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India’s cotton exports to drop as pink bollworms eat crop

India is likely to export nearly one-fifth less cotton than previous forecast as pink bollworms are eating into the country’s crop which was expected to hit a record, industry officials disclosed. Lower exports from the world’s biggest producer will help its rivals like the US, Brazil and Australia to raise their exports to Asian buyers such as Pakistan, China and Bangladesh.

Exporters say this year’s exportable surplus was expected to be around 6 million bales. Production estimates have been revised downwards following the pest attack. Earlier, official forecast was exports of 7.5 million bales of 150 kg each. A 19 per cent hike in the area planted for cotton was good reason for industry officials to estimate record production of 40 million bales in the 2017-2018 season starting on October 1, however, cotton farmers saw as harvesting started fields were infested with pink bollworms which consume the cotton fibre and seeds inside the boll of the plant. This issue was extensively seen in Maharashtra, the country’s biggest cotton producer.

Bollworm infestation occurred even as Indian farmers adopted genetically-modified seeds such as Bt cotton that are resistant to the pest. The government approved the seed in 2006. The technology transformed India into the world’s second-largest exporter of the fibre, however, pink bollworms are now developing resistance to technology, noted V N Waghmare, Director of Central Institute for Cotton Research.