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Pink bollworm may lead to lower cotton output in India

The recent pink bollworm incidence in certain cotton growing regions suggest that cotton production in India may be lower than the earlier forecast, according to the Mumbai office of the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the US department of agriculture. For marketing year (MY) 2017-18, FAS Mumbai forecast cotton production at 29.8 million 480 lb bales.
The revised forecast translates to 38.16 million bales of 170 kg on acreage of 12.3 million hectares. The FAS Mumbai forecast is 200,000 480 lb bales lower than USDA official estimate. This is due to the recent untimely rains and pest infestation issues in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, which suggest lowering production. The all India yield is expected to be around 528 kg per hectare.
In Telangana, first pickings are over, but farmers are not rushing to the market to deliver seed cotton due to low market prices. Seed cotton prices in the wholesale market yards in Telangana are staying close to minimum support price (MSP) rates. “However, much of the cotton is discounted due to poor quality issues like discolouration and high moisture content,” FAS Mumbai said in its Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report released this month.
Further, there was high incidence of pink bollworm and sucking pests for the first picking in certain districts in Telangana. However, there seem to be limited issues with quality in the standing crop ready for the second picking.
In Andhra Pradesh, the government has issued advisories to install pheromone traps to monitor the incidence of pink bollworm along with the spraying of insecticides. A similar advisory was issued in northern Telangana.
According to the report, the higher incidences of pink bollworm infestations are due to a number of reasons ranging from “resistance of bollworm to Bt toxins, use of spurious and/or unapproved seeds by farmers, limited or poor planting of refugia non-Bt cotton, cultivation of long duration hybrids which provides continuous food for the pest, poor integrated pest management practices, and storage of damaged cotton at gins and market yards.”
As a result, while acreage in Telangana has increased significantly from last year, the yield is estimated lower at 492 kg per hectare.
In Maharashtra, too, “trade sources indicate widespread reports of pink bollworm infestations (even after the third picking), but there are no official reports on the extent of the damage.”
In Gujarat, cotton picking is underway with no pest or infestation issues reported. In Karnataka, the bolls are mature and the first picking of seed cotton in late sown crop, and second picking of early sown crop is in progress. In Tamil Nadu, the crop is at squaring and vegetative stages, and government advisories indicate farmers are to provide adequate drainage in rain-fed and irrigated crops in order to prevent water standing.
All India arrivals as of November 27, 2017, are reported at 6.5 million 480 lb. bales (8.3 million 170 kg bales/ 1.4 mmt) which is roughly 22 per cent of the forecast crop. Arrivals last year were around 13 per cent of the estimated crop on a much smaller overall crop size.