The country’s cotton output is set to rise by 9% to 377 lakh bales (of 170 kg each) even as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh may report lower production this season, according to figures released by the Cotton Advisory Board (CAB). The output in the northern region is expected to increase 28% to 59 lakh bales (46 lb) on the back of a bumper crop in Rajasthan and Punjab, which is pegged at 22 lakh bales (16 lb) and 12 lakh bales (9 lb), according to top officials. Though the output in the southern region is slated to go up to 104 lakh bales from 90 lakh bales, it may come under revision due to the pest attack in Telangana and Tamil Nadu, said Kavita Gupta, textile commissioner, who headed the first CAB meeting for the current season. The estimate of 377 lakh bales is higher than 345 lakh bales produced in the 2016-17 marketing year, but almost 6% lower than previous industry estimates for a record 400 lakh bales. A 19% rise in the area planted with cotton had prompted most industry officials to estimate record production this year.
However, as harvesting began farmers found fields were infested with pink bollworms which consume the cotton fibre and seeds inside the boll, or fruit, of the plant. The problem was especially widespread in the western state of Maharashtra, the country’s biggest cotton growing area. Though there were pest attacks in Gujarat, the impact was contained as the farmers adopted the best practices suggested by the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), she said, adding that Maharashtra suffered the worst pest attack, especially in Yavatmal and Jalgaon. Other states that were hit include Karnataka, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh.
The area under cotton cultivation has gone up by 19% to 122 lakh hectares this year from 108 lakh hectares last year. With a lower import estimate of 17 lakh bales from 31 lakh bales earlier and opening stock of 48 lakh bales from 36 lakh bales previously, the overall supply is put at 442 lakh bales from 412 lakh bales.
On the demand side, mill consumption is estimated to be higher at 288 lakh bales from 263 lakh bales — consumption by the small-scale and non-textile industry may increase to 27 lakh bales (26 lakh bales earlier) and 19 lakh bales (17 lakh bales earlier), respectively. Exports are slated to increase to 67 lakh bales (58 lakh bales earlier) as Pakistan is expected to import from India, she said.
So far, Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) has procured 3.5 lakh bales of cotton worth Rs 688 crore at a minimum support price of Rs 4,320 a quintal.
However, CCI’s intervention from now on will be limited as prices are expected to stabilise above the MSP, she said.
A bigger Indian crop and low domestic prices will likely boost exports from the South Asian country amid higher demand from Pakistan, Gupta said. Shipments to Pakistan are seen rising to 18 lakh bales in 2017-18 from 790,000 bales a year earlier, she added.