Monsoon woes: Rain delay has Maharashtra cotton farmers worried

Written by Nanda Kasabe | Pune | Updated: Jun 25 2014, 14:36pm hrs
A delay in the the progress of monsoon over Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh is becoming a cause of concern for cotton growers, but industry watchers are hopeful of a good crop.

Sowing has been delayed but a delay in the crop could eventually prove to be a boon since cotton is a desert and a sturdy crop that can survive in a rain-deficient situation as well. We will have to wait and watch but at most I expect sowing to be impacted by 5% in the country, Dhiren Sheth, president, Cotton Association of India ( CAI), said.

According to the latest sowing update given by CAI, sowing has been completed on 20 lakh hectares across the country. Cotton acreage was 11.5 million hectares last year and the output touched a record 38.825 million bales of 170 kg each, according to CAI.

For the year ahead, the Centre has set a production target of 35 million bales.

Elsewhere in Vidharba, one of the main cotton-growing regions in Maharashtra, the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti led by Kishore Tiwari has begun sounding alarm bells for farmers. According to Tiwari, buoyed by a few showers in the start of June and heavy rain on June 17, farmers in the region went ahead and completed almost 90% sowing operations and are now staring at the prospect of re-sowing for which farmers do not have funds. Soya has been planted on 8 lakh hectares, cotton on 20 lakh hectares across Maharashtra and now there is the challenge of at least 50% re-sowing, Tiwari told FE. He has sent letters to PM Narendra Modi and Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan seeking government intervention for seeds and restoring credit to farmers. At present, temperatures at around 42 degrees in Vidarbha and there is very little possibility of germination. There are no quality replacement seeds and there are predictions of no rains till July 1. Maharashtra is facing the prospect of its worst drought of the decade, he said.

Sowing requires active monsoons in June and after July, farmers can do little, he added. The situation is similar in Marathwada, Khandesh, Jalgaon and north Maharashtra.

In a normal year, the monsoon reaches Vidarbha region, the main cotton growing belt in central India by June 10, but this year there is no such indication, said KR Kranthi, director of the Nagpur-based Central Institute of Cotton Research. In Gujarat, according to CAI estimates, sowing fell 29% to 2 million hectare till June 20 due to late onset of monsoon. Last year, cotton acreage stood at 2.81 million hectare till date, as government data showed last week. Chengal Reddy, secretary-general, consortium of Indian Farmers Association (CIFA) said farmers should take into account that in the last 19 years there have been enormous variation in arrival of monsoons. Sowing has taken place in very few pockets in Andhra Pradesh and the offtake of cotton seeds has been negligible and sales has not picked up as yet. However, chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has declared a subsidy to genetic cotton seeds and the amount is yet to be finalized, he said. I would give 20 days for the whole thing to settle down.