The area under cotton across the country this cropping season is likely to be lower as farmers in Gujarat and Maharashtra - key producers - are preferring to plant lucrative crops such as pulses and maize amidst a weakening trend in global prices.

The Cotton Association of India, the apex trade body for the sector, sees the acreage declining in the kharif 2024 season over the previous year’s 124.69 lakh hectare (lh).

In North India, where the planting for kharif has almost been carried out, the acreages are down by close to half as farmers in s Punjab and Haryana faced crop losses due to a rise in pest attacks — mainly the pink boll worm — last year amidst rising production costs.

“As per information received from North India members in the recent CAI meeting, cotton sowing in the current kharif season is lower by 40 to 60 per cent in Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab,” said Atul Ganatra, President, CAI.

In Gujarat, the largest producer, the cotton acreage is expected to decline by 12-15 per cent this year, Ganatra said, based on the trade feedback from the State. With parts of Gujarat receiving rains, farmers have already shifted to groundnut and other crops, he said.

In Maharashtra, which has the largest cotton area in the country, the scene is no different from Gujarat. “Maharashtra state association and other trade members are expecting a 10-15 per cent reduction in area,” Ganatra said. Maharashtra farmers are shifting from cotton to tur (pigeon pea), maize and soyabean, the CAI President said.

Seed sales feedback

Based on the feedback from the seed distributors, Ganatra said the sales of cotton seeds are slow in the State. “As per information received from the members, due to shortage of water not much of early cotton sowing is done in Central and South India,” he said. In MP, the area is likely to be lower by a tenth, while in the South,farmers are waiting for the minimum support price (MSP) to be declared, he said.

The CAI President also said the bearish trend in ICE Futures is influencing cotton sowing. ICE cotton futures for December 2024 are trending lower at 70 cents per pound, which works out to the Indian rupee equivalent of ₹47,000 per candy. Presently, the cotton prices in India are hovering in the ₹55,000-57,000 range for the 29 mm.

“Lower December ICE futures is not good for the upcoming cotton sowing sowing. The lower futures is affecting cotton sowing as Indian farmers are keen waiting and watching the ICE futures on a day-to-day basis and then taking decision on sowing,” Ganatra said.

Cotton was planted in 124.69 lh during the 2023-24 season, with Maharashtra topping the acreages at 42.34 lh, followed by Gujarat at 26.83 lh and Telangana at 18.18 lh.