Cotton gains in Gujarat but loses acreage in North Indian States

Rutam Vora/Vishwanath Kulkarni Ahmedabad/Bengaluru | Updated on July 13, 2021

New seed, rise in groundnut seed price push growers to plant the fibre crop

Cotton is gaining area in the largest producing state of Gujarat, but its acreage is lower than last year in other States as farmers are opting for other competing crops such as oilseeds and pulses.

According to data till July 12, cotton has been planted on about 18.43 lakh hectares (lh) in Gujarat, a marginal increase from 18.25 lh in the same period a year ago. On pan-India basis, the area is lower by 17 per cent at 86.45 lh as of July 9 compared with 104.82 lh in the year-ago period. However, the acreage this year is marginally higher than the average of 2016-20.

Also read: India to sign MoU with Bangladesh to export 10 lakh bales of cotton annually

Trade expects acreages to rise further in Gujarat, while the overall area under cotton may end up lower than last year’s levels as sowing has been completed in Northern States and is in last phases in other States.

According to Arvind Patel, vice-president of Saurashtra Ginning Association, cotton acreage will gain momentum in Gujarat on attractive prices. “Cotton prices have increased to as high as ₹7,500 per quintal for raw cotton (kapas). This has brightened the earning potential for the farmers. We believe cotton acreage will increase by about 10 per cent this year,” said Patel.

Notably, most of the cotton acreage this time is seen under new but unauthorised variety of cotton seed called 4-G or Bt4. “The new seed is seen as a win-win for both farmers and ginners. It commands a premium of ₹100 per quintal over regular cotton, while ginners are better-off with about 10 per cent higher cotton extraction over normal cotton,” said Patel.

Farmer leaders in Gujarat noted that farmers were inclined towards groundnut for the current kharif season, but sharp increase in the demand for groundnut seed, the prices shot through the roof, which hit ₹2,500 per 20 kg, higher by nearly 20-25% over previous year. “Even if farmers wanted to switch over to groundnut, it became a costlier affair. So, most of the farmers ended up with cotton only. Improved water availability and outlook for a normal monsoon has brightened the prospects for kharif sowing in the State,” said a district agriculture officer in Saurashtra.

“There’s huge sales of illegal cotton seeds in Maharashtra and Gujarat,” said M Ramaswami, Founder, Rasi Seeds Pvt Ltd, the largest seed vendor. “The situation in cotton is serious. It looks like there will be a 20 per cent decline in area this year. Seed sales have almost closed. Hereafter, the sowing will not happen. Even if it happens, it will not yield properly,” Ramaswami added

Water availability, pest attacks

Mahesh Sharda, President, Indian Cotton Association, said that cotton sowing in North Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan has been lower as compared with previous year. Factors such as water availability and pest attacks in the previous seasons have influenced the cotton sowing.

In Punjab, cotton has been planted on 3.03 lh this kharif (5.01 lh last year), while in Haryana the cotton acreage is estimated at 6.88 lh (7.37 lh). Similarly in Rajasthan, the cotton area is lower at 5.79 lh (6.51 lh). “The region has canal-fed cotton cultivation. But this year there were water supply issues from canal, which impacted cotton sowing. According to the data assessed based on the cotton seed packets sold, we envisage about 10-15 per cent lower sowing this year. Also, in the regions of Central India, we are hearing that oilseed are competing with cotton, thereby further impacting the cotton area,” Sharda said.

In Maharashtra and Telangana, the acreages are lower by about a fifth, compared to last year. In Maharashtra, where the unapproved HTBt cotton is seen making further inroads, the cotton acreage till July 9 was 30.71 lakh ha (38.03 lakh ha), while in Telangana it was 14.13 lakh ha (18.22 lakh ha) and Karnataka at 2.7 lakh ha (2.83 lakh ha). Trade sources said the unapproved HTBt seed varies are also finding favour with farmers in Karnataka and Telangana.

Ramanuj Das Boob, a ginner in Raichur, who sources cotton for multinationals from Karnataka and Telangana, said despite a shortfall in area, the crop is likely to be same as that of last year on higher yields. Last year, the unseasonal rains had damaged the crop in parts of Telangana and Karnataka.

But there are contrary views too.

Cotton Corporation of India Chairman-cum-Managing Director Pradeep Kumar Agarwal said that cotton sowing gets delayed every alternate year but the acreage could be at par with last year or 2-3 per cent lower, if the current trend continues. “I expect the sowing to be done on 125-127 lakh hectares,” he said.

Rajkot-based cotton, cotton yarn and cotton waste trader Anand Poppat said good groundwater level in the growing areas will take care of acreage. “This year, cotton area will not be lower than last year. It will definitely be up 10 per cent both in the country and Gujarat,” he said.

Published on July 13, 2021

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