Cover Story | February 2019
India is far behind in cotton productivity targets
Atul Ganatra, President, Cotton Association of India
There is a fall in cotton estimate for 2019. How has the year 2019 started for the cotton in terms of production, and target and the previous-year achievements?
Yes, there is a fall in cotton estimate for the year 2019. During the CAI meeting in January this year, the cotton crop has been estimated at 335 lakh bales of Rs 170 kg/bale. At the start of 2019, cotton in terms of production was expected at 348 lakh bales, but thereafter every month the production figures have been reduced. As per CAI, during 2017-2018, the Indian crop size was 365 lakh bales. We believe that this year there will be 10 per cent less crop as compared to the last year.
The cotton price has been falling since a last few months. What are the expectations for the rest of 2019? What is the present situation?
The cotton price has been falling since the last few months. The New York cotton market was 95 cents, which is today only 73 cents. In the foreign market, cotton prices have fallen by Rs 6,500 per candy and Indian prices have been reduced from Rs 47,000 per candy to Rs 43,000 per candy. The expectation for 2019 is unpredictable because the finance market is very tight. Due to the China-US trade war, the New York market is not supporting. At present, the Indian mills are running with 30 days inventory of cotton stock and markets are steady at Rs 43,011 per candy.
The bollworm and rain deficiency issues have been bothering the cotton scenario for some time now. What is the current situation?
There are no bollworm problems this year, but definitely there was shortage of rain in States like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Due to less rain in these States, picking of third and fourth cotton looks very difficult. About 80 per cent of cotton area farmers have removed the cotton plants.
How does cotton export stand today? Reports of low level of offtake have cropped up? What were the reasons?
As per CAI, we are expecting export of 51 lakh bales for the season 2018-19 as compared to last year’s export of 68 lakh bales. This reduction in export is due to high rate in India and due to smaller crop.
India still lags behind in cotton productivity. What are the steps taken to improve this front? How have they been bringing in results?
Yes, India is far behind in cotton productivity targets. Increasing the sowing area will not give us bigger production. The only way to do is by increasing our yields. Unfortunately around 75 per cent of cotton-sowing area is non-irrigated and depends only on rainwater to get good crop. But the problem is that in the last two years, we are not getting timely proper rain.
Contamination is another problem area, but India is believed to have come a long way? Your comments. About five years back, contamination used to be far lesser in cotton. This was due to introduction of TMC. But now it’s not the same.
With crude prices touching lows, times are good for synthetics. Will this pose serious problems to cotton industry growth in the near future and medium term?
Definitely synthetic and polyester yarns are giving good competition to cotton yarn. The synthetic and polyester yarn clothes are cheaper and long lasting, and that is why poor and middle class people are going for these clothes. Cotton is going to get even costly and only rich people can afford to wear cotton clothes in future.