Though the Met Department pronounced the official onset of monsoon in Gujarat a week ago, kharif sowing is yet to kick off as the State is yet to receive sufficient rains.
Delayed rains have shrunk the sowing window for cotton by about a fortnight for the largest producer of the fibre crop. However, the trade and growers are optimistic that the targetted acreage will be achieved during the remaining sowing period till July 15, if it rains adequately.
Kharif sowing for cotton normally commences in the first week of June and goes on till July-end. However, this year, due to the delayed monsoon, the pace of cotton sowing has been sluggish at 241,578 hectares as of June 25, down 64 per cent from last year’s 675,600 hectares from same time.
The rainfall deficit till June 30 has been pegged at 91 per cent with 68 mm as against 831 mm State average. Even the forecast for the week till July 6 shows bleak chances of widespread rains in the State.
“Farmers are upbeat about cotton crop as it is fetching good prices. Secondly, this year, due to government directive they have delayed sowing. This is proving to be a favourable scenario for farmers because in a shorter crop cycle, there are less chances of pest attack, especially the pink bollworm. Longer the plantation cycle, higher are the chances of pest attack. Hence, we see not much impact on sowing due to delay in monsoon,” said Nayan Mirani, a cotton expert and former president of Cotton Association of India (CAI).
Pan India, cotton has been planted in about 32.2 lakh hectares as on June 29, as against 46.10 lakh hectares in the corresponding period last year. Sowing in Haryana has increased a bit, while that in Punjab and Rajasthan has fallen. Maharashtra, however, is likely to witness some rise in the cotton acreage as farmers prefer cotton.
“This year the possibility of pest attack is less because of the climate. Also, there is positive sentiment about cotton prices. We will continue with cotton this year,” said a cotton grower from Junagadh district in Gujarat.
Notably, prices have moved up on concerns of a possible decline in acreage and bullish sentiment due to US-China trade war, where India has an opportunity to sell its cotton to China.
As per a latest report by ICRA, international cotton prices reached four-year highs during the six-month period ended May 2018 due to the global scenario and speculative buying in the backdrop of anticipated tightening of demand-supply situation. While the prices stabilised in the last week of June after surging 5-6 per cent in the first few weeks, prices are still up 10 per cent year-on-year.
In India, cotton prices touched ?47,000 per candy (of 356 kg) for 29 mm variety.