By Kavita Desai - Cogencis,

Tuesday, Jun 11

MUMBAI - Despite lucrative returns this year, cotton growers across the country, except those in Punjab and Haryana, may partly shift to other crops due to delayed rains, if the sluggish trend in cottonseed sales so far is any indication. Cottonseed sales are delayed by more than a week and only 1-2% of seeds have been sold so far this year, against 10-15% at this time last year, an official with the country's top cottonseed producing company said. "Most seed companies have done the placement in the market, but farmers will start purchasing only after rains begin," the official added.

Sowing of cotton in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh normally starts mid-May in irrigated areas, while in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and rain-fed regions of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, it starts after good rainfall--either pre-monsoon showers in May or southwest monsoon rains in the second week of June. This year, however, lack of pre-monsoon rainfall and a likely delay of six to eight days in southwest monsoon rains has changed the equation, keeping sowing of crops sluggish in these regions.

"The sale has not picked up, compared to the normal sale during this period, as rains are yet to progress in parts of central and southern India," said a senior official at Coimbatore-based Rasi Seeds Pvt Ltd. In central India--Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh--the average cottonseed sale is 20-30% so far, said Sameer Mulay, managing director of Aurangabad-based Ajeet Seeds Pvt Ltd. In Maharashtra's Khandesh region, around 30-40% of seeds have been sold, while in the drought-prone Marathwada and Vidarbha districts of the state, sale of cottonseed is still below 10%, he added.

Cotton prices have remained well above the minimum support price for most of the Oct-Sep season, when competing crops were languishing below the intervention price, making cotton the first choice for farmers. However, monsoon rains, which finally hit Kerala on Saturday, will take another few days to reach Maharashtra and even more to reach Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Since Jun 1, the country has received 20.4 mm rainfall, 44% below the normal weighted average of 36.8 mm for the period.

For the 2019-20 (Oct-Sep) season, the government has lowered the maximum sale price of Bollgard-II of Bt cottonseed hybrid variety to 730 rupees per packet (1 packet = 570 gm) from 740 rupees a year ago. The sale price of Bollgard-I Bt cottonseed hybrid variety is 635 rupees per packet. Each packet contains 450 gm of Bt cottonseed and 120 gm of refugia seeds, said an official at Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co.

Cotton is a five-month crop, and delayed sowing impacts the overall yield, which may lead growers to shift to three-four month crops such as soybean, maize and groundnut, which have also given handsome returns this season.  Gujarat and Maharashtra together account for 55-60% of the country's cotton output. The government data showed cotton was planted across 1.35 mln ha so far in the ongoing kharif season, up 8.3% on year, mainly supported by a 41% rise in Punjab and 5% rise in Haryana--sowing in these two states, however, is over.  End (Source: