Cotton sowing in Punjab is anticipated to be delayed because only about 20% of the crop has been planted as of May 10. According to data obtained from the Punjab agriculture department, only 63,220 hectares have been sown in Punjab as of May 10 compared to a goal of 3.25 lakh hectares.

The ideal time for sowing is considered to be up to May 15 as the crop sown after that is considered to be prone to pest attack. The late start of sowing has been attributed to late harvest of wheat crop, unavailability of canal water for many days in the initial stages of sowing and now, curtailed power supply to the farm sector.

Cotton is seen as a viable alternative to the water guzzling paddy but agriculturists feel it is a remote possibility. There is no clarity on the area under cotton in the outgoing cotton season of 2020-21 too. Till later months of 2020, the state agriculture department claimed that cotton had been sown over close to five lakh hectares but a few days ago, state agricultural department officials and additional chief secretary (development) claimed that as per actual girdawari (revenue assessment), in 2020, cotton was sown over 2.51 lakh hectares. The target for 2021-22 season has been set at 3.25 lakh hectares.

Though the agri department collects sowing data daily, it monitors on a weekly basis. On the week ending May 7, cotton was sown over 41,117 hectares, which was less than 13% of the target. Department officials say sowing will pick uppace now.

Farmers Mohinder Singh and Baldev Singh said initially, canal water was released late and even today in Mansa district, water in the Bhakra mainline was not available. They said it is expected to be released on May 12 and may each tail end villages on May 13 or 14. Farmers who rely on underground water, apart from canal water in Bathinda, Mansa and Muktsar areas are also facing problems as farm sector during paddy transplantation, exemption is also given  for cotton sowing, which is not being done.

Sources said cotton growers are expected to get good returns in the ongoing cotton season. In view of low production, starting cotton prices are expected to open close to Rs 6,000 per quintal, which had opened close to Rs 5,000 per quintal and gradually reached Rs 6,000 per quintal in February 2021 when the cotton marketing season was in its last legs. MSP in the outgoing season was Rs 5,725 per quintal for 27.5-28.5 MM long staple.

Cotton cultivation this year

District | Target (In hectares) | Land covered till May 10

Bathinda | 1,05,000 | 24,400

Fazilka | 1,00,000 | 10,900

Mansa | 70,700 | 15,300

Muktsar | 40,000 | 10,500

Sangrur | 3,500 | 1,035

Faridkot | 3,000 | 482

Barnala | 2,000 | 525

Moga | 800 | 78

Total | 3,25,000 | 63,220

Director, Punjab agriculture department Sukhdev Singh Sidhu said, “though cotton sowing started late and is proceeding at slow pace, we expect it to pick up pace, we expect it to pick up pace. The department is sure to achieve the target though the sowing may go up to last week of May or even the first week of June.” He also confirmed that 2.51 hectares was covered by cotton in the previous season as against the 5 lakh hectares initially expected.”