* Output seen at 37.7 mln bales vs pvs forecast of 40 mln bales
* Pink bollworm outbreak curtails yield in key growing region
* Exports seen at 6.7 mln bales vs pvs forecast of 7.5 mln bales (Adds industry officials’ comments)
By Rajendra Jadhav
MUMBAI, Dec 12 (Reuters) - India’s cotton output is set to rise 9.3 percent in 2017/18 but won’t be the record high predicted by industry analysts as bollworm had caused damage in some regions, a government official said on Tuesday.
Overall production by India, the world’s biggest cotton producer, could touch 37.7 million bales in the year that began in October, Kavita Gupta, India’s textile commissioner, told a news conference.
That would be up from 34.5 million bales produced in the 2016/17 marketing year, but almost 6 percent lower than previous industry estimates for a record 40 million bales, each of 170 kg.
A 19 percent jump in the area planted with cotton had prompted most industry officials to estimate record production this year.
But as harvesting began farmers found fields were infested with pink bollworms which consume the cotton fibre and seeds inside the boll, or fruit, of the plant. The problem was especially widespread in the western state of Maharashtra, the country’s biggest cotton growing area.
The problem curtailed the country’s surplus for exports. Gupta expects India to export 6.7 million bales in the 2017/18 marketing year, up 15.1 percent from a year earlier but lower than the industry’s previous estimate of 7.5 million bales.
Pakistan is likely to increase cotton purchases from India after slashing them by 71 percent to 790,000 bales last year due to its own bumper crop, Gupta said.
Still, lower than expected exports from India, the world’s biggest exporter after the United States, could help rivals like the United States, Brazil and Australia to raise their exports to Asian buyers like Pakistan, China and Bangladesh.
Pink bollworm attacks have cut yields in India’s main cotton growing regions of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka, Gupta said, but added that production nationwide should still be higher than in 2016/17.
The bollworm infestation has occurred even as Indian farmers have adopted genetically modified seeds known as Bt cotton developed by Monsanto Co that are resistant to the pest. The government approved the seed in 2006.
The technology transformed India into the world’s second-largest cotton exporter. However, pink bollworms are now developing resistance to the technology, scientists say.
Industry officials are now more pessimistic than the government, saying production could fall to 36 million bales in 2017/18.
“The pest damage is severe in Maharashtra and Telangana. I don’t think production would be higher than 36 million bales,” said a Mumbai-based dealer at a global trading firm.
India’s cotton consumption in 2016/17 is likely to jump 9.2 percent from a year ago to 33.4 million bales, Gupta said.
1 Indian bale = 170 kg Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Writing by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Susan Fenton