As the second picking of raw cotton crop is set to gain momentum in Punjab, rates of the cash crop have reached an all-time high of Rs. 7,715 per quintal, 23% higher than the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs. 5,925.

Punjab Mandi Board authorities say till Wednesday, 2.75 lakh quintal of cotton was purchased and private players are paying an average rate Rs. 7,500 for a quintal of raw cotton.

This has come as a relief to farmers of the south Malwa belt, who are battling the threat of damage caused by the pink bollworm attack.

In the semi-arid region of the state, cotton bolls are harvested thrice. Second picking is crucial as it comprises 60% of the total production. Due to the quality, the second harvest determines the profitability of a cotton grower.

Industry watchers attribute higher prices for the kharif produce to an increase in demand by the international textile market.

Director of Indian Cotton Association Limited, a body dealing in export, spinning, ginning of cotton, Rakesh Rathi said the trend may continue for another month.

Bulk supply in the coming weeks may stabilise rates, but it is highly unlikely that cotton would see a sharp decline this season, he added.

“Bangladesh and China, the international hub of the textile sector, are the major buyers of Indian thread and raw cotton. Since there has been a sharp increase in the global market since September 15 and the slow arrival of cotton crop in different states, farmers are getting handsome rates,” said Rathi.

With 3.03 lakh hectares under area cotton this year, southern Punjab recorded an increase of 17% than 2020 when cotton was sown on 2.51 lakh hectares.

But pink bollworm attack in Bathinda, Mansa and few pockets in Sangrur has left farmers worried about their major cash crop.

Punjab Mandi Board cotton state coordinator Rajnish Goel said by October 6, a total of 2.74 lakh quintal cotton was purchased in centres of all seven districts of the region. By October 6 last year, Punjab mandis saw 1.29 lakh quintals of purchase.

“For the first time, cotton rates have touched Rs. 7,700 per quintal. In 2011 the maximum rate of cotton was Rs. 7,000 and Rs. 6,725 in 2014. Mandis are recording daily average arrival of 25,000 quintals,” said Goel.

Cotton Corporation of India assistant general manager and Punjab in-charge Neeraj Kumar said despite pink bollworm infestation, Punjab is likely to achieve last season’s production of 50 lakh quintals.

“After an increase of 17% area under cotton this year, the CCI pegged Punjab’s production at 60-65 lakh quintals. Pest attack has hit several villages, but farmers are getting up to Rs. 1,800 more than MSP for their produce. The CCI is following its protocol of maintaining a watch on the market and the agency will entre if cotton rates are crashed and farmers get less than MSP,” said Kumar.