Cotton growers in Maharashtra and Gujarat are yet to offload their produce due to movement restrictions. According to government estimates, growers in both states have at least 32 lakh quintals of unsold kapas (raw unginned seed cotton). With monsoon approaching, farmers will be unable to sell their produce at the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI)’s procurement centre.
Since the start of the season, kapas prices have been below the government declared Minimum Selling Price (MSP), which had led to CCI procuring aggressively from farmers. During the season, the CCI has procured at least 91 lakh bales (each bale has 170 kg ginned cotton), a record.
While kapas is an agriculture commodity, most district collectors had not allowed the opening of wholesale markets.
Gin and press unit owners, who act as the CCI’s procurement centres, had also refused to restart operations citing labour problems.
The CCI requires mandis to certify the produce before it procures it from farmers at its centres in the gin and press units. Kapas is then ‘combed’ to separate the lint and cotton seed. One quintal (100 kg) of kapas contains 34 kg lint – which is pressed into bales of 64 kg seed (processed separately) and one kg moisture.
Cotton seed oil is extracted from the seed while the remaining solid mass is used to make de-oiled seed cake, which is used as a protein supplement in the feed industry.
However, both in Gujarat and Maharashtra, the procurement process has run into roadblocks. Social distancing norms had led to mandis putting a cap on the number of vehicles that can come for registration. The Maharashtra government had put a cap of 20 vehicles per day in mandis.
In many cases, gin and press unit owners have refused to restart operations.
While farm activist Vijay Jawandiya said that at least 1 crore quintal of kapas still remains with farmers in Maharashtra, CCI officials believe 12 lakh quintals remain unsold.
Once the monsoon starts, moisture content in unsold kapas will rise, making it non-Fair and Average Quality (FAQ). So, farmers will not be able to sell their kapas at the CCI’s procurement centre.
“Since the start of the season, we have been predicting a bumper crop but the authorities have not planned for this,” said Jawandiya.
Maharashtra Minister of Cooperation and Marketing Balasaheb Patil said the number of vehicles that can come for registration in the markets will be increased. “We have even got asked MSC agriculture personnel to work as part time graders so that the procurement process goes smoothly,” he said.
Jawandiya, however, said that decentralised procurement centres should be opened in villages where even non-FAQ cotton should be procured.
Kapas prices in Maharashtra and Gujarat in May, respectively, have been Rs 4,543 per quintal and Rs 4,621 per quintal – which underscores the weak sentiment for the commodity.
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