India: Cotton cultivation data collection and forecasting needs improvement

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Cotton is an important agricultural commodity that earns livelihood of millions of poor Indian farmers as well as fed the country’s large textile industry which contributes significantly to the export basket. In spite of being an important agricultural commodity, the methods deployed for estimating the crop size, yield, farmer’s involved etc are estimated using manual methods and it gives enough room for speculation to the traders to make undue financial benefits at times while the farmers left with petty margins or even in loss. It is time for the concerned Ministries that are involved to have defined guidelines for agricultural crop estimates and adopt advanced scientific methods/ techniques that would help framing policies and achieving market driven crop pricing.

For cotton, both Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and Ministry of Textiles (MoT) depends on several agencies under the govt and user sectors to derive data on cotton cultivation, yield, cost of cultivation and several important data related to the crop. While MoA depends on Directorate of Economics and Statistics and Directorate of Cotton Development (DoCD), MoT depends on data provided by Textile commissioner’s Office to Cotton Advisory Committee (CAB). CAB compiles, consolidate and finalises all the data related to the crop supplied by various stake holders that are associated with cultivation, trade and research on cotton. The overall system, looks robust and one can believe the data generated would be near accurate but if one digs down, there would be sufficient amount of doubt on the field data collected and used for drawing final conclusions.

Directorate of Economics and Statistics (DES) under MoA gathers information of area sown under cotton cultivation through Revenue Department of different States. And also, productivity of seed cotton is estimated by adopting Crop Cutting Experiments (CCE) conducted in large numbers in all the cotton growing states.

Based on the exercises above, total area sown under cotton in each state and state wise productivity, total cotton production in the country is estimated. The data collected/provided by Revenue Departments of each state are doubtful as they are not stake holders of the crop and data are mostly generated from desktop research. Similarly, data collected by other agencies are equally doubtful except Cotton Corporation of India’s estimates as the agency undertakes three field surveys during the sowing period to harvesting period. However, it is not about finding flaws in any agency’s work on cotton cultivation data generation but about developing a proper system that could indicate the true size and health of the crop. A true picture of agricultural crop would help the administration, farmers and industry associated with it to a very large extent. Also, management, post processing, storage and improvement of the crop would be result oriented rather than be on paper.

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