GUNTUR: Farmers of Guntur, the district which is famous for its chillies and Asia’s largest Mirchi Yard, are reluctant to cultivate chillies. The area of chilli cultivation in the district in the kharif season has reduced to 77,000 hectares from 1.6 lakh hectares in the last season, registering a whopping 50% reduction.
The major reasons are heavy losses in the last season due to poor quality seeds and severe pest infestation. Majority of the farmers in the district have shifted to cotton, the second commercial crop in the district. Famous for its rich colour and pungency, Guntur chillies have huge demand in national and international markets.
Chilli farmers gained profits even during the Covid-19 pandemic. Expecting good profits, many farmers in the district opted for chilly last season. This increased the area of cultivation of chilli in the district from 70,000 hectares to 1.6 lakh hectares last season, the highest in the past few decades. However, due to unexpected and severe pest infestation, the majority of the crop was damaged last season and several farmers incurred losses.
Heeding to the suggestions of the agriculture experts and officials on crop rotation to avoid such pest attacks, several farmers switched to cotton.K Rama Rao, a farmer in Palnadu district said, “With hopes of gaining profits and clearing my debts, I cultivated mirchi in the past two seasons. However, I lost 60 percent of the crop due to pest infestation which, in turn, increases my debts. If I don’t get profits this season, I have no option but to quit agriculture, at least for a couple of years.” “The prices of cotton, which is not as profitable as mirchi, are good now. So I have decided to cultivate cotton this season, which is a safer option considering the circumstances,” the farmer added.
Palnadu district Agriculture Officer Mahitha told TNIE that against the total requirement of 3.14 lakh metric tonnes of fertiliser, the officials have arranged 64,302 metric tonnes. The remaining will also be distributed to the farmers as planned, she added.