According to SM Kolhatkar, director, Cotton Development Board, cotton has been planted on 81.46 lakh hectares across the country compared with 105 lakh hectares a year earlier. By July 25, cotton has been sown on some 24.326 lakh hectares in Maharashtra compared with 37 lakh hectares in the year-ago period, he said. The last three year's average for cotton acreage has been around 117 hectares, he said. Dr KR Kranthi. director, Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur, however, has expressed some concern over the delay in monsoon and the ability of the farmers to catch up with sowing operations. "Normally, by this time, sowing should be complete in both Maharashtra and Gujarat. At present, just 60-70% of the sowing has been completed. Moreover, in Andhra Pradesh, another cotton growing state, sowing has been completed on just 2 lakh hectares compared with 10 lakh hectares same time last year," he said.
"Sowing is picking up. Yet there is a concern in terms of crop recovery. While the deficit in acreage would be made up, the follow up rains in September and October will hold the key for yields and output. If there is no rain in this period, the crop does not pick up well," Kranthi maintained. "Soyabean has taken a beating in Maharashtra and farmers cannot take up late sowing for this crop at this time of the year. So it remains to be seen if this induces farmers to shift to cotton and the impact on the overall acreage has to be seen," he said.
Kranthi still expects cotton acreage to go upto 110 hectares. Maharashtra, the largest state under cotton, will still get to see about 38-40 lakh hectares under the fibre crop while in Gujarat, the acreage may come down to around 23-24 lakh hectares against last years 28 lakh hectares, Kranthi said. In north India, cotton has been planted on about 14 lakh hectares while in Andhra the acreage could stand at around 18-19 lakh hectares.
Kolhatkar agreed that the delay in monsoon could have an impact on the overall output but also maintained that the cotton is a sturdy crop and can survive in less rainfall. In Andhra and parts of Karnataka, cotton plantings can go on till early August. However, in Gujarat, where the rains were scanty till a few days ago, cotton has gained acreage from other crops such as groundnut.
Rajesh Agrawal, coordinator, Soybean Processors Association of India (Sopa), said sowing is expected to be near 80-90 % by the month end. "Sowing operations are in full swing in Maharashtra and have been completed in Madhya Pradesh. There could be a shortfall of 3-4% at most compared with last year," Agrawal told FE. Last year, soyabean was planted on some 12.03 million hectares. Maharashtra country's second largest soyabean growing state contributes 35-40% of the total output nationally. Soyabean is planted on nearly 28 lakh hectares in the state. In June, prices of certified soyabean seeds have gone up by around a third to R70 per kg in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra the country's main soyabean growing states causing concern over possible shortage of seeds. The agriculture ministry had pegged the shortage of certified and quality soyabean seeds at 69,616 tonnes across the country.
According to the ministry data released on Friday, sowing has been completed on 53.31 million hectares as of July 25, compared with 74.77 million hectares a year ago. The IMD data shows that the rainfall deficit (from the normal level) on a national level has come down to 25% from 43% two weeks ago with a revival in rains.