Nurpur: While the government machinery has for quite some time been tutoring the farming community, especially those with small land holdings, to diversify into cash crops to get better returns, some of those who took the advice seriously are today finding themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Recently, over 100 silk cocoon producers-cum-farmers from Nurpur, Jawali and Fetehpur tehsils of Kangra district, who very enthusiastically had taken up sericulture on advise from the government, refused to sell their produce to cocoon buyers from West Bengal at the Bhadwar Silk Centre owing to fall in the government’s scheduled sale price with every passing year. And now they have no other option to sell their produce. Fed up with mounting losses due to increasing cost and reducing returns, the farmers thought it best to say no rather than wait for good times to come.
The sale price of silk cocoons had been falling over the years despite the record-high inflation in the country. Farmers revealed that Grade-A cocoons scheduled for Rs 300 per kg in 2006 has come down to Rs 235 to 250 per kg in 2008. Similarly, the grade-B cocoons scheduled for Rs 284 to 299 per kg had fallen to Rs 220 to 234 per kg.
Ironically, the scheduled selling price of silk cocoons is fixed by the state industry department – the same set of officials who plan such diversification measures.
The cocoon producers who boycotted the sale said the government, after showing initial eagerness, now appears indifferent towards promoting sericulture in the state. Sudharashan Singh, a progressive farmer, claimed the cost of rearing silkworms had increased manifold in the past few years but the selling price of cocoons had been falling and therefore it is no longer possible to bear the losses.
Tilak Raj, in charge of the Bhadwar Silk Centre, attributed the falling prices to recession in the silk market in the country. Whatever the reason be, the farmers who took the government seriously in trying their hands at sericulture are now left with no support structure and may therefore be back tilling their fields to earn a square meal, somewhat similar to what happened to those who took up angora farming, floriculture and to an extent even mushroom farming.