotton farmers whose crop was devastated by pink bollworm attack, agriculture department officials have called the move an eyewash claiming the cotton growers are now unlikely to get even half of the promised compensation.

Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar had announced a relief package for the calamity-hit farmers. The Maharashtra government estimates that 34.39 lakh hectares of the total 41 lakh-hectare area under cultivation in over 20 districts of the state, was affected by the bollworm pest. The package comprises insurance cover of Rs 8,000 per hectare, a compensation of Rs 6,800 per hectare under the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and Rs 16,000 per hectare out of the recovery from the seed companies.

A senior official said, “The state has sought the Centre’s help for Rs 2,430 crore under the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) but the Centre never approves 100 per cent of the demand. In that case, the state would not be able to compensate the farmers the contribution announced under the fund. It has also said it will give Rs 8,000 per hectare under insurance cover but most farmers may not be eligible for compensation as their first two pickings have registered excessive produce.’

Farmers are eligible for insurance only if the loss is for over 30 per cent of the total yield and there were many cases where farmers had produced over 70 per cent yield. Also, the recovery from seed companies under the Maharashtra Cotton Seeds Act, 2009, due to failure of seeds is difficult.