Agri Business

Cotton growers may face seed shortage as they prepare to expand acreage

Vishwanath Kulkarni, KV Kurmanath Bengaluru/Hyderabad | Updated on April 03, 2021

Industry confident of supplies, but experts say issue about availability of seeds of 3-4 firms that account for 50% of market

Supply of cottonseeds might become tight in the coming kharif season if farmers decide to expand the area under the fibre crop going by the high price that prevailed during the current season to September. Cottonseed production and quality were affected last year due to excessive rains in the key producing State of Telangana and some parts of Tamil Nadu.

“Due to continuous rains last year, there was lot of damage to seed production in Telangana and Tamil Nadu. In Telangana, the largest producer of cottonseeds, production dropped 20-25 per cent. As a result, there may be a tight supply situation this kharif season if the demand goes up,” said M Ramaswami, Founder, Rasi Seeds, the largest player in the segment.

Cotton is cultivated during the kharif season starting June and the crop is harvested from September-end onwards with the farmers picking the bolls thrice until January. However, in some States such as Haryana and Punjab, sowing begins early around April-end.

Higher acreage

The industry expects the cotton acreage to be higher than the normal 12 million hectares as farmers may opt to plant more with prices of raw cotton ruling higher at ₹6,000 per quintal compared with the minimum support price of ₹5,515. Also, Telangana, already a major cotton producer, plans to bring in more area under the fibre crop.

However, the industry doesn’t see much difficulty in seed availability for the kharif season. In a normal year, the demand is 50-55 million packets (of 450 gm each). The industry is ready with about 70 million packets, including a carry-forward stock of 13 million packets, sources said.

“We sold about 45 million packets last year. Even if the demand goes up a bit, we still will be able to meet it as we have enough stocks,” a top executive of a seed company said on conditions of anonymity.

Though the rains had hit some of the seed production areas in the undivided Mahboobnagar district, “we are confident that we can meet the demand for the season,” said M Prabhakahara Rao, President of National Seed Association of India (NSAI).

The industry, however, needs to factor in a likely demand for four million packets from Telangana, which is planning to increase the area under cotton to 80 lakh acres from last year’s 60 lakh acres.

Though the industry contends that it has enough stocks for the season, the real issue is about the availability of seeds of 3-4 companies that share over 50 per cent of the overall market.

Placement of seeds has already started in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, where the planting will begin from mid-April. Ramaswami said that there might not be any carry-forward stocks at the end of kharif planting. The cottonseed industry typically carries forward 10-15 million packets every year.

Published on April 02, 2021

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