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Rising cotton prices could push Indian plantations to a record high

Cotton planting in India, the world’s biggest fiber producer, could jump 15% in 2022 to a record high as high prices drive farmers away from other crops, an industry association has said.

Higher production could help curb rising global and local cotton prices, which are hurting Asian garment makers.

The area planted with cotton in India could increase by 15% compared to last year, as the crop offers much better yields than the alternatives, said Atul Ganatra, president of the Cotton Association of India.

Local prices have more than doubled over the past year as heavy rains during harvest reduced the 2021 crop to the lowest level in a decade.

A 15% increase in cotton area in India would take it to around 13.8 million hectares in 2022, up from 12 million hectares last year.

The association expects the biggest expansions in cotton acreage to be in the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, which together account for nearly half of the country’s production.

“Last year I grew cotton on 21 acres and peanuts on my remaining 10 acres. As cotton prices are high, I will only plant cotton this year on all my land,” said Jagdish Magan, a farmer from Morbi, Gujarat.

Most Indian farmers start planting cotton at the start of the monsoon rains in June, although some with irrigated fields start as early as May.

Oilseeds and pulses compete with fiber in major cotton producing states, such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana and Rajasthan.

Pulses have given farmers relatively low yields in recent years, which could encourage growers to switch to cotton, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading company.

“Ideally, with a higher acreage, production should increase. But cotton is a rainfed crop in many areas, so the distribution of monsoon rains will determine the size of the crop,” he said.

The trader also expected an increase of up to 15% in the area planted with cotton.

India is expected to receive average monsoon rainfall in 2022, while western cotton-growing states could receive above-average rainfall, the meteorological department said this week.