Cotton acreage up on favourable weather

Cotton acreage up on favourable weather

Mumbai: Favourable weather and the timely removal of a ban on exports have encouraged Indian farmers to plant more cotton so far this kharif season, trade and officials said on Friday.

According to estimates on 11 June, the country’s cotton acreage is up by about 6% over the same period a year ago.

According to analysts, traders and officials estimate acreage may hover around 11 million hectares in 2010, up from 10.17 million hectares in 2009.

“The rise in acreage is driven by Gujarat...the pre-monsoon showers have helped in initial sowing...also we have removed the export ban, now farmers are more confident," said an official with the federal textile ministry.

Farmers in Gujarat, the country’s top cotton producer, have planted the fibre in 35% more area so far than in the previous year, aided by pre-monsoon showers triggered by cyclone ‘Phet´, which hit the state earlier this month.

“Pre-monsoon showers helped farmers by increasing the soil moisture required before sowing," Dr B. R. Shah, director of agriculture at state farm department, said.

Farmers in irrigated areas also got benefited by pre-monsoon showers in the form of savings on irrigation, Shah said.

Rains have benefited cotton tracts in Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana also, the textile ministry official said.

“The ongoing rain will surely boost the sowing of cotton," said Ravi Punia, joint director (cotton) with the Haryana farm department.

Gursharn Singh, from Abohar in Punjab, who has around 15 acres under cotton crop, said rains have saved his early sown cotton crop from scorching summers.

Farmers are enthused with cotton after prices stood 30-60% higher during the 2009/10 marketing year driven by soaring exports. Cotton marketing year is between October and September.

India shipped 7.36 million bales (of 170 kg each) and had registered 8.53 million bales before halting further export registration on 19 April, government data showed.

India on 21 May allowed export of cotton under license just as new plantings began and a month after it halted shipment registration to rein in domestic prices, an official with the textile ministry told Reuters.

“After removal of ban on exports farmers hope of getting better prices was renewed and this will boost acreage...," said Rakesh Rathi, president, North India Cotton Association.

Prices have risen about 10% since exports were allowed.

India is the world’s second-biggest producer, consumer and exporter of cotton and about 60% of the current season shipments went to China, the biggest consumer.