Amid shortage of migrant farmworkers due to coronavirus outbreak, Punjab this year has set a record by bringing 5.01 lakh hectares under cotton cultivation, which is the highest since 2011-12 kharif or summer-sown crop season.
The Punjab agriculture and farmers welfare department had set a target of sowing cotton on 5 lakh hectares under its crop diversification programme.
State agriculture director Sutantar Kumar Airi on Thursday attributed the addition of 25% area to the well-coordinated crop management plan that led to record cotton sowing.
“After the outbreak of Covid-19, the state authorities had serious apprehensions to meet the target of enhancing cotton sowing in south Malwa region from 3.9 lakh hectares in 2019 to 5 lakh hectares this year. But joint efforts yielded encouraging results,” he said
In 2012-13, cotton acreage was recorded at 4.81 lakh hectares in Punjab. Cotton is sown in eight districts of south Malwa with concentration in four districts only. This year, Bathinda leads with 1.72 lakh hectares under cotton cultivation, followed by Fazilka (1.22 lakh), Muktsar (1.01 lakh) and Mansa (93,775).
Sangrur, Faridkot, Moga and Barnala districts together recorded sowing on over 12,000 hectares.
Sources said the state crossed 5-lakh-hectare mark only once in 2011-12 when 5.16 lakh hectares were under cotton crop.
In 2015, cotton belt suffered widespread damage to the crop after whitefly attack and in the next three years, the area under cotton shrunk drastically. In 2018-19, cotton was sown on 2.83 lakh hectares, lowest in the decade as the agronomy of the cotton belt was hit due to the pest attacks in 2015.
However, 2019-20 saw a bumper season when cotton production touched the record 43 lakh quintals. Also, farmers got good returns as Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) purchased a sizeable chunk at MSP (minimum support price) and it motivated farmers to bring more area under cotton.