Guwahati, Thursday, November 22, 2012
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Low returns forcing farmers to abandon jatropha
 GUWAHATI, Nov 21 – Since the price of bio-diesel is kept artificially low in the country, jatropha cultivation in the North-eastern part of the country has remained non-viable and this has led to many farmers abandoning their jatropha plantations in the region.

This was asserted by Kishor Goswami and Hari Kanta Choudhury of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. They were making a joint presentation on jatropha-based bio-diesel at the Omeo Kumar Das Institute here recently.

They have made an appeal to the Government to think seriously in favour of raising the market price of jatropha for sustainability of the industry in the region.

Price of bio-diesel is almost half of the subsidised fossil, diesel. Thus, the behaviour of the farmers has a link with the profitability of jatropha plantation. Unless the price of bio-diesel increases at least up to the market price of fossil diesel, market price of jatropha seeds will not increase. This will have a negative impact on the jatropha farmers, they said.

Lower returns from jatropha plantation induce higher income group people to invest their resources on some alternative activities rather than on jatropha plantation, the Kharagpur IIT social scientists observed.

Referring to a study they have carried out, they said the present study confirms that the possibility of adoption of jatropha plantation is more for risk takers.

Significantly, they said, higher education level opens alternative avenues for the growers. Under such circumstances, there is every possibility of switching over from jatropha plantation to some other activities.

However, lack of knowledge leads to inadequate plantation practices. This results in inadequate maintenance, poor growth, and higher mortality of plants. Consequently, farmers lose their interest and finally abandon their plantation.

Farmers having knowledge about jatropha can anticipate correctly the prospects and benefits from jatropha. This motivates the farmers to go for jatropha plantation.

Since plantation of jatropha involves a long-term commitment of farmers along with the opportunity cost of land and labour, higher opportunity cost induces the farmers to either switch over their land or labour from jatropha plantation to some other uses, more particularly in the absence of reasonable returns, said the Kharagpur IIT social scientists.

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