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Major impact on cotton output unlikely this season despite risks

2021-12-15 15:39:30
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Major impact on cotton output unlikely this season despite risks

India’s cotton crop is feared to have been affected by unseasonal rainfall in some of the key growing areas this season (October 2021-September 2022) and there are reports of infestation of pink bollworm pests. But it is unlikely to make any major impact on the production of the natural fibre, according to traders and growers.

Peculiar situation
“There is some loss of the cotton crop but it is not a major one. However, quality of the crop could be an issue,” said Rajkot-based Anand Poppat, a raw cotton, cotton yarn and cotton waste trader.

According to him, at the most 5 per cent of the expected production could be affected which would translate to 10-15 lakh bales. “The continuous excess rainfall has hit crop growth and the quality has deteriorated. It is a peculiar situation as there has been no fresh growth in the plant and flowering has been affected. There is no arrival pressure by mid-December, which is unusual. Areas around Hubli, Yadgir, Bellary and Raichur are impacted by rains,” said Ramanuj Das Boob, a sourcing agent for domestic and multinational companies in Raichur, Karnataka.

“There has been excess rainfall in sporadic regions. The problem is that the rains came when the cotton was ready for picking. In some regions, water flooded cotton farms that affected the roots and in turn, plants began to wither,” said Vinod Ahuja, a cotton grower from Punjab.

49% excess rainfall

Such incidents of rainfall when the plant is ready for picking are rare and happen once in 40 or 50 years. “I am seeing this for the first time in my life,” he said.

The India Meteorological Department has said the country as a whole received 49 per cent excess rainfall from October 1 to December 13.

Besides excess rainfall, the crop has been affected by incidences of pink bollworm and, in some places such as Telangana, failure of herbicide-tolerant BT seeds cultivated illegally. Planting of HTBt cotton is unauthorised as the Centre is yet to approve its commercial cultivation but growers are opting for it hoping to overcome the menace of pink bollworm.

“Farmers in several parts of the State are reporting yields in the range of 4-5 quintals an acre as against an average yield of 10-12 quintals. The areas that were not impacted by incessant rains are better off and might see yields in the range of 8-9 quintals,” S Malla Reddy, a leader of All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), said.

Slow arrivals
“There is no loss of crop. There are claims of losses but we don’t find anything special to point out at such losses,” said Ajay Shah, General Secretary, Gujarat Cotton Trade Association.

The fear of low production has gripped as cotton arrivals are slow. “Any damage to the crop may have happened during the rains in October. Rains in November or early this month have not had any impact,” he said.

Poppat said farmers are bullish and hence, are playing a smart game. “They are not bringing cotton to the markets if prices are low,” he said.

A fair pointer of how the crop is the ginning statistics put out by the Gujarat Trade Association. Data show that conversion of raw cotton into lint (pressed bale) has increased 4.39 per cent during October-November this year compared with the year-ago period.

Though North Gujarat and some regions are showing a drop, it has been compensated by higher arrivals in Saurashtra and Kutch regions. “Cotton farmers will prolong this season by taking their own time to reach their produce in markets,” said Shah.

Direct delivery
The other reason for fear of low arrivals is that some farmers are now delivering cotton directly to the ginning mills rather than bringing it to the agricultural markets. “The ginning mills are ready to pay them higher if delivered directly. On the other hand, farmers have to bear 2.5 per cent of the price they get for cotton towards cess, trader commission and loading/unloading charges,” Poppat said.

Currently, cotton is ruling at ₹65,000-66,000 a candy (356 kg). On the other hand, raw cotton is quoted over ₹7,000 a quintal up to ₹10,000 a quintal across various agricultural markets in the country. This is against the minimum support price (MSP) of ₹5,726. “Cotton farmers are getting at least 30 per cent higher than the MSP,” said Shah.

Prices in India are in tune with the global trend, where rates are up on lower production and supply woes. Currently, cotton on the Intercontinental Exchange for delivery in March is quoted at 106.81 cents a pound (₹61,150 a candy).

Reddy said in view of the sharp fall in yield, farmers are unable to reap the benefit of record high prices for cotton.

Promising season
Das Boob said arrivals are slow as farmers are holding back their produce anticipating higher prices in Karnataka and Telangana. “Farmers are not keen to sell below ₹8,000 per quintal as the yield has been affected. As against a yield of 10-12 quintal, farmers are getting only 5-6 quintal. The moment prices come down below ₹8,000, arrivals slow down,” he said.

As against a crop of 23.5 lakh bales last year, the crop will be between 21 and 22 lakh bales in Karnataka this year.

According to the International Cotton Advisory Committee, the current season is a promising one for cotton farmers as prices are expected to be higher this season. However, they are likely to rule volatile until the season-end and may not even top the current highs.

Poppat said prices are unlikely to witness any sharp fall in view of good export demand. “We are likely to export at least 50 lakh bales this season and this could result in shortage of supply later this year,” he said.

The USDA has projected exports to be around 75 lakh bales against last year’s 79 lakh bales.

Ahuja said high cotton prices are here to stay and this will help farmers overcome the loss due to inclement weather. “The season usually extends to eight months. It could end quickly or prolong, depending on how the farmers bring cotton to the market,” he said.

Pink bollworm impact
On the impact of pink bollworm, he said the problem crops up when farmers extend their pickings in the plant, particularly in places such as Madhya Pradesh.

Shah said the incidence does not occur in plants before December. By that time, at least 60 per cent of the production would have been realised. Some 10-20 per cent of the crop from the remaining 40 per cent could be affected by the pest attack. Poppat said the issue of pink bollworm was a minor one.

Analysts and traders are unanimous in their view that the firm trend in cotton prices will likely continue as rates in the futures market are ruling around ₹60,000 a candy.

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