By NAYAN DAVE
Kharif cotton sowing for the season 2022-23 in Gujarat is likely to increase by at least 20 percent, compared to the previous season as a mad rush for sowing the cash crop is being witnessed among farmers in the state well ahead of its schedule in anticipation of good return amid high prices of cotton in domestic as well as international markets.
Since last one decade, prices of cotton and groundnut remained almost same at nearly Rs 1000 to Rs 1300 per 20 kg, says Atul Ganatra, president of Cotton Association of India, adding, “However, in the current season the rates of cotton have escalated as high as Rs 2500 per 20kg. But groundnut prices remained almost at the same level. Due to existing high prices of cotton, a large number of farmers are preferring cotton over groundnut. In fact, already pre-monsoon cotton sowing in Gujarat has almost touched 1,40.000 hectors !!!”
Gujarat is the largest producer of cotton with more than 25 percent share in India’s total production. As per the Cotton Association of India (CAI) estimate, cotton production in the country is expected at 33.51 million bales (170 kg per bale) for the season 2021-22 (October 2021 to September 2022) compared to previous season’s 35.30 million bales. CAI has estimated 8.9 million bales production of cotton in Gujarat this season followed by Maharashtra 8.35 million bales, Telangana 4 million bales and Karnataka 2.1 million bales.
“In the current 2021-22 season, farmers in Gujarat got high prices of cotton amid overall demand of the agro-commodity. Because of this reason, farmers in Gujarat started sowing cotton without waiting for the rain to come. For the current season, cotton sowing in the state was over 2.25 million hectares. We are expecting the sowing area of cotton to cross 2.6 million hectares for the season 2022-23,” said CM Patel, joint director of Agriculture, Government of Gujarat. Over the past few years, numbers of spinning mills within Gujarat have increased and as a result, farmers are getting ready markets for their harvest within their home state, claimed Patel adding that in the last 3-4 years, cotton exports from India remained on higher side which translated into higher prices of their cotton crops. Those farmers who are having irrigation facilities or their fields situated on the banks of rivers, have taken calculative risk of sowing cotton before the onset of monsoon, he said. Some farmers are using drip irrigation to use water economically in case of late monsoon, he added.
Terming the trend of pre-monsoon sowing of cotton ‘dangerous’ for farmers, Sargar Rabari, trustee of Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM) says that farmers shouldn’t depend upon only cotton, based on return they got during earlier season. “Many factors including international demands decide prices of cotton. Countries like the USA and China are one of the biggest producers of cotton in the world apart from India. As cotton crop declined in these both countries, international prices of cotton escalated. In case, in the next season, if there would be bumper cotton crops in these two countries, cotton prices may decline. From the KEM platform we continuously persuade farmers to go for multiple crops.”
Rabari says that there is a mad rush for sowing cotton in Gujarat, but KEM recommends them to go for groundnut and Soya as these crops are safer compared to cotton and equally profitable. In the case of cotton, farmers don’t have liberty to take winter crops, as cotton crops cycle is of nearly eight months, he says adding that but in the case of groundnut, farmers get time to take winter crops like pulses and others. Moreover, cotton growers had faced issues of pink bollworm pest menace, he added.