The area under cotton in North India is unlikely to exceed levels witnessed last year as farmers in Punjab are seen reducing the acreage in the kharif planting season. However, aided by unseasonal rains in early April, farmers are likely to bring more area under the natural fibre crop in Haryana and Rajasthan.

“Cotton sowing is down in Haryana by about 10 per cent as of today. With planting to go on till first week of June, we expect it to be covered,” said Ashwani Jhamb, Vice-President, Indian Cotton Association Ltd.

The area in Punjab will be down this year as farmers, faced with quality and quantity issues last year due to pest attacks, are seen shifting to paddy in some regions. However, in Rajasthan, rains in April have helped farmers to take up cotton sowing, Jhamb said.

The Indira Canal is shut due to repair works and is likely to be opened next week. Though canal water availability is an issue, farmers have benefited from early rains, he said.

Most of the districts in northern Rajasthan, Punjab and parts of Haryana have received higher than normal rains in the March-May period this year as per IMD data. While unseasonal rains impacted the harvest of rabi crops, it is seen helping farmers take up early sowing of cotton. “Overall we expect the cotton area in North India to go up by around 10 per cent,” Jhamb said.

Seed sales same as 2022

During 2022-23, cotton was planted in about 2.41 lakh hectares (lh) in Punjab, 6.47 lh in Haryana and 7.77 lh in Rajasthan. “In the North, the overall area is unlikely to exceed last year’s levels despite Punjab trying to boost area. Farmers, who were impacted by the pest attacks last year, have not come forward to increase the acreages” said M Ramasami, Chairman of Rasi Seeds Pvt, the largest hybrid cotton seed firm. There will be a 2-3 per cent increase in Rajasthan and Haryana, he said.

Rasi expects its sales of cotton seeds at last year’s levels of 50 lakh packets in North India. The overall hybrid cotton seed market in North is seen at between 75 and 80 lakh packets, same as last year.

Satyendar Singh, CEO of seed business at Crystal Crop Protection Ltd, said “Except Punjab and some parts of Haryana, particularly Jind district, the sentiment is positive towards cotton this year. North Rajasthan is also positive and the area may increase by 15-20 per cent in Ganganagar district. In Haryana, the overall area may remain the same or see some increase, mainly in the southern part of the State.” His company, which has sells 17 cotton hybrids across the country, saw sales better than last year, he said.

Illegal Bt seeds sales down

Interestingly, in Punjab the area under the illegal BG-III cotton is seen declining sharply this year, contributing to the decline in overall cotton area.

Ramasami said the sale of unapproved BG-III cotton seeds in Punjab has been totally controlled this year due to the efforts of the state agriculture department.

Crystal’s Singh said farmers, who planted the unapproved BG-III hybrids last year had faced huge losses due to the increased pest attacks such as cotton leaf curl virus and white fly. As a result, they are staying away from planting illegal seeds, which is reflected in a decline in the overall cotton area in Punjab.