Cotton planting in the country has doubled in terms of area compared to the same period last year. Good monsoon and high prices for cotton have prompted more and more farmers to opt for cotton over pulses and soya, top officials of the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, said. Over 45 lakh hectares were sown in the cotton-growing regions of the country, said MS Ladhaniya, director of CICR, adding that this does not mean that the acreage is likely to be doubled by the end of July. A clearer picture will emerge in the next 15-20 days, he said. Ladhaniya is of the opinion that the acreage is likely to go up to 120-122 lakh hectares for the cotton season of 2017-18. As per the data released by the agriculture ministry, an unprecedented increase in cotton sowing has seen the area under kharif cultivation going up by nearly 20%. With most parts of the country receiving good rains as the first month of monsoon activity comes to a close, there is an indication that sowing will pick up momentum in the coming weeks. Sowing of cotton so far has been particularly impressive with its acreage registering an increase of almost 2.5 times over the same period last year. A substantial increase in cotton cultivation in Maharashtra (an increase of 6.51 lakh hectare) and Telangana (3.16 lakh hectare) has ensured that the acreage under cotton increased to 46 lakh hectare from 19 lakh hectare this week the previous year.
So far, farmers have planted 222 lakh hectare under different crops, nearly 19% higher than the 187 lakh hectare planted by this time last year. Sowing of kharif crops begins in June and continues through July as the monsoon progresses across the country. During the kharif season, farmers typically plant around 1,060 lakh hectare.
By this time of the year, the normal or five-year average of sowing area is 220 lakh hectare. According to Ladhaniya, sowing operations have already been completed in the North, including Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana. Sowing is picking up in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat. As per the initial indications during the current season, the cotton area sown would be around 6 lakh hectare in Haryana (against 4.98 lakh hectare during 2016-17) and 4 lakh hectare in Punjab (as against 2.56 lakh hectares in 2016-17).
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In Punjab, cotton is likely to make revival in several south-western districts where paddy was grown in the past years. In Rajasthan, the area under cotton is expected to remain static at around 4.5 lakh hectare. “Strong domestic prices are likely to influence the decision of farmers to allocate greater area to cotton. Farmers who opted to soybean and pulses – competing crops of cotton – during 2016-17 are likely to switch back to cotton since the returns from these crops were low despite bumper yields,” Ladaniya said.
Meanwhile, the Cotton Association of India (CAI) said that cotton exports of India are likely to see a decline of 17% in the 2016-17 season. India exported 72 lakh bales of cotton in 2015-16 and CAI has estimated that the exports will touch 60 lakh bales in the ongoing season. The CAI has placed its cotton crop estimate for the season at 336.25 lakh bales of 170 kg each.