Indian Growers Look to Alternative Crops, Cotton Seed Sales Plummet
If the sales of cotton seeds are any indication of farmers’ planting intentions in India – and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t be – the natural fiber will be losing some ground to alternative crops. That’s the conclusion drawn by an article published in The Economic Times, which reported that cotton seed sales are down about 50% from last year in Gujarat and Maharashtra, the country’s top two seed-producing states. Seed companies in India’s northern states have fared better but still suffered a drop of 15% in sales. Declining prices are the primary reason for farmers’ lack of enthusiasm for cotton growing. After two years of above-average cotton prices, the bottom has dropped out due to waning demand at the mill and retail levels, as well as an abundance of fiber in global stocks. The primary beneficiaries of the change are other kharif crops such as guar, soybeans and groundnuts. Making things worse for seed companies is the abundance of illegal seed flooding the market. Produced without an official license from whatever company has the patent on the technology, illegal seeds cost about half as much as the branded version, making them an attractive option for growers trying to reduce their input costs to make up for declining prices. Despite all of these issues, however, experts predict that cotton acreage in India won’t decline by more than 10% or so. Farmers with the ability to irrigate their crops might opt for groundnuts if the monsoon comes on time, but if the rains are delayed – or the farmers don’t have irrigation facilities – cotton will fare better, competing only with castor seed for planting space.