Study favours aggressive cultivation of Soybean in Maharashtra
Bhopal, June 25 (PTI): Can Soybean end the woes of Maharashtra's farmers facing towering debts that are reportedly driving them to commit suicide?
A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Indore suggests that cultivating the oilseed instead of cotton could be more rewarding during the kharif season.
The findings have laid grounds for the Soybean Processors Association (SOPA) to urge the Centre and the Maharashtra government to agressively promote the cultivation of soybean to boost the financial status of farmers.
Cotton has become unremunerative due to higher production costs, declining prices, yield risks and greater incidents of pest attack, the study by institute director S P Parashar and Associate Professor Dipayan Datta Chaudhuri concluded.
Bad finances due to losses in cotton plantation had driven over 3,000 farmers to kill themselves in Maharashtra in the past three years, underscoring the "most painful example of India's agrarian crisis," the study, "Cotton to soybean - a way out of farmers' suicides", said.
"We found that economics of soybean was better than that of cotton. Farmers should be made aware of it," Parashar told PTI, adding a trend of farmers preferring soybean was noticed during the study in Maharashtra, but it should be given more impetus.
"We have written to the Prime Minister, Agriculture Minister, Maharashtra chief minister and the Planning Commission to launch the agressive promotion of soybean to prevent suicides," SOPA cooordinator Rajesh Agrawal said.
Cotton cultivation in India has been plagued by rising cost of cultivation, ineffective pesticides, adulterated seeds and other inputs, the study claimed.
Subsidies offered by rich nations like the US have led to decline in cotton prices in the world market.
In an era of liberalisation, domestic policies in India have led to the removal of quantitative restrictions and subsequently a reduction of import tariffs on cotton from 35 per cent in 2001-02 to five per cent in 2002-03, it said.
All these factors exposed domestic prices to the volatility of international prices and this has adversely affected cotton farmers.
The Monopoly Cotton Procurement Scheme (MCPS) in operation since 1972-73 in Maharashtra was meant to stabilise prices, but over the years, a plethora of problems and cumulative losses have rendered it non-functional, the study said.
Thus, when farmers are exposed to the global market, there is no mechanism to guard them against price volatility. Maharashtra's farmers are exposed to an unfair global trading system, it said.
The farmers' plight got compounded as the minimum support price for cotton never covered the cost of production and the additional advance price was discontinued in Maharashtra since 2005-06.
Soybean offers a cost advantage as it is cheaper to cultivate than cotton in Maharashtra as the cost per hectare for the latter is 53.5 per cent higher and the cost per quintal is higher by 131.1 per cent, the study said.
Unlike cotton, which gets staggered prices, the oilseed provides a ready cash flow, it said.
Soybean, an excellent rotation crop, which is tolerant to extereme weather conditions and requires shorter maturity period, enriches the soil thus requiring less inputs and time for land preparation for the next crop.
Less prone to pest attacks, soybean offers more value to volume ratio as compared to cotton as transportation cost per quintal is lower, the study said.
As against the demand of 17 million tonnes, production of soybean is six to seven million tonnes -- a ready market will persist for soybean which was yet to reach potential yield in India, it added.
Maharashtra has comparitive advantage in soybean cultivation as land productivity is higher than the all-India level. Cotton yield is low in the state, at least partly because of inadequate irrigation facilties compared to 40 per cent in Gujarat.
Since cotton cultivation in Maharashtra is left to vagaries of nature, it is wise to replace cotton by soybean, which is more tolerant to drought-like situation, it said.
Agri. & Commodities