Hyderabad: Telangana is bracing for lower output of chilli, one of its major crops, as many farmers hurt by last year's price crash have shifted to other crops.

Lower chilli acreage, along with lower production of cotton due to unseasonal rains and pink bollworm infestation, could drag down the state's overall agricultural output this year.

State horticulture department officials, requesting anonymity, said that preliminary data received from some districts show that in 2017-18, the cultivated area for chilli production reduced by 20% compared with the previous year.

In May 2017, the agricultural market yard in Khammam district was ransacked by angry chilli farmers after prices crashed to Rs3,000-5,000 per tonne from the previous year's Rs12,000-15,000.

According to state horticulture department data, chilli was sown on 12.43 lakh hectares last year and yielded about 48.29 lakh tonnes.

“Given that cotton production has been impacted, this year’s reduction of the chilli crop will bring down the state’s agricultural production to some extent. We will know how much of the yield has reduced only after the crop is harvested later from February onwards," one of the officials quoted above said. He added that apart from the local markets, prices in neighbouring states and countries also determine the market prices.

Heavy rains and the pink bollworm adversely affected cotton crops in parts of the state in the first two weeks of October. Experts estimate that consequently, cotton yield could fall by 15- 20% this year.

According to data from the state agricultural marketing department, 6.5 lakh tonnes of cotton have reached agricultural markets till mid-December, lower than what was expected, as the crop was sown on 49% of the state’s total cultivable area.

“The Telangana government or the horticulture department should be prepared for these kinds of situations in advance. Many of the chilli farmers in the state had shifted to cotton last year (due to the price crash) and opted for it because its market rate was good then. Now they are facing problems," said Kiran Vissa, a member from Rythu Swarajya Vedika—a farmers' organization based in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Vissa pointed out that in 2017, the Andhra Pradesh government had stepped in and purchased chillis when prices fell. The same should be done if it happens in Telangana in 2018, he said.

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