Ahmedabad: Gujarat may see a decline in cotton acreage with farmers preferring groundnut over cotton this kharif season. The area under cotton cultivation is expected to be 15-20% less in 2020 as against last year, said market players.

“Cotton sowing in Gujarat is likely to drop by 15-20% this year as farmers are shifting from cotton to groundnut crop,” said Atul Ganatra, president, Cotton Association of India (CAI). “However, a lot depends on the progress of monsoon,” he added.

Farmers last year fetched better prices for groundnut as compared to cotton. Hence, more are now opting for this oilseed crop now.

The growing preference for groundnut among Gujarat’s farmers could be seen from the massive jump in its sowing area. According to the state agriculture data, as on June 15, the area under groundnut cultivation stood at 6.56 lakh hectares, which is more than 20 times the acreage of 22,875 hectares sown during the same period last year.

At 6.05 lakh hectares, cotton cultivation area in the state is currently higher than the 1.60 lakh hectare sown in the corresponding period last year due to early arrival of monsoon. The area under cotton crop stood at 26.48 lakh hectares in 2019.

Market participants, however, are of the view that the final acreage of cotton cultivation may be lower also because of low price of the natural fibre and stressed textile sector amid dim demand prospects. Declining yield and pest infestation have further made cotton crop less attractive.

“The cotton season had opened with a price range of Rs 39,000 to Rs 40,000 per candy (356 kg) last year. The prices remained firm till February this year. But, prices have plummeted to Rs 33,000 to Rs 35,000 per candy now due to the lockdown,” said Arun Dalal, a city-based cotton broker.

“Had minimum support price (MSP) for cotton not been hiked, its sowing would have been even lower,” said an industry insider.