Analysis of Punjab Mandi Board data says cotton has seen the slowest arrival in Punjab mandis in the last five years even as the average rate is the highest since 2018.

Vishal Joshi, Bathinda

Nov 30, 2022

Two months after the purchase of raw cotton began in October, the arrival of the cash crop in Punjab this season has seen a drop by more than four times than in 2021 when more than 9 lakh quintals arrived in the market by November 30. Analysis of Punjab Mandi Board data says the key kharif crop has seen the slowest arrival in the last five years even as the average rate is the highest since 2018.

The ‘white gold’ crop is considered the economic lifeline for the semi-arid region of Punjab. Indian Cotton Association Limited (ICAL), a body dealing in the export, spinning, ginning of cotton, opines that after widespread damage to the cotton crop, Punjab is expected to have produced 4 lakh bales or 20 lakh quintals against 29 lakh quintals produced in the 2021-22 kharif season. Industry watchers say farmers may be holding back the crop hoping to get higher rates for their lesser production of cotton.

But the arrival trend has left the experts worried as the kharif crop saw poor yield for the second consecutive season this year. Punjab Agriculture University’s (PAU) principal agricultural economist GS Romana says on Wednesday the government should rope in the experts to chalk out a programme to ensure farmers do not move away from cotton in the next kharif season.

“It will be a relief if Punjab’s cotton production touches 4 lakh bales this time. Last year, pest infestation hit the crop whereas this time besides the pest attacks, cotton was badly affected by the dried season, prolonged non-availability of canal water and waterlogging due to incessant rain in monsoon. Unable to bear financial losses, more farmers are likely to switch over to paddy cultivation in the next kharif season as cotton crop became too risky,” he added.

Mandi board data say by November 30, 2.22 lakh quintals of raw cotton arrived in all seven districts of the Malwa belt. State cotton coordinator Rajnish Goel said the average per quintal of cotton was ₹8,500, the highest since 2018.

“All seven cotton-growing districts are reporting the arrival of mere 4,000-8000 quintals every day. This kind of low arrival is exceptional even when farmers are being paid remunerative rates for the crop,” said Goel.

In 2021, 9.26 lakh quintals had hit the market by November 30 when the crop was severely hit by pink bollworm. The average rate in the last kharif season was ₹7,700. Punjab witnessed a record production of over 49 lakh quintals in 2020 when farmers were paid ₹5,200 per quintal.

Cotton growers earned well due to their high yield. In 2020, different purchase centres recorded brisk arrival of 19.34 lakh quintals by the end of November.

Similarly, in 2019 the state witnessed the arrival of 13.27 lakh quintals and 12.39 lakh quintals in 2018. ICAL secretary Jatinder Singh says this time the staple length is less than the prescribed of 27 mm and growers may end up getting lesser rates.

“Dismal arrival has hit the entire industry ecosystem as cotton ginning factories are incapable to run units. Initially, we estimated Punjab may produce more than 35 lakh quintals which have come down to 20 lakh quintal or even less. The industry is in wait-and-watch position if farmers start taking the raw cotton in the market as harvesting of basmati and parmal varieties are over,” said Singh.