While farmers are already at the receiving end, the Punjab government may also feel the heat of whitefly attack on cotton crop – in terms of revenue collection.
The state government collects rural development fund (RDF) to the tune of one per cent from the buyer of cotton in the mandis. The excise and taxation department charges 4.95 per cent as purchase tax on cotton. Another one per cent is charged as market fee by the concerned market committees, half of which is retained by the market committee and half deposited with the Mandi board.
Out of the total 4.5 lakh hectares area where the crop was sown, damage due to whitefly has been reported in 1.36 lakh hectares. According to experts, the yield is most certainly going to reduce and which in turn will likely take its toll on the revenue generated from procurement of cotton in the mandis.
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As per officials of Punjab Mandi Board, as much as 49.48 lakh quintals of cotton arrived in Punjab mandis last season and till March 31, 2015, as much as Rs 18 crore was collected as market fee.
While the concerned official dealing with rural development fund said that the department “did not have the commodity wise figures of RDF collections”.
An official at the excise and taxation department said, “The data is not ready and it will take some time to get the exact figures.”
On the other hand, the cotton ginning factories have their own reasons to worry.
“As per some estimates, 40 per cent of the cotton crop has been damaged by the whitefly attack. That is a lot. Where will we get the raw material to run the factories? As it is the owners of ginning factories have been at the receiving end for years. From 422 ginning factories in 2003, the number of factories has come down to 98. We urge government to waive the minimum monthly bills of power of such factories and only charge the bills for actual consumption of electricity,” said Bhagwan Bansal, president, Punjab cotton factories and ginners association.
Meanwhile, agricultural experts say that the whitefly attack would hit the farm labourers as well.