Muskmelon farmers of Jalandhar and Kapurthala districts are staring at huge losses as an outbreak of viral disease and cold weather conditions have reportedly caused around Rs 30 crore worth damage to the crop. Farmers say unseasonal rains have damaged a majority of the cultivated area,with over 80 per cent crop damage in some areas of both the districts. Kapurthala is one of the largest producers of muskmelons in the country. The farmers now want the state government to intervene.
Around 70 per cent of the musk melon producers say they have already planted this crop but stunted growth has resulted in muskmelons rotting in the field itself. I had cultivated muskmelons on an area of five acres and all of it got damaged due to the outbreak of a viral disease which has led to early fruiting and disfigurement of the melons, said Sarwan Singh of Shahkot block.
Agriculture Development Officer of Shahkot,Sukhjit Singh said that in his block,around 200 hectares was dedicated to muskmelon and added that almost the entire crop has been destroyed. Farmers are facing huge losses as muskmelon seeds cost around Rs 11,000 and above per kilogram, he added.
Kapurthala Horticulture Development officer Sukhdeep Singh,when contacted,said the crop needed dry weather and added that comparatively cooler weather and strong winds this year had aided the viral attack on the muskmelon crop. He further said that last year Kapurthala district had produced 26,437 MT of muskmelon but this year the yield would be less. This year,around 45,00 hectares was dedicated to the crop in Kapurthala and Jalandhar including 3,500 hectares in Kapurthala alone. Farmers claim to have spent around Rs 6,000 to Rs 7,000 on seed per hectare.
Horticulture Development Officer,Jalandhar Daljeet Singh,however,blamed the outbreak of the viral disease on the farmers decision to buy hybrid seeds from various private companies in South India instead of opting for varieties developed by the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU). Private companies mostly sells virus affected seeds to them without any check from the state Horticulture department, alleged a senior horticulture officer.
On why private companies were not checked from selling the spurious seed,Daljeet said the horticulture department had no such powers and added that it was the duty of the state agriculture department. He also said that the virus has no treatment and the only solution was uprooting the affected plant to save the remaining crop.