India's Andhra cotton, groundnut acreage seen up

MUMBAI, June 5 (Reuters) - Farmers in India’s southern state of Andhra Pradesh may sow more area under groundnut and cotton, key kharif, of the state, if the monsoon is normal, a senior state government official said on Thursday.

The monsoon arrived in the state earlier this week, a few days in advance.

“Monsoon is progressing well and based on the meteorological department’s forecasts we are expecting normal rains in the state this year,” Rushendra Nath, additional director of Agriculture, of the state government, said.

Both groundnut and cotton is largely sown in the rain-fed regions of the state.

The state, which is one of the major producers of kharif, or monsoon sown crops like paddy, groundnut, cotton and maize, is witnessing some early sowing in groundnut. By next week cotton sowing is likely to begin in full swing, Nath said.

The area under groundnut, an oilseed, and cotton may be slightly more as farmers got better returns in the current crop year ending September, Nath said.

“Last year there was a good rise in area and this year it may further go up as good quality seeds are available at competitive rates and the farmers have also got good returns,” he said.

The state, which is the third largest cotton producer after Gujarat and Maharashtra, is likely to produce 4.6 million bales of 170 kg each in an area of about 1.1 million hectares, according to Cotton Advisory Board, a government-industry body.

The crop is mainly grown in the Telangana region in western part of the state, where rains are expected later this week, Nath said.

Similarly, groundnut may be sown in more than about 1.45 million hectares it covered in the last sowing season, between June 2007 to September 2007.

In the crop year which began in October 2007 and ends in September 2008, Andhra, the second largest groundnut producer after Gujarat, is expected to produce about 1.2 million tonnes, a leading trade body said in March.

The production in the year ending September 2007 was only 0.61 million tonnes.

“The rise in area will depend on the monsoon. But we expect the sowing will be above normal,” Nath said.

Sowing has started in about 50,000-60,000 hectares in areas where monsoon has arrived and in some areas where farmers have irrigation facilities, Nath said.

“But in major areas like the Anantapur district, which are rain-fed, sowing should start from June 21.”

Anantapur accounts for nearly 50 percent of the total acreage of about 1.45 million hectares.

Sowing of paddy, the staple crop of the state, which is mostly in the coastal regions, is likely to start on time in the first week of July after canal water is released, Nath said.

The transplantation of the crop may start from second or third week of July, he said. (Reporting by Abhishek Shanker and Sourav Mishra: Editing by Prem Udayabhanu)