Maharashtra has more area under the cotton crop than China in the current marketing year, but it is still in an unenviable situation as its yield level has been the lowest even among producing states in India.
The cotton acreage in Maharashtra is projected to exceed the coverage of the crop in China in the current marketing year. While the cotton coverage in the state remained close to 42 lakh hectares in 2015-16, the entire area under the fibre crop in China could be as low as 38 lakh hectares, according to an estimate by the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC).
Although the state-run Cotton Advisory Board is yet to firm up estimates of state-wise cotton production and yield for 2015-16, it can be safely assumed that productivity in Maharashtra would be around the same level as last year (337 kg), as the state has witnessed wide-scale dry-spells for a second straight year now.
But even in a relatively better monsoon year, say 2013-14, the poor yield in Maharashtra alone dragged down the country’s average productivity to 525.13 kg per hectare, almost 20% lower than the national average without the state. The yield level in the state has been abysmally low, mainly due to poor farm practices, a lack of adequate irrigation network and frequent dry-spells in some regions.
While the coverage in Maharashtra has remained steady in the past three years, China has been cutting down on its cotton area, as it offloads the fibre from its huge reserves and also trims subsidies for farmers.
China, the world’s largest cotton consumer as well as importer, has also been trying to shift from labour-intensive industries such as garments and textiles in recent years and some Chinese companies have been investing in other countries, notably Vietnam, in these segments to beat rising wage costs at home.
India beat China for the first time to become the world’s largest cotton producer in 2014-15.