India set to lose No. 1 cotton grower tag to China


Climatic adversities, insufficient rainfall in growing regions blamed for the decline Adverse climatic conditions and water shortage coupled with a static growing area are set to knock India off its No. 1 perch in cotton production worldwide. As per the latest international reports, for the year 2018-19, India will lose its ‘top cotton producer’ tag to China, which has shown improved yields with better farming practices. The International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) recently stated that India’s cotton production is expected to dip by 7 per cent due to “insufficient rainfall” in growing regions, whereas production in China is expected to increase by about 1 per cent to 5.94 million tonnes. This means, “China will regain the ‘top producer’ title it lost to India in the 2015-16 season,” ICAC noted. The global data suggests India’s cotton output is projected to be at 5.98 million tonnes for the August-December period of the 2018-19 season. However, India follows the October-September cotton season. Industry believes India’s cotton output will dip further.


According to India’s apex cotton trade body, Cotton Association of India (CAI), India’s cotton output is expected to dip to at 335 lakh bales (each of 170 kg) for 2018-19, its lowest since 2010-11, when it reported 332.25 lakh bales. “This year, India will definitely lose to China because of the adverse climatic and water availability situation in cotton growing regions. The situation is worse in Telangana and Karnataka,” said Atul Ganatra, President, CAI.

Worrying trend
“India saw cotton output growing only once in the past few years. Otherwise overall every year we see the cotton crop going down. The yields are deplorably low, and due to the pest menace there is a thin possibility of adding new areas for cotton cultivation. So, we have reached saturation in cotton cultivation,” said Ganatra. As against India’s projected cotton yield of about 485-500 kg per hectare, China’s yield hovers around 1,755 kg. Attributing the lower yield to the lack of awareness among farmers on good farming practices, VN Waghmare, director (in-charge), Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) said: “Yield is a contentious issue and a debatable one. We have demonstrated yield of upto 1,200-1,500 kg per hectare in some isolated places. Better farm management brings good productivity.” He added: “Our scientists are actively looking into developing new varieties, including hybrids, but farmers must be made aware about technology and farm management,” said Waghmare.


According to cotton experts, about 85 per cent of cotton farmers in the growing regions, including Gujarat and Maharashtra, have uprooted their plants after the first and second picking. This made the subsequent third and fourth picking nearly impossible. The prospects for Indian cotton remain clouded by uncertainties. “In the current scenario, our crop will remain in this range, mainly because of the adverse climatic conditions. Next year also it is feared that El-Nino will impact India,” said Ganatra. “Climate is becoming the killer for India’s Cotton as about 77 per cent of our growing region is non-irrigated, making it highly dependent on rains,” said Ganatra.

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