India’s cotton exports in the first six months of the season 2023-24 starting October have more than doubled with prices turning competitive for the overseas buyers.

Exports during October-March were up 137 per cent at 18 lakh bales compared to the 7.59 lakh bales logged in the same period last year , per the latest estimates released by the Cotton Association of India (CAI), the apex trade body. India had exported 15.59 lakh bales during the 2022-23 season.

CAI President Atul Ganatra said the Indian prices were competitive during the October-March period contributing to the higher exports. “Our prices were lower by ₹3,000-4,000 per candy than the international price for some time,” he said.

However, with the global prices easing in the recent weeks, the Indian prices are now at par or slightly costly compared with the Cotlook Index, Ganatra said. For the current 2023-24 season ending September, CAI estimates the cotton exports to be over 22 lakh bales. The trade body is likely to revise its export projections on June 10 at its national crop committee meeting in Ludhiana, based on the shipment data till May-end and also on the inputs of the 60-odd stakeholders.

Robust demand

Meanwhile, demand for India cotton continues to be strong from buyers in countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam among others. “Bangladesh buyers prefer Indian cotton as it is competitive and also due to faster delivery,” said Ramanuj Das Boob, a sourcing agent in Raichur, Karnataka.

Das Boob said the multinationals such as Louis Dreyfus Company, Viterra and Olam among others have been aggressively offloading their stocks in the Indian market, which is being picked up by the local trade. From a high of 102 cents per pound on ICE in March, the cotton futures have eased to currently hover around 80 cents, while the domestic prices have come down from ₹61,000 a candy to around ₹58,000 levels during the period.

The domestic prices in India are very competitive for the MNCs to offload in the Indian market, Das Boob said adding that movement of prices, which are steady now, will depend on the ICE futures going forward.

Balance sheet

Meanwhile, CAI has retained its pressing estimate for 2023-24 at 309.70 lakh bales (of 170 kg each) even as consumption is seen picking up in the domestic market.

Consumption till March end was estimated at 165 lakh bales — higher than the previous month’s 135.70 lakh bales. Domestic offtake for the year-ending September 2024 is estimated at 317 lakh bales.

CAI estimates total supply in the country till March end at 297.03 lakh bales, consisting of market arrivals of 263 lakh bales, imports of 5 lakh bales and the opening stock of 28.90 lakh bales. Stocks at the end of March 2024 was estimated at 114 lakh bales. This includes 47 lakh bales of stocks with the textiles mills, equivalent to 51 days consumption and remaining 67.03 lakh bales with Cotton Corporation of India, Maharashtra Federation and trade. Supplies for the year-ending September 2024 are estimated at 359 lakh bales.