ALSO READASG advises Centre to clarify law over cotton seed prices Homegrown cotton seed replacing Bt variety Hybrid seed companies favour licensing for plant breeders Farmers planted 3.5 mn packets of 'illegal' cotton seeds this kharif season Seed firms squarely blame Monsanto for pest attack on Bt cotton
The Maharashtra government has mopped up the premises of major cotton seed producers and collected samples to assess their quality amid allegations that poor-quality seeds have been responsible for crop damage and lower productivity in the state this year. Industry sources confirmed raids on 8-10 cotton seeds manufacturers. Raiding government officials investigated company representatives and collected samples from their storages. Sources say these samples will be sent to government-recognised laboratories for testing their quality and action will be taken if seeds are found to be substandard. With the rains being normal this monsoon, the cotton crop was fine till the end of October. But pink bollworm infestation started attacking the crop in November and spread across the country in bits and pieces. Cotton farmers in Maharashtra’s suicide-prone Vidarbha region are the most affected. The data compiled by the office of the textiles commissioner under the Ministry of Textiles shows the sowing area under cotton at 4.19 million hectares (ha) in the season 2017-18, which is more than a 10 per cent increase from the 3.8 million ha in 2016-17.
With decline in average productivity, cotton output in Maharashtra is estimated at 8.5 million bales (170 kg each) in 2017-18 compared to 8.85 million bales in the previous year.Textile Commissioner Kavita Gupta had recently said that districts like Yavatmal, Wardha, and Jalna were the worst-affected. Pink ballworm infestations were reported in parts of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, and other major cotton-growing states, barring Gujarat, where farmers adopted good agronomical practices. Meanwhile, the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII), the seed companies’ representative body, has appealed to the state government authorities to resolve the matter. “We are disturbed at the actions by the authorities. Such unilateral and unfair actions will result in hurting the interests of the responsible seed industry, apart from diminishing the availability of new seed innovations in the future,” said Ashwani Yadav, executive director, FSII.