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Pest attack, rains worsen Maharashtra agriculture crisis

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Nagpur: Factors like the damage caused to various crops in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions due to pest attack, insufficient rains, and suspected pesticide poisoning have “worsened” the agrarian crisis in Maharashtra this year, according to the state-run task force. Task force chairman Kishor Tiwari said the preliminary loss caused to the cotton economy due to multitude of factors is around Rs 10,000 crore.

Tiwari heads the task force–Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban Mission (VNSSM)—which is empowered to recommend and ensure implementation of a host of measures for the welfare of 60 lakh farmers including finance, food, health and education security to prevent more incidents of suicides in the parched farmlands in 14 districts in VNSSM’s jurisdiction.

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Tiwari said he has written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and sought the immediate intervention of the state government.  “The agrarian crisis in Maharashtra is getting worse this year due to (factors like) bad rains, poisoning caused by pesticide spraying (which claimed lives of many farmers in Yavatmal district) besides a massive attack by pink bollworm and other pests on standing crops of cotton, soybean, paddy, and pulses in Vidarbha and Marathwada,” Tiwari said in a press release on Monday.


Expressing apprehension that over half of the total standing cotton crops in Marathwada and Vidarbha may be lost due to pest infestation, Tiwari expressed surprise over the pink bollworms infecting the genetically-modified BT cotton crop.  “This year (cotton) crop has failed to rupture. Anxious farmers who manually opened the cotton bolls were aghast to see pink bollworms in abundance. The situation is unprecedented and it seems more than 50 per cent of the crop would now be lost to worms,” he said.

Tiwari said farmers at some places in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions had flattened their bollworm-infected cotton crop using tractors.  He said the extent of damage to the cotton crop is up to 90 per cent in some areas.

“There is a little chance of saving the crop now as chemical pesticides are also not available in the market because of the recent scare and deaths caused by contact poisoning during spraying in fields,” he said.  Tiwari alleged the “market intervention” on part of the state and Central governments is “too low” even as farmers are selling cotton, soybean and pulses at below Minimum Support Prices (MSPs).  He demanded relaxation of procurement norms as an immediate measure to help farmers.