Pests eat into India's cotton industry exports

Indian farmer Kamlaben shows her damaged cotton crop, affected by mealybugs and inadequate rain, in Badarkha village of Dholka Taluka, some 30 kms from Ahmedabad on October 5, 2015.  The cotton crop in the region of Dholka Taluka of Ahmedabad district has been badly affected and farmers put the yield at only 50%.  AFP PHOTO / Sam PANTHAKY / AFP PHOTO / SAM PANTHAKY
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India's cotton exports are expected to take a hit because of attacks by pests in major cotton-growing districts in the country.

Cotton crops in Maharashtra particular, where much of the country's cotton is grown, have been attacked by pink bollworms, which eat the crop. Estimates suggest that close to half of the crop has been affected by the pest. Cotton crops have also been hit by the bollworm in the states of Gujarat and Telangana.

Cotton exporters say that they are anticipating a significant impact on outflows abroad.

“This year exportable surplus will be around six million bales,” Nayan Mirani, a partner at Khimji Visram & Sons, an Indian cotton exporter, told Reuters. “Production estimates are revised down due to the pest attack.”

The news agency reported industry officials had earlier pegged estimates for exports at 7.5 million bales, weighing 150kg each.


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The Times of India newspaper reported last week that almost 50 per cent of the cotton crop in Maharashtra had been attacked by the bollworm, adding that official estimates had revealed losses of 150 billion rupees (Dh8.52bn) as a result. Tens of thousands of farmers have applied to authorities for compensation because of this hit.

India is the world's second-largest exporter of cotton after China.

Many Indian farmers have been using genetically modified seeds to grow cotton, known as Bt cotton seeds, which were approved by India's government in 2006. Cotton grown from these seeds is supposed to be resistant to the bollworm. But farmers are reporting that the crops have become resistant to the pest over the past couple of years and are increasingly being attacked.

Angel Commodities, a broking firm headquartered in Mumbai, says that cotton prices have been pushed higher because of the impact of the pest and that cotton futures are also set to trade higher as a result of the destruction.

India's biggest markets for cotton exports include Bangladesh, China, and Vietnam.