The economic slowdown and unseasonal rains may bring on yet another year of trouble for the region’s cotton farmers. Rain has increased the moisture content of the crop, due to which private traders are not offering more than Rs. 4,800 per quintal, against a minimum-support price (MSP) of Rs. 5,600.

When farmers demanded that rates not be lowered below the MSP, the ginning mills, which started procurement four days ago, stopped buying. Thus, cotton procurement has not begun even several days after Diwali—an unusual situation. Traders say that on account of the low rates of yarn, they cannot afford to buy raw cotton at MSP. Yarn’s price has dropped due to a lack of demand in the textile industry on account of general slowdown. Even quality cotton, with moisture within acceptable limits, is fetching Rs. 5,100-5,200 per quintal, said sources. Amid the political crisis in the state, no formal orders have been issued for the Rs 10,000-crore aid package announced by former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis for farmers hit by unseasonal rains. Still, officials in the state’s revenue department said President’s rule will not withhold implementation of the package.

Sudhir Kothari, a director at the agriculture produce marketing committee (APMC) at Wardha district’s Hinganghat, a major cotton trading centre, said buying was expected to start by November 15. Admitting it has been delayed, he said that even the crop was late by a month this year.

Kothari said that some ginning mills in Ralegaon tehsil of Yavatmal that started purchasing cotton, shut down after farmers demanded payment at MSP. At Adilabad in neighbouring Telangana, 500 vehicles had reached a ginning mill’s gate, but only a few could be accommodated and the centre closed, he said. There are reports of mills having stopped purchases in Amravati district too, said farmers.

Kishore Tiwari, chairman of Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban Mission, said traders were paying as low as Rs 3,500 a quintal for low-grade cotton. “This is one of the worst crises,” he said. Devanand Pawar, a Congress leader from Yavatmal, said the Centre should intervene and provide immediate aid to farmers. Pawan Singhania, a mill owner from Wardha, said because of high moisture content, cotton cannot be processed without drying.

“Lint, which is processed from raw cotton, is priced up to Rs 40,000 a bale in the open market. At this rate, no trader can afford to give more than Rs 5,100 to Rs 5,200 for raw cotton.” he said.