Bt cotton too hot for red chillies in Haveri

Byadagi chillies, known for their taste and colour, are in high demand in the international market as well. The climate and soil in Haveri are also congenial for Byadagi cultivation and the chillies are grown widely in the district.

Recognising the huge turnover from the crop, a Byadagi chilli market of international standard was also established at Byadagi town.

However, in the past few years, despite stiff resistance from farmers, Bt cotton has made in roads into Haveri district. Initially, farmers did not suspect the threat it could pose to red chillies, as it was the main commercial crop in the district. But the damage caused by Bt cotton to red chillies in the past five years is unfathomable. The cultivation of red chillies has taken a backseat, as a majority of farmers have taken to growing the genetically modified cotton.

Sharp decline

Of the 80,000 hectares of land under horticulture cultivation, red chillies are grown in nearly 40,000 hectares in the district. With each passing year, the areas cultivating chillies are shrinking and there has been a steep decline in their production.

In the past four years, there has been a loss of 12,000 hectares of land and the turnover has been a mere 29,000 tonnes of red chillies.

In 2007-08, red chillies were grown in 39,197 hectares of cultivable land, while it was reduced to 26,212 hectares in 2010-11. In the current year, the cultivable area is expected to shrink to a further 20,000 hectares.

Whereas the growth of Bt cotton has surpassed the expectations of both the district farmers and the agriculture department. In 2008, Bt cotton was grown on 79,000 hectares, while in 2011, the cultivable area has increased to 94,600 hectares. In the current year, Bt cotton seeds are expected to be sown in nearly 1.15 lakh hectares in the district.

Bt cotton has also eaten into groundnut, green gram and jowar production. But it is the chillies that have been the worst affected, say officers of the agriculture department.
Volatile market prices for red chillies, high rates of pesticides and insecticides have also made farmers in Haveri shift to Bt cotton cultivation, said Mahadevappa, a farmer from Savanur.

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