Cotton planting in the country is likely to fall to the lowest in seven years in the 2016-17 marketing season, thanks to pest attacks, late onset of monsoon and shift to pulses and oilseeds by farmers. According to top officials of the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) , Nagpur, cotton planting for this season is unlikely to exceed 104-105 lakh hectares. As on date, cotton planting across the country is around 99 lakhhectares, according to data released by the agriculture ministry. “In 2008-09, cotton planting in the country had touched its lowest at 103.9 lakh hectares and subsequently in the following years, the planting has varied from 111 lakh hectares to 128.9 lakh hectares. In 2014-15, cotton planting was the highest at 128.9 lakh hectares, Dr KR Kranthi, director, CICR, said.
The cotton sowing window has closed for most states barring parts of northern Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The addition of a couple of lakh hectares is likely in these states, Kranthi pointed out.
According to experts, a 10% shortfall is likely in the overall cotton acreage which could result in a 10 % deficit in the total output. The area in Gujarat so far is around 23.13 lakh hectares, 12.5 lakh hectares in Telangana, 38.58 lakh hectares in Maharashtra and 3.5 lakh hectares in Andhra Pradesh as per figures released on August 13.
The area is not moving up much, Kranthi said. “In Tamil Nadu, the current acreage is around 1 lakh hectares and there could be an addition of some 1 lakh hectares. At Andhra Pradesh, sowing has stopped at 3.5 lakh hectares and there is the possibility of the addition of another 1 lakh hectares. The chief minister himself had advised farmers against planting cotton and therefore a high rise is unlikely. Moreover, north Karnataka could contribute 1-2 lakh hectares,” he said.
Sowing of cotton is nearly 12% lower than the area normally sown under the fibre crop by this time of the year. So far, an area of 90 lakh hectares has been planted under cotton compared to the normal area of 112 lakh hectares.
Lower sowing has been reported from major cotton-growing states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, where the crop bore the brunt of pest attacks last year.
Sowing of oilseeds in 172 lakh hectares is also 4% higher when compared to the area normally covered by this time of the year.An area of 130 lakh hectares has been planted under different pulse varieties, nearly 20% more than the seasonal area of 108 lakh hectares, and 40% more than the area usually sown by this time every year.
Farmers have been moving to other crops in this period such as maize, rice and pulses. There has been a rise in sowing of black gram because of prices, Kranthi said, adding that the trend is quite clear that farmers are showing a preference to other crops.
The reasons are not far to seek. In the North, an attack of whitefly pest and leaf cull virus in two northern states and lower prices during harvest promoted farmers to switch to other crops. In Gujarat, it has been the late onset of monsoon and the fears of a pink bollworm attack.