Punjab's cotton belt is back to normal in crop output and rates having faced the worst-ever crisis due to the widespread whitefly attack in 2015. Till February 3, cotton arrivals in the state were recorded at 5.72 lakh bales (one bale = 170 kg). Moreover, increase in cotton prices steadily adding to the profits of Malwa's farmers. Raw cotton, which fetched Rs 5,100-5,300 per quintal in the last week of December 2016, rose to Rs 6,000 per quintal in first week of February.
The Cotton Corporation of India (CCI), a central regulatory body, expects the arrivals at 8.90 lakh bales in Punjab despite the fact that fibre crop was sown over only 2.56 lakh hectares in 2016, down by 40% in 2015 â€” the lowest acreage in 61 years.
In 2015, cotton was sown in over 4.5 lakh hectares and nearly 4 lakh bales had arrived till January 31, 2016. Total arrivals for the season were recorded at 6.65 lakh bales till June 30, 2016. Last year, cotton rates were in the range of Rs 4,200-4,300 per quintal.
The Union government had announced the minimum support price (MSP) for the medium staple (27.5mm) cotton, which is grown widely in Punjab, at Rs 4,060 per quintal.
Nearly 4,000 bales are arriving in the mandis daily on an average these days. According to Trade analysts, the arrivals would continue till April-end or early May.
The CCI is expected not to enter the market this season as the crop is fetching nearly Rs 2,000 per quintal higher than the MSP. In late October 2016, when the cotton had just started arriving in the mandis, it fetched Rs 4,700-4,900 per quintal.
By mid-November 2016, raw cotton rates had increased to Rs 4,800-5,000 per quintal. In the beginning of December, cotton was trading in the range of Rs 5,000-5,100 per quintal. From the last week of December, prices started increasing sharply.
Apart from the price, the cotton yield too has gone up to 20-22.5 quintals per hectare in the current season from the nearly 12.5 quintals per hectare in the 2015-16 season marred by the pest attack.
CCI's Bathinda branch manager Brajesh Kasana said that nearly 9 lakh bales of cotton are expected in Punjab in the current season, which is much more than the previous year when nearly 60% cotton was damaged due to the pest attack. Apart from the yield, the crop is fetching a handsome price of Rs 6,000 per quintal. In such a scenario, CCI has to remain idle with no purchases.
Trade body Indian Cotton Association Limited (ICAL) also expects the total raw cotton arrivals at nearly 9 lakh bales in Punjab. Higher rates and more yield could encourage more farmers to sow cotton in the coming kharif season. Many farmers had gone shifted to other crops after suffering huge losses in the 2015-16 season due to the pest attack, ICAL president Rakesh Rathi said.
Farmer Gurdial Singh of Sangat village in Bathinda said that the cotton crop has put back some smiles on the otherwise dry faces of farmers. Rate of Rs 6000 per quintal has ensured that we may reap profits after suffering losses in the previous season. Farmers who opted out of cotton are repenting their decision.
In north India, the farmers had sown crop over 11.4 lakh hectares in the current season down from 13.9 lakh hectares in 2015-16. The acreage in Haryana and Rajasthan was 4.98 lakh hectares and 3.85 lakh hectares respectively.
Textile manufacture Vardhman Textiles' director (raw materials) I J Dhuria said that they see a better future for the cotton farmers in Punjab as crop scenario is very encouraging this year. Despite cotton sown in 11 percent less area, the production is expected to register a 7 percent growth as compared to previous year in north India.
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