Cotton farmers in Maharashtra are set to lose nearly 13 per cent of their output this year due to pink bollworm attacks on the standing crop in major production regions of the state.
The textiles ministry estimates a 13 per cent decline in the average cotton yield in Maharashtra with major crop losses in Yavatmal and Jalgaon districts. Sources said around a third of Maharashtra’s cotton area were under attack by pink bollworm. Cotton farmers have voiced their concern over crop losses and have dragged seed companies to court seeking damages. According to the Cotton Advisory Board, the cotton yield in Maharashtra for the 2017-18 season will be 344.21 kg per hectare, lower than the previous year’s 395.92 kg. The board estimates cotton acreage in Maharashtra at 4.2 million hectares, a 10.5 per cent rise from 3.8 million hectares in the previous season.
Encouraged by a sharp rise in cotton prices last year, farmers in Maharashtra as elsewhere shifted from soybean to cotton this season. This resulted in a 19 per cent increase in the cotton acreage this season. With an average countrywide yield of 523.83 kg per hectare, the Cotton Advisory Board estimates the season’s total cotton output at 37.70 million bales (170 kg each), up from 34.50 million bales a year ago.
Apart from Maharashtra, pink bollworm has infested cotton fields in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana and Karnataka. Despite lower yields in major producing states, the supply situation is comfortable with over 4.78 million bales of closing stocks from 2016-17. “Since Pakistan has allowed market access to Indian cotton, we expect exports of 6.7 million bales in 2017-18. China, another large buyer of Indian cotton, has also reported a reduction in its cotton storage,” Textiles Commissioner Kavita Gupta said.