By Kavita Desai | Friday, Nov 8 
MUMBAI – Against expectations, a poll across industry participants by Cogencis sees only a slight downward revision in India's cotton production from the estimate in September as most of the damage to crops during this period is seen recoverable.

The poll showed India's cotton output in 2019-20 (Oct-Sep) marketing year at 36.4 mln bales (1 bale = 170 kg), compared with 36.8 mln bales forecast in September. The poll was conducted across the cotton value chain to gauge the impact of October rains on the crop.

All the 10 respondents to the poll were largely of the view that the crop loss due to rains may not exceed 400,000-500,000 bales and would be limited to Maharashtra and Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh to some extent.

Gujarat and Maharashtra are the top cotton producers. Together, they account for 55% of the country's crop. Both states saw abnormally high rainfall in October, with last week of the month receiving most of it. During Oct 24-30, Maharashtra and Gujarat received 538% and 767% above normal rainfall, respectively, according to the India Meteorological Department.

Incidents of bolls dropping, germination and waterlogging due to these rains raised fears of heavy losses to various crops including cotton. However, most of the participants polled said the initial picking may be affected in terms of quality and even quantity but rains will facilitate more pickings that could reasonably compensate.

"Crop loss of 500,000-800,000 bales may be seen in parts of Marathwada, Vidarbha and Gujarat…However, major crop loss is unlikely as cotton is a sturdy crop and there might be some recovery in the yields if water recedes," said C.D. Mayee, cotton scientist and president of South Asia Biotechnology Centre.

Mayee said that the loss in Maharashtra and Gujarat can be compensated with produce from states such as Haryana, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Also, late sown cotton in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh may not be impacted because of the October rains.

Most poll participants are still optimistic this year because of a sizeable increase in acreage under cotton and higher yield potential.Cotton acreage in the country is at 12.8 mln ha, up nearly 6% on year, according to farm ministry data. Of the total area, around 12.0 mln ha or nearly 94% is under Bt cotton. The area under Bt cotton has increased 1.5 mln ha from the previous year after increased use of herbicide-tolerant Bt cotton seeds, even though the government has made them illegal.

The Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture sees the average cotton yield rising to 497 kg per ha in the ongoing season, compared with 458 kg last year. Sanjay Jain, former chairman of Confederation of Indian Textile Industry, said that despite some downward revision, the crop is seen higher on year as extended rains added to soil moisture, and we may see better yields in third and fourth rounds of picking. Normally, 90% of the harvest ends in December, but this year it is likely to continue till March, depending on the soil moisture, weather and price, most market experts said. The government's first advance estimate sees cotton production in 2019-20 at 32.3 mln bales, compared to 28.7 mln bales year ago.

The Cotton Association of India has estimated the country's crop for 2019-20 (Oct-Sep) season at 35.45 mln bales, up 13.6% from the previous year. However, Atul Ganatra, president of the association, said, "This is a preliminary estimate which can be revised in a month after reassessment of the crop situation based on weather conditions".

Market participants are now waiting for the first production estimates of the Cotton Advisory Board on Nov 14. For 2018-19, the board had pegged cotton output at around 31.2 mln bales.
Summary of the Cogencis poll on India 2019-20 (Oct-Sep) cotton output:
* Range of expectations: 34.0-38.5 mln bales for 2019-20, against 32.0-33.7 mln bales for 2018-19
* Mode: 36.5 mln bales vs 32.0 mln bales
* Mean: 36.25 mln bales vs 32.8 mln bales
* Median: 36.4 mln bales vs 32.9 mln bales End (Source: