Rains bring hopes of a bumper cotton crop

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August 18, 2015 Nagpur: Fears of a drought in the region have now turned into hopes of a bumper crop. Rains during the last fortnight have changed the situation. It is now expected that the cotton crop, which is always linked with Vidarbha's agricultural crisis, is expected give a record yield. Last year was marred by a drought and excessive rains had hit the farmers the year before.

A good harvest may, however, not be met with good prices as well, feel observers. Cotton rates are expected to reign below the minimum support price (MSP) of 4,050 a quintal. At present, lint is being quoted at 33,000 a bale, which translates into 3,700 a quintal for raw cotton. This is because of low demand, especially in China, a major importer, and sizeable leftover stock of last year. If not below MSP, the rates may be only marginally more than the MSP. The higher yield may only provide a saving grace, say experts.

The going has been good so far. If there are moderate showers in September and October, the yield may be the highest in the last five years, said an officer in the state's agriculture department, which is responsible for gathering field data.

The officer from Amravati division of Vidarbha, which is the major cotton growing area, said the recent round of showers has also washed away the dry spell in Akola and Buldhana, which were lagging behind. As far as cotton is concerned, this can be considered to be one of the best years. "Cotton yields are expected to be high this year, at around five quintals an acre. The outlook has changed for other crops like soyabean and tur also," said the official.

However, the weather has to remain conducive in the coming days. The showers in September have to be moderate. If it rains excessively, the crops will be damaged and the growth will be hampered if it does not rain, the source said.

Even farm activists, normally known to have a sceptical view, agree that cotton yields may be high this year. Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) said, "It is likely that the cotton yield may go up to six quintals per acre. In the last two years, it was just a couple of quintals an acre on average. But low prices may play spoilsport. The open market rates may fall below the MSP," said Tiwari. There have been losses in soyabean but the prices may be higher than last year, he said.

Vijay Jawandhia, a veteran Shetkari Sanghatana activist, said he had surveyed various pockets in Wardha district and the situation was encouraging for all the crops, including soyabean and tur. However, the non-irrigated area still need more rounds of rains in the coming two months, he said.

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