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Cotton acreage grows at fastest pace

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Cotton sowing in the ongoing season has seen unprecedented growth, according to data with the Cotton Corporation of India.

According to textile ministry officials, the northern zone, comprising Punjab, and Rajasthan, have witnessed a sharp growth of 20 per cent in acreage, although it usually grows by a marginal three to five per cent. During 2010-11, acreage had gone down seven per cent from 1.46 million hectare in 2009-10.

The west, comprising Maharastra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, saw the acreage going up 8-10 per cent, following the recent rains.

Officials added it may go further up.

Last season (2010-11),sowing went up 7.5 per cent. Traditionally, the region contributes majorly to output, around 55-60 per cent. Acreage in 2011-12 could be a record high, according to officials, crossing the 2010-11 high.

Official sources attribute various reasons for this growth.

First being the skyrocketing price of cotton last year, which peaked at Rs 6,000 per quintal, followed by a higher minimum support price (MSP) this year.  For the 2011-12 kharif season, the has been increased by Rs 300, both for medium and long staple fiber, to Rs 2,800 and Rs 3,300 a quintal, respectively.

Sources said the acreage may go up to a high of 12 million hectares this season, as against 11.1 million hectares at present. Acreage has gone up since farmers expect the prices to peak this year, too.  

Second, the agriculture ministry, of late, has been laying greater emphasis on the eastern region for paddy and wheat output, since the soil capacity for these foodgrains saturated in the traditional food belt in the north. Therefore, the ministry, based on the recommendation of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, has advised farmers to shift to cash crops like cotton and sunflower.

“There is enough incentive for the acreage to go up, given the higher MSP. No other commodity has seen such a sharp rise in MSP in the kharif season”, sources said. 

They explained the increased sowing is happening at the cost of other crops, like paddy in the north, soybean, maize and groundnut in the west, and tobacco and chili in the south.

Meanwhile, the production estimates are around 31.2 million bales.

In April, the Cotton Advisory Board ha d revised the estimated downwards for the current season (2010-11) to 31.2 million bales, as against the earlier estimate of 32.9 million bales.

At the same time, the acreage was reviewed upwards for the current season from 10.3 to 11.16 million hectares.

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