Yield drop no damper

Sushil Manav

HARYANA’S cotton acreage of 7.38 lakh hectares in Kharif-2020 is not only the highest in the cotton belt of North India, comprising Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, but also the maximum in any year so far for the state. The crop was grown on 7.01 lakh hectares in the state this time. There is a slight decline in productivity (production per hectare), though better prices have compensated farmers for the loss in yield.

“I harvested nearly 30 quintals per hectare of cotton last year, but this time, I could get only 22-23 quintals,” says Gurdial Mehta, a farmer from Panjuana village of Sirsa. He, however, adds that he could sell his crop for Rs 5,900 per quintal this year, far better than Rs 5,390 received last year.

Dr Dilip Monga, a cotton scientist and a former head of the regional station of the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), says that the crop was in perfect health till August 2020, when untimely rain, waterlogging and infestation by whitefly resulted in a fall in productivity. However, the productivity is still good enough to fetch encouraging returns to farmers, he adds.

Senapati Tamrayat, a leading cotton broker, says that projections of higher consumption in textile mills this year have led to an increase in prices in the past few months.

“Last year, consumption remained low as mills were closed during the lockdown. Even when the mills resumed functioning, it took time to generate demand. Against the consumption of 288 lakh bales in the country last year, the demand is projected to cross 350 lakh bales in the textile sector,” adds Tamrayat.

Haryana produced 22 lakh bales of cotton last year. “This year, 18 lakh bales have been procured so far. Of these, 10.53 lakh bales have been procured by the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) and nearly 7.5 lakh by private ginners. We are expecting nearly 6 lakh bales more before the season ends,” says Kewal Sharma, incharge of CCI procurement operations in the state.

If one converts this procurement in terms of raw cotton, 52.76 lakh quintals have been procured by the agency and 37.5 lakh quintals by the private players, while about 30 lakh quintals are yet to arrive. As a general rule of thumb, the number of bales multiplied by five is equal to the quintals of raw cotton used in preparing those bales.

Despite higher procurement by the CCI, the private ginners don’t lose business as the government agency also gives its cotton to them for ginning and pressing.

Gurpreet Singh Nagpal, general secretary of the Cotton Ginners’ Association in Sirsa, says with prices above the MSP now, the ginners are also procuring the crop for their own business activities.

This is perhaps the first time that the CCI has entered cotton procurement operations on such a scale in Haryana, as normally its role used to be that of a token purchaser. Dr Monga quotes a study by the CICR which shows that from 2007-08 to 2017-18, the CCI made significant procurement across the country only twice — 35 per cent in 2008-09 and 22 per cent in 2014-15.

Mohit Sharma, branch manager of the CCI at Sirsa who looks after the corporation’s operations in Haryana, says the agency steps in only when the market rates fall below the MSP.

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