Insects, pests damage sugarcane crop in Meerut District

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Meerut (Uttar Pradesh), Aug.12 (ANI): Sugarcane farmers are facing a double-edged sword of a prolonged drought and pesticides damaging about 50 per cent of their standing crop.

More than a quarter of the districts in Uttar Pradesh are in the grip of a severe drought, which is threatening to cut output in the world's top consumer and leading importer of sugar.

About five to six thousand hectares of sugarcane fields have been severely affected by both pests and insects in four blocks of Meerut District, damaging 60 percent of the standing crop in the area.

Farmers complain that the government isn't doing much to stop the spread of both pests and insects.

"We are in for a big loss. We complained to the government but no one came to spray pesticides in our fields. Now when we give the damaged crop to cattle even they refuse to eat it," says Ram Singh, a farmer.

India has seen its sugarcane planted area contract for the second successive season due to low prices last year.

Weak monsoon rains since June this year are also hampering sugarcane production.

Farmers say their crop output will be about 40 per cent low, leading to a short supply of sugar in the market. Farmers say they are now facing a double-edged sword of drought and pests and fear dark days ahead.

"This year the sugar crop is in a bad state. We don't get electricity and water in time. The government does not make fertilisers available in time. Pests have damaged the crop. We already have reduced 20 percent cultivation of the crop owing to low price. On top of it, a 20 percent shortfall of sugarcane yield is feared. The farmers are now on the verge of committing suicide," said Shailendra Chauhan, a farmer.

According to a district official, all the cooperatives in the area have sufficient stocks of pesticides and are spraying them in the cane fields.

"Pesticides have been made available to cooperatives. They are doing a good job. They have sprayed pesticides in an area of 4,000 hectares to contain the pest. Cooperatives have been given ... endosulfan, and... at the same time farmers are being encouraged to use pesticides to control the crop damage," said DR R. B. RAM, Sugarcane Officer, Meerut.

Uttar Pradesh normally accounts for about 55 percent of India's sugarcane production. However, with 20 of the 71 districts hit by drought there will be a shortfall in the yield. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar confirmed this fear earlier last month.

Pawar said India is expected to produce 15.0-15.5 million tonnes of sugar in the year to September, down from 26.3 million tonnes a year ago.

To maintain the supply of sugar and help control price and black marketing, India has contracted imports for about 2.5 million tonnes of raw sugar this year. Traders expect the country to buy another 3 million tonnes in 2009/10.

India has extended its scheme to allow duty-free raw sugar imports until March and white sugar imports up to November, Pawar said last month. (ANI)

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