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Cotton Production May Increase as Farmers are Likely to Extend Picking

Unseasonal rainfall will help with 4th picking; high pricing and water availability will also be important.

Chintu Das
Cotton Crop
Cotton Crop

Unusual rains in producing areas are turning out to be a gift in disguise, as they may enable cotton growers to collect their crop for the third and fourth time this season. 

In light of this, the trade anticipates India's cotton production to rise, as better prices and favourable water storage conditions would encourage farmers to extend the harvesting season beyond November-December. 

In Gujarat, the largest growing state, raw cotton (kapas) prices have exceeded Rs 7,500 per quintal. Cotton is also a favoured crop over other rabi (winter) crops such as wheat, rice, or chana because of enhanced water availability due to excessive rainfall in September in producing regions. 

Experts said that even though excessive rains delayed first picking and dampened short-term prospects for the crop, increased water availability and high prices would encourage farmers to go beyond the traditional 2-3 pickings to four pickings this year, according to an online workshop organized by trade body Cotton Association of India (CAI) on Thursday. 

As per Indian cotton industry experts and stakeholders, this would boost the country's cotton production, which was previously expected to decline owing to damage worries from unpredictable monsoons and flooding in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. 

Prices Are Reasonable 

Cotton trade forecasts 360 lakh bales (each weighing 170 kg) for the current season (October 2021-September 2022), up from CAI's revised estimate of 354.5 lakh bales in the previous season. 

The present cotton pricing of Rs 6,500-7,500 a quintal, according to Manjeet Singh Chawla, President of the Madhyanchal Cotton Ginners and Traders Association, is highly appealing. The rates are in comparison to the Centre's minimum support price of Rs 5,726 per quintal for this season. 

"By the end of November or early December, most farmers had removed their cotton plants and switched to wheat or chana. However, because cotton prices are good at the moment, they will continue to pick cotton. That will eventually contribute to the recovery of the damage caused by the heavy rains," Chawla added. 

Despite a 13% reduction in planting, Ravinder Reddy, President of the Telangana Cotton Millers and Traders Welfare Association, believes the quality of the cotton crop would improve due to rainfall and sunlight. "At the present higher prices, we don't observe a trend of farmers ripping out cotton plants and replacing them with maize or paddy." The prices for these crops aren't particularly appealing. Cotton will be grown by farmers beyond November and December." 

Even though the crop quality improved following sunny sunshine, there was an average estimate of approximately 5-10% damage due to September rainfall. According to Atul Ganatra, President of CAI, "To summarize the entire trading attitude, we can conclude that, due to increased kapas rates, 3rd and 4th picking may be prolonged into November-December." 

"The growing cotton prices suggest that consumption is increasing and approaching output levels," stated Pradeep Kumar Agarwal, CMD, Cotton Corporation of India, in his speech. Consumption is expected to reach 350-360 lakh bales per year in the near future. "Now is the moment to consider how to boost India's cotton output," he added. 

Despite India being the world's largest producer and second largest exporter of cotton, Suresh Kotak, a veteran cotton specialist and industry leader, voiced worries over decreased yields. 

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